TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—A Dutch woman who studied Chinese language in National Taiwan Normal University more than 30 years ago was so fascinated with the history of Formosa under colonial Dutch rule in the 17th century that she wrote a historical novel about it, according to a CNA report published on Sunday.
Joyce Bergvelt, who was born in the Netherlands, came to Taiwan to live and study Chinese at NTNU in 1982 when she was 19 years old because of her father’s work here, the report said. She lived in Taiwan for one and a half years, but her parents stayed until 1988, and she visited them often during this time. She had also lived in Japan and the UK also because her father worked there.
When she lived in Taiwan, Bergvelt was surprised to learn that the Dutch once ruled Taiwan. Therefore, she read many stories about Koxinga, also known as Zheng Chenggong. However, she found that information about which Dutch people came to Taiwan and what they had done here was very scarce, the report said.
Bergvelt later went to University of Durham in the UK to study Chinese, and almost needing no consideration, she decided to research into Formosa under Dutch rule. Therefore, the topic of her thesis was about Formosa under Dutch colonial rule and Koxinga’s expulsion of the Dutch from the island.
She wrote the thesis in chapters and sections, and the thesis was highly regarded by her history professors, who thought it reads like “a fascinating novel,” the CNA report said.
Because of the experience, the thought of writing about the history of Dutch-occupied Taiwan into a historical novel began to take root in her mind, according to the report. However, the actual writing of the novel began 20 years later, and once started, it took her another three and a half years to finish, the report said.
The novel, titled “Lord of Formosa,” was written in English, but because Dutch publishers were more interested in the novel, Bergvelt translated it into the Dutch version with the title “Formosa voorgoed verloren,” which was published in 2015, the report said. The English version was not published until April 26 this year.
(photo from Lord of Formosa Facebook page)
When asked by a CNA reporter about the possibility of translating the novel into Chinese, Bergvelt said that it was possible but right now she wanted to see how the English version was being received by the market.
Lord of Formosa describes how Koxinga, while being pressed in China by Qing soldiers, crossed the Taiwan Strait and spent nine months fighting and defeating soldiers of the Dutch East India Company. The colonial period was brought to an end after the 1662 Siege of Fort Zeelandia (Anping Fort ) in Tainan by Koxinga’s army who promptly dismantled the Dutch colony, expelled the Dutch and established the Ming loyalist anti-Qing Kingdom of Tungning.
The novel describes the battle as the first large-scale military conflict between China and Europe, which is a saga full of determination, courage and in some cases betrayal, as well as a competition of fighting will between smart but moody Koxinga and stubborn Frederick Coyett, the last governor of Dutch-occupied Taiwan.
Lord of Formosa mostly follows the true history, but a small part of the novel was based on imagination, the report said.
Bergvelt said almost all Dutch people have no knowledge about this part of Dutch history, the CNA report said. They chose to totally forget about the history of losing Formosa, and many Dutch people even don’t know Formosa is Taiwan as their history textbook only mentions this part of history in one or two sentences, she added, according to the report. Thanks in part to some publications, this has begun to change as the interest of Dutch people in the Dutch East India Company has been growing in recent years, she said, according to the report.
When talking about Taiwan, which she hasn’t visited since 1995, Bergvelt said she really wished to visit Taiwan again because she misses the country's mountains, waters, friendly people and delicious cuisine.
Joyce Bergvelt visits Taroko Gorge in 1988 when she lived in Taiwan (photo from CNA provided by Joyce Bergvelt)