Saturday, September 3, 2016

Koxinga: Made in Japan Chinese Hero (Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncake Game)

Frederick Coyett, Dutch Governor of Taiwan, Koxinga, Formosa, Xiamen, Amoy
Admiral Charles Elliot Opium War Lin Zexu Xiamen Amoy Happy Labor Day! We don't get off for it in China but on Sept. 15 we'll get a 3 day holiday for the most festive celebration in Amoy (Xiamen): Mid-Autumn Festival!

Xiamen's Mid-Autumn festival (Zhongqiu Jie 中秋节) is even more festive than Chinese New Year because locals play the Mooncake Gambling Game (bobing 博饼) that was invented hundreds of years ago by the Chinese hero Koxing (Zhengcheng Gong 郑成功) who kicked the Dutch out of Taiwan in the 1600s. Chinese are shocked when I claim I met Koxinga face-to-face and had lunch with him! I know--I don't look 400-years-old (maybe 300). Actually, I played Frederick Coyett, the last Dutch Governor of Taiwan, in the TV series about Koxinga. Koxinga defeated me in battle and then we had Chinese fast food together. But I won the next round...

My next role was Britain's Admiral Charles Elliot in a TV series about Lin Zexu and the Opium War--and I won that battle of course. Sad to say, the TV series was horribly accurate. Before I agreed to play the part, I researched the history, reading dozens of accounts from that era (by both Westerners and Chinese). Hard to believe that our "Christian" nations could have forced opium on China at gunpoint to an entire century! To learn more, read "Lords of Opium", a brief history of the Opium Wars that I wrote after reading thousands of pages of materials.

But back to Koxinga! He was not only a hero to the Chinese but to the Japanese as well because he was born in Japan to a Chinese father and a Japanese mother--a true Made in Japan Chinese hero! (Chinese didn't like that I put that in one of my books but it's true).

When Koxinga was a little boy, his father sent Koxinga sent him back to China to get an education because wanted his son to have what he’d never had: namely, lots of homework.

Koxinga became quite the scholar, but fought back against the Manchu who destroyed the Ming Dynasty. In fact, Koxinga was the last great hero to fight the Manchu, and his base was Gulangyu Islet in Xiamen. Even today, streets in Xiamen and throughout China are named Siming (思明), which means "Remember the Ming!"

From Xiamen, Koxinga sailed to Taiwan to kick out the Dutch, and when his troops got homesick, he tried to lift their spirits by inventing the mooncake game, in which you throw six dice in a porcelain bowl to win various sized mooncakes, from tiny cookies to large doorstop cakes (and each is named after a level from the Imperial Examinations).

Our boys loved the game so much that, when young, they cut mooncakes from cardboard so they could play the game year round.

Nowadays, the prizes are more practical than cakes--things like shampoo, towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes. If I ever miss a year of mooncake games, my dentist will be the first to know.

I like these practical prizes—in part because I don’t like mooncakes. A lot of young Chinese don’t like them either. They’re kind of like the Chinese version of fruitcake—heavy, and more suitable for doorstops or weapons than delicacies.

Oh well…back to work. I’m rewriting three classes, plus just finished an article for China Today (about Hainan—China’s Hawaii), editing a 140-page accreditation report for our School, and hopefully have two books out this Fall.

I hope you had a good Labor Day weekend.

Enjoy Amoy!

Dr. Bill

 School of Management
Xiamen University

Amazon eBook "Discover Xiamen"

www.amoymagic.comBill Brown
Xiamen University

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