Republic of China

Dominicans in Formosa
Fort of Saint Dominic

Brief description.

Records from ancient China indicate that Han Chinese might have known of the existence of the main island of Taiwan since the Three Kingdoms period (third century), having assigned offshore islands in the vicinity names like Greater and Minor Liuqiu (Ryukyu in Japanese), though none of these names have been definitively matched to the main island of Taiwan. It has been claimed but not verified that the Ming Dynasty admiral Zheng He visited Taiwan between 1403 and 1424.
The island's modern history goes back to around 1590, when the first Western ship passed by the island, and Jan Huygen van Linschoten, a Dutch navigator on a Portuguese ship, exclaimed "Ilha Formosa" (Beautiful island), which became its name for the next four centuries. The Portuguese made no attempt to colonize Taiwan.

Interestingly enough, the most comprehensive historical records on Taiwan go back to the period of the Dutch occupation, 1624-1662. When the Dutch East Indies Company arrived, they found only the aboriginal population on the island: there were no signs of any administrative structure of the Chinese Imperial Government. On a narrow peninsula on the South-western coast of the island, the Dutch established a fortress named "Zeelandia", after the Dutch province of Zeeland. The peninsula was called Tayouan, meaning terrace bay. This later evolved into Taiwan, and came to be the name for the whole island. In 1662 the Dutch were defeated by a Chinese pirate, Cheng Cheng-kung (Koxinga), a loyalist of the old Ming dynasty, subsequently expelling the Dutch governor Covett and all the military from the island.

The Spanish Dominicans in Formosa/Taiwan.

At that time the Spanish Dominicans tried to do missionary work in China. Therefore Bartolomé Martínez, O.P. requested the governor of Manila to send an expedition to Formosa, an island offshore the coast of China. On 8 February 1626 a small flotilla of two galleys and 12 small Chinese ships, with three Spanish companies, sailed to Formosa. Bartolomé Martínez and fife Dominicans were on board. On 10 Mai 1626 they occupied the north eastern point  of the island. The Dominicans founded in the settlement El Salvador a house with chapel, dedicated to All Saints, and started their missionary work. In 1629 the Italian Dominican Angelo Cocchi arrived as the superior of the priory. The Spanish governor of Formosa tried to enter into a trade relation with the vice-King of Fukien, and made an appeal to Cocchi for cooperation. This one asked Thomas de la Sierra, O.P., an expert of Mandarin dialects, to accompany the delegation. On 31 December 1631 the company sailed to China. But the crew assaulted the passengers and after many troubles, they disembarked in China on 2 January 1632. The visits to the vice-King were in vain. But then there was something exceptional. The Japanese Christian doctor Lucas (Lau of Liu) from Fuan, which fled his country, wanted to continue travelling via Formosa to the Philippines.  He requested Cocchi to give him his habit, so that he could sail to Formosa and afterwards to the Philippines. Cocchi agreed, gave Lucas his habit, put on Chinese clothes, cut his hair and beard after Chinese model, and hid himself fifty days in his home. Then he approached the people, and  received permission to stay in China. So the Dominican mission work began again in China. The Franciscans fortified the Dominican mission in Formosa in 1636.
Source: Bierman, O.P., B.M.: Die Anfänge der neueren Dominikanermission in China. Münster 1927.



San Domingo Fort.

In the fishing town of Tamsui (which means "freshwater"), 20 km northwest of Taipei, were remnants of earlier Western contact still standing perfectly preserved.

So also the fortress San Domingo, as redoubtable today as it was when built by the Spanish in 1629, stands on a hill overlooKing the mouth of the Tamsui River. One of the oldest buildings in Taiwan, this squat, box-like fort proved to be more resilient than its Spanish builders. In 1641 it fell to the Dutch, and in 1661 it fell again.


The red walls of the fort are two meters thick, and it is named ‘the fort with the red hairs’  (Hung Mao Ch'eng). In the fort an exposition is arranged about the Netherlands in the 17th century with copies of letters, charters and maps, and a replica of a sailing ship, present of the Dutch representation in Taiwan.


After the expulsion of the Dutch by Coxinga in 1661 the fort was rebuilt to barracks into use till 1867. Then the English hired the fort from the Chinese Emperor, and used it after rebuilding for the British consulate in Taiwan. They gave the walls the red colour.

The elegant red-brick consul's residence adjoining the fort was added in 1891. A cool and stately piece of England forever marooned on a hillside overlooKing a Taiwanese fishing village, it remained occupied by the British until 1972.

Source: Vision International Publishing Co. and others.


San Domingo Fort in Tamsui, Taiwan.

Taiwan 1985, Mi 1637, Sc 2478.



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