The Portrait of Koxinga

The Portrait of Koxinga

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

The Portrait of Koxinga was designated as a national treasure in 2010. It is in National Taiwan Museum’s collection; it is said that Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-gong) ordered someone to paint his portrait when he was in Tainan. When Koxinga’s grandson Zheng Keshuang surrendered to the Qing dynasty, he entrusted Zheng Chang, a member of the Koxinga clan, to send this painting back to his hometown in Quanzhou. However, Zheng Chang never returned home, instead he kept it with him when he moved from Hōo-bé (Tamsui) to Āu-suann-pi (Nangang), and the painting stayed within his family for many years.

In 1898, when the Governor of Taipei Prefecture Murakami Yoshio was inspecting Āu-suann-pi, he visited Zheng Weilong, the fifth generation of the prominent Koxinga clan, and Zheng Weilong brought out the Portrait of Koxinga. Murakami Yoshio showed great admiration once he saw the portrait, which showed Koxinga’s sternness, spirit and dedication. He praised the painting so much that Zheng Weilong presented it as a gift to the governor, who in returned gave him a sum of money as a reward. Afterwards, the governor took a picture of the painting and sent it to a friend; the photograph was once published in the Account of Taiwanese Customs. As a result, people started to know more about the Portrait of Koxinga.

In addition to the original Portrait of Koxinga, the National Taiwan Museum also has a photograph of the Portrait of Koxinga, In the photograph of the Portrait of Koxinga, the appearance of Koxinga, his clothing, and the animal skin on the seat all look very exquisite, whereas the national treasure Portrait of Koxinga shows the full signs of ageing. The National Museum of Taiwan History in Tainan also has in its collection a painting which is exactly the same as the national treasure Portrait of Koxinga.

When Governor Murakami Yoshio returned to Japan, he brought the national treasure Portrait of Koxinga with him back to his home country. However, a few years later, the family of Zheng Weilong said that the painting was not presented to Murakami Yoshio, but rather it was taken by deception, so they asked for its return. In the end, Murakami Yoshio brought the painting back to Taipei, and gave it to the Governor-General Sakuma Samata. After viewing the painting, Governor Sakuma Samata consulted with Yamaguchi Tōru, the chief priest at the Taiwan Grand Shrine. After listening to his opinion, Sakuma Samata concluded that a private collection would not be a suitable place to preserve such a valuable painting like the Portrait of Koxinga. Thus, the painting should be treated as a national treasure in the collection of the Taiwan Grand Shrine. The Zheng family had no choice but to agree.

In 1910, the Japanese painter Nasu Hōkei, who was good at copying calligraphy and painting, came to Taiwan. He had heard from Suzumura Yuzuru, the Director of the Imperial Relics Office in Tainan, that he had seen a Portrait of Koxinga when he visited the Koxinga Temple in Quanzhou, and that portrait and the one kept at the governor’s residence were equally good. Therefore, when Nasu Hōkei visited Quanzhou, he copied the portrait during his journey. Previously, he had dedicated a painting to the Taiwan Grand Shrine, so this time he wanted to dedicate it to the Koxinga Shrine (the present-day Koxinga Museum), so he went directly to the Governor’s residence when he arrived in northern Taiwan to express his wish and request a view of the painting hidden in the Governor’s residence. Deeply moved, Governor Sakuma instructed Nasu Hōkei to paint two paintings, one to be dedicated to the Koxinga Shrine as a memento of his tenure in Taiwan, and the other to be kept at his residence.

On July 15, 1911, the original Portrait of Koxinga was enshrined at the Taiwan Grand Shrine, and Sakuma Samata gave a copy of the portrait done by Nasu Hōkei to the Zheng family as a memorial, but it is now lost and only a photograph in the collection of the National Taiwan Museum exists.

National Treasure Appreciation


The original national treasure Portrait of Koxinga

In the Portrait of Koxinga in the collection of the National Taiwan Museum, Koxinga is seated in the center of the painting with his face delicately outlined, showing his ears, mouth, nose, eyes, eyebrows, and you can also see the three spots where he has a short beard.

His overall appearance is mild and elegant, in accordance with the portrayal in many historical narratives that he was a “Confucian general who lays down the brush to take up the sword.” This painting creates an image of Koxinga that is “strong but not fierce, reverent and peaceful.” He is sitting on a seat of animal skin that is probably tiger or leopard.

Looking more closely at the painting, Koxinga is wearing a round black hat with a round red bead on the top. The rim of the hat is decorated with gold thread and a golden wavy trim, and the center of the hat is inlaid with a round jade bead; he is wearing a green round-collared robe, which is decorated with the image of a dragon’s face and claws on the chest and hem, along with auspicious clouds.

Poking out from the sleeves, a piece of blue material can be seen, which appears to be a middle garment. He is wearing a jade belt around his waist, which is inlaid with seven pieces of jade in different sizes. He is holding the jade belt with his left hand, with the right hand hanging down on his knee. He has long fingernails on both hands, and is wearing black boots, his feet are placed naturally on a pad.

The facsimile of the Portrait of Koxinga by Nasu Hōkei

This painting is in the Tainan City Museum. The painting is inscribed with the words “In the 44th year of the Meiji era, autumn day, done by Hōkei,” on the left side of the seat there is a seal with the seal script “Ason Minamoto,” which shows that the painting was completed in 1911 and copied by Nasu Hōkei, a Japanese painter who was traveling in Taiwan at the time.

This painting is exactly the same as the original, with ink lines outlining the figure’s silhouette, clothing folds, facial features and hands. The robe pattern is outlined in green, and the dragon and auspicious cloud patterns are drawn by using gold paint and gold leaf. But on closer inspection, there are two distorted ink lines on the hem. After examining the painting using scientific methods, it was discovered that these two marks are not present on the original painting, but were added to the painting by somebody at a later date.

Photo courtesy of

Portrait of Koxinga, the Zheng Weilong edition

This is a photograph of the second facsimile of the Portrait of Koxinga copied by Nasu Hōkei. This painting was given to Zheng Weilong’s family (hereinafter referred to as the “Zheng Weilong edition”), but its whereabouts are unknown and only the photograph remains.

When Nasu Hōkei was copying the second version of the Portrait of Koxinga, he did it differently from the first two paintings. He did a complete copy of the patterns of Koxinga’s robe, which has a four-clawed dragon coiled in a sea of auspicious clouds on each shoulder, a dragon’s head on his chest, with an open mouth that reveals its teeth; the dragon’s whiskers are also visible on its forehead. There is also a formidable dragon on each sleeve, flying in the clouds. On the hem of the robe there are two dragons raising their heads with eyes looking at a pearl; they are ready to reach out their claws to grab the pearl. The bottom edge of the robe is decorated with a wave pattern.

The animal skins draped over the chair are also exquisitely painted, showing the hair around the tiger’s cheeks, its eyes, nose and mouth, finely depicting the two colors of the tiger’s stipes.

Edition Comparison

Comparison between the original national treasure Portrait of Koxinga and the facsimile

Nasu Hōkei’s meticulous observation and superb copying techniques have truly preserved the original appearance of the Portrait of Koxinga, even the parts on the original that have been damaged have also been depicted, so the facsimile can serve as a basis for restoration work to the original in the future.

Comparison between the original national treasure Portrait of Koxinga and the Zheng Weilong edition

After Nasu Hōkei finished his second copy of the Portrait of Koxinga, the Governor-General of Taiwan presented it to Zheng Weilong’s family.

The Zheng Weilong edition not only clearly depicts the dragons and auspicious cloud patterns on Koxinga’s robe and the tiger animal skin on his seat, but also some parts are painted differently from the previous two paintings. One example is Koxinga’s right hand that is hanging on his knee. In the Zheng Weilong edition, the right hand is less exposed on the cuff, and the little finger is not so obvious. Unlike the original, in which the long nails are clearly visible on the fingers of the right hand, and the wrist is completely exposed; moreover, on the original and the Nasu Hōkei facsimile, the claws of the four-fingered dragon, drawn on the left side of the robe, are tilting upwards, whereas on the Zheng Weilong edition, there is a three-fingered dragon whose claw faces downwards.

Through a comparison of the original with the Nasu Hōkei facsimile and the Zheng Weilong edition, there are subtle differences that can be observed.

Comparison between the original national treasure Portrait of Koxinga and the facsimile

Comparison between the original national treasure Portrait of Koxinga and the Zheng Weilong edition

The great transformation of Koxinga

Koxinga is no longer the stern upright figure like that seen in his portrait. Sometimes his cheeks are red and he is holding wheat in one hand and beer in the other; sometimes he makes the gesture for “love” with his hands as if he is a hipster living in the 21st century. Sometimes he even holds the ear of a corn in one hand and a bucket of popcorn in the other.

These images of Koxinga are all the result of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Tainan City Government using the Nasu Hōkei facsimile of the Portrait of Koxinga in its collection to collaborate with other industries. The solemn figure of Koxinga is made to look more like something that young people nowadays would like, making this stern historical figure became a part of everyday life.

These products are sold exclusively at the historical sites in Tainan, in the hopes of enhancing the visibility of these monuments. There has been a positive reaction to these efforts.

Photo courtesy of


    1. “Nasu Hōkei’s Photograph of the Portrait of Koxinga.” Taiwan Daily News. No. 3807, December 25, 1910, p. 7.
    2. “Nasu Hōkei’s Painting of the Portrait of Koxinga.”Taiwan Daily News. No. 4000, July 13, 1910, p. 7.
    3. “The portrait of Koxinga, Prince of Yanping, that has become the National Treasure was donated by a Local.” Taiwan Daily News. No. 4003, July 16, 1911, p. 7.
    4. Yamanaka Kikori, “The Objects of the National Taiwan Museum.” Taiwan Times. December, 1930, pp. 120-121.
    5. Liao Chin-yuan and Taipei National University of the Arts, Center for Traditional Arts, A Report on the Investigation of the Portrait of Koxinga. Taipei: National Taiwan Museum, 2007.
    6. Hung Sunhsin and Liu Fang-ju (authors), Wang Yao-t’ing and Liu Fang-ju (project leaders), Report on the Restoration of the Portrait of Koxinga. Taipei: National Taiwan Museum, 2010.
    7. Lu Tai-Kang, Research and Appraisal of Cultural Antiques: Unraveling the Secrets of Tainan’s Treasures. Taipei: Wu-Nan Book Inc, 2017.


The National Taiwan Museum (NTM) is the oldest museum in Taiwan, it was formerly known as the Taiwan Governor Museum, which was established in 1908. The artefacts on display were broadly divided into history, anthropology, “south China and south seas policy,” flora and fauna, and mineralogy. Before WWII, there were nearly 10,000 pieces in the museum’s collection; after Japan was defeated in WWII, the administration of the museum was transferred to the Republic of China, and was later renamed Taiwan Provincial Museum. In 1999, due to the Taiwan Provincial Government Restructuring, the management of the museum was transferred to the Ministry of Culture, and renamed NTM.

The NTM inherits the collection of the Taiwan Governor Museum during the Japanese rule, and has accumulated over 120,000 items, including historical materials, indigenous artefacts, flora and fauna, and geological specimens of Taiwan. These items provide a window for the public to learn more about the history of Taiwan. These items have also been digitized and can be seen at “National Taiwan Museum Digital Archive Information System.”

In addition to the rich collection of artefacts related to history, culture, flora and fauna located at the main site of the NTM, the Land Bank Exhibition Hall of the NTM(Natural History Branch) also has a paleontological exhibition, the Nanmen branch of NTM presents the glory days of Taiwan’s camphor industry, and the Railway Department Park at NTM presents the history of Taiwan’s railways and the trajectory of Taiwan’s modern development.

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