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Reconstruction of the lost colonial architecture in the context of heritage tourism: Dutch Trading Post in Taiwan

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To strengthen brand identity, enrich tourist experiences, and promote heritage education, Taijiang National Park proposed to reconstruct Taiwan’s Dutch Trading Post in a different location from where it was initially erected in the 17th century. This paper is a case study of the reconstruction proposal for a lost colonial architectural complex in the context of heritage tourism. It discusses the practical and academic issues of rebuilding long-lost colonial heritage sites. The author provided a first-hand account of the technical and practical reasoning for reconstructing a bygone complex erected by Dutch settlers. Historical development phases of the Dutch Trading Post of Taiwan were first introduced, and then a reconstruction strategy was proposed to resolve conflicts with legal constraints. Additionally, a site selection process using GIS, a conceptually driven plan for reconstruction, and a 3D simulation were provided. Three specific issues in heritage rebuilding were further discussed, including the decision to reconstruct a heritage building (complex), the authenticity of the reconstructed building if done in a different location from where it was initially situated, and the need to discover more archaeological facts.

1 Introduction

Preserving historical landscapes and enriching tourist experiences are important recreational goals of the national park authority. However, appreciation for historical landscapes is limited by the power of tourists’ imagination. In addition, natural or manmade changes that occurred over several hundred years have made it difficult for tourists to visualise these important historical spots. Particularly, remnants that are scanty, barely recognisable, and far from their original form, the archaeological artefacts that are yet to be unearthed, and others that are available only in the archival form have made it even harder to recognise the value of historical landscapes. In the case of artefacts that are physically non-existent and landscapes that need reconstruction, the national park authority must think of a way to enhance heritage tourism and educate the public. In 2014, Taijiang National Park proposed a plan to reconstruct Taiwan’s Dutch Trading Post, which was erected in the 17th century. The author was a member of the academic and professional team who proposed the reconstruction project and worked on the project through 2015. Based on this building proposal and the reconstruction feasibility study, the author of this paper discusses the practical and academic issues involved in the reconstruction of a long-lost colonial heritage erected by Dutch settlers.

In 1624, the first VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, The Dutch East India Company) trading post was built in Taiwan, which was also the first instance of Western architecture on the island. At that time, the Portuguese rented Macau from China, the Spanish occupied Manila, and the Dutch moved to Taiwan because of the intense trading competition in Asia during the Eighty Years War between the Dutch and the Spanish (Borao 2003). This historical episode is tangible testimony of the moment Taiwan was drawn into global networks and became part of a colonial power (Chiang 2016; Van Veen 2003). The physical remnants and relics of this time had long gone. The archives, however, primarily preserved in Dutch by the former colonial office, survived in relative abundance. In Hirado and Dejima in Japan and Ayutthaya in Thailand, the VOC trading posts were reconstructed in cooperation with the respective agencies of the cities and government sectors. This heritage building (complex) has helped to strengthen the historical cities’ identities and contributed to their heritage tourism and diplomacy. However, the in situ reconstructions done in Japan’s Hirado, Dejima, and Thailand’s Ayutthaya may not be suitable models for heritage reconstruction in Taiwan because of strict legislation; therefore, this study proposed to reconstruct the building in a different location instead of in situ. Due to the lack of existing reconstruction studies on the Dutch Trading Post in Taiwan, this was a great opportunity to combine practice with scholarly research. Hence, the author provided a first-hand account of the practical and academic reasoning for the reconstruction of a bygone building complex erected by the Dutch settlers.

In the field of heritage studies and tourism, there were only a few academic publications on Dutch colonial heritage. In contrast, both the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands have made many policy efforts to conserve their colonial heritage overseas, called “shared heritage” (Verhoef and Van Oers eds. 2005; Scott 2014; Aygen 2012). In the first decade of the 21st century, efforts were extended to include sustainable tourism development through tripartite cooperation among the Dutch government, the Delft University of Technology, and UNESCO (Verhoef and Van Oers eds. 2005). However, academic output is still scarce. At present, the main theme of the literature is postcolonialism, in cities such as Jakarta (Batavia) (Jones and Shaw 2006; Henderson 2009) and Melaka (Worden 2001, 2003). In addition, it was discovered that there was a history of VOC trade in China, including with Taiwan between 1624 to 1662 and with Guangzhou between 1729 to 1794. Even after the bankruptcy of the VOC in 1794, the Dutch government took over the trading post and related activities in Guangzhou until 1840 (Liu 2018).

This paper came to fruition after noting the limited research on VOC heritage building and tourism. Three debated issues are further discussed in the latter half of this paper, including whether to reconstruct a heritage building (complex), the authenticity of the strategy to reconstruct on a different site, and the need to discover more archaeological facts. This paper is structured as follows: the next section provides the literature review; the third section describes the research method used; and the fourth section briefly introduces the spatial context, that is, Taijiang National Park and Fort Zeelandia. This is then followed by the technical and practical results, including the process of site selection, concept plan for reconstruction, and partial 3D simulation; then, the discussion expounds on the three debated issues in heritage conservation; and last, conclusions are drawn in this paper.

2 Literature review

2.1 Reconstruction of a heritage building, tourism, and the debate on the replica

Architecture is a direct and effective way to deliver a visual destination image to tourists (Spect 2014). Smith (2009, 160–161) also pointed out that architecture is becoming increasingly significant both as an identity marker of a place and an attraction for tourism. By appreciating the historical layers of the built environment, tourists sustain a strong sense of place and belonging in societies (Zhang 2022). Therefore, architecture could help shape and create a brand unique to the destination. An architecture and/or visual townscape that links directly with tourist experiences was presented by McMullen (2018) in the context of heritage tourism. Willson and McIntosh (2007) observed that heritage buildings are considered a meaningful part of international tourist experiences in a region. According to Pansukkum and Swanson’s (2018) study, young tourists are attracted to Thailand’s Ayutthaya Historical Park mainly because of its historical buildings, objects, and sites, indicating that visual experience is critical for young tourists.

The main theme of this study is the reconstruction of a colonial building complex on a site other than the original one in a heritage tourism context. Since the proposed location is not the original one, there could be at least two conditions worthy of further discussion:

  1. 1.

    A historical building was deconstructed and rebuilt with original materials at a different site;

  2. 2.

    A historical building was reconstructed with new materials at a location different from the building initially situated.

The first condition is mainly concerned with the relocation of historical buildings. In the real world, some cases could face total destruction, such as those in a zone for an infrastructure development project, unless an alternative strategy of moving the whole building was applied. Another rationale for moving historical buildings includes conservation and education. One instance is moving some folk buildings from their original location for an open-air museum (Mills 2007).

The second condition primarily revolves around the reconstruction of historical buildings. The decision to reconstruct is always difficult. According to Law and Veldpaus (2017) and Zhang (2021), “colonial nostalgia” is one of the driving reasons. Indeed, heritage buildings may enrich commercial tourism. Political will is another reason. For example, it is quite common to erect memorial architectures or monuments to strengthen urban or national identity (Worden 2003). The reconstruction of some missing buildings/component elements that may help shape an integrative landscape could also be a driving reason.

The reconstruction plan for building a heritage complex in a location that is not its original site presents some challenges to its authenticity. First, some may think that the reconstructed building may not be authentic because it will not be built in its original place. Location, from the view of architecture, is an important character of authenticity for heritage buildings. In the literature on authenticity, there are three dominant ideologies, including objective, existentialist and constructivist (Wang 1999, 2000). For many scholars, objective authenticity remains a common reference point. This school of thought advocates non-intervention with natural phenomena (Chhabra 2010, 33). However, the authenticity of a destination, from the perspective of tourism, does not depend on whether the location is original; the appeal of the destination could be compensated by tourist activities (Wang 1999, 2000) and/or expectations (Rickly and McCabe 2017, 57). Silverman (2015, 77) also pointed out that the authenticity of a tourism site should be directed at the understanding of the nature of engagement and experience rather than a quest for authenticity in the heritage itself. Additionally, according to Wang (1999, 2000), existential authenticity is activity-based and not object-based. Thus, the viewpoint of tourism suggests that the meaning of heritage is not directly derived from the artefact itself but rather a combination of the viewer’s background and the message relayed in the way the viewed items are displayed (Timothy and Boyd 2006, 6). This viewpoint allows the new heritage building to still be considered “authentic” even when it is not in its original location because of the engagement and experiences that tourists will experience.

From the viewpoint of social constructivists in tourism studies, subjective authenticity entails that authentic products and experiences are personal (Timothy and Boyd 2003, 2006; Chhabra 2019). Thus, the perception of authenticity depends on the information, knowledge level, and cultural background of tourists. Additionally, different kinds of tourists have different levels of expectations for authenticity (Cohen 1988, 2004). From Cohen’s viewpoint, “less alienated and less concerned individuals, including most rank-and-file tourists, will be content with wider, less strict criteria of authenticity” (Cohen 2004, 106). He rejects MacCannell’s (1999) viewpoint that commoditisation destroys the authenticity of local cultural products and human relations and that the mass tourist system surrounds tourists with a staged tourist space. These viewpoints indicate that the standard of authenticity expected by experts and intellectuals is higher than that of tourists since the former have more information and knowledge about heritage details. Using the same logic, different aspects of information, knowledge level, and cultural background also lead to different levels of expectation among tourists.

Creating a “replica” of a heritage building is also an issue. Recent developments in China, especially, have fostered the “replica” building boom. According to Bosker (2013), the phenomenon of “original copies” would not exist without China’s dramatic success in economic development under the government-led policy of catching up with Western countries, and anti-urbanisation legacy, which began in the 1950s. Other reasons include the promotion system for local officials and the rising wealthy class that uses these architectural replicas as status symbols. From Bosker’s (2013) viewpoint, the movement of widespread architectural replicas could be a symbolic monument of a certain period in contemporary China. Yin and Qian (2020) further proposed the three dimensions that caused the phenomenon of “original copies” in Chinese cities, namely, cultural authenticity, economic function, and local identity. Meanwhile, Weiler’s (2017) study on architectural authenticity in Chinese heritage theme parks suggested that architectural heritage is a creation in itself; thus, authenticity is not a value inherent in a building but is rather itself a creation of local concerns. In the case study of the Five Avenues Historic District in Tianjin, China, architecture and tourism are high-ranking keywords collected from internet media posts to represent public perceptions of authenticity (Liu et. al. 2019). As Silverman (2015, 84) has noted, the future direction of research into heritage and authenticity must have great concern with their political and economic contexts and outcomes.

2.2 Research on VOC history and trading posts

The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC), founded in 1602 and liquidated in 1795, was the largest trading company in Asia during the 17th century. The Dutch government authorised it to conduct trade, build forts, appoint governors, keep an army, and conclude treaties. It was the first trade organisation extending as far as Amsterdam in the West to Nagasaki in the East. The systematic establishment of their Asian headquarters, Batavia (Jakarta), and other trading posts on the trade route (e.g., Taiwan) is one of the critical reasons why the Dutch expanded so quickly into new Asian markets in the late 1630s (Van Dyke 2002).

To open their trade with the Chinese market, the VOC sent battleships to attack the fortress in Macao, which was governed by the Portuguese, twice, in 1604 and in 1622. The company failed; after its defeat at the battle in Macao in 1622, the VOC tried to use Peng-hu Island (Pescadores) to keep attempting trade with China and to build a fortress (Chiang and Ong 2018). The Dutch military strategy of disturbing the coastline provinces of China alerted the coastal defence forces of the Ming Dynasty. As a response to Dutch military incursions, Ming authorities sent out a large force to expel the Dutch and demolish the Peng-hu Island fortress. Since Chinese troops outnumbered the Dutch, partly because many Dutch soldiers became sick, the Dutch withdrew and agreed to negotiate (Ripon 2015, 145). In August 1624, the Dutch tore down the fortress at Peng-hu Island and started to build a new fortress and trading post in and around the Taijiang area in Taiwan (present-day Anping District in Tainan City, Figs. 1 and 2).

Fig. 1
figure 1

Map of the Taijiang area in 1629. Note 1: A: Fort Zeelandia, C: Proventia Town, E: New Factory, F: Old Factory, and G: Sandbar of Paxemboy. Note 2: This map was produced by Jan Gerbrantsz Black in 1629. It is currently part of a collection at the Nationaal Archief, Hague, Netherlands (Source: Lai and Wei 2018, 20–21)

Fig. 2
figure 2

Trading Post and the constructed Fort Zeelandia in 1627. Note 1: The left building was the Trading Post built by Governor Pieter Nuijts (denoted by A), and the one on the right was the warehouse built by Governor De Witt (denoted by B); this is the earliest drawing of Taiwan’s Dutch Trading Post. Note 2: Building A is similar to Japan’s Dutch Trading Post in Hirado, and the only apparent difference is the corridor on the left side (Source: National Museum of Taiwan History)

The establishment of the Taiwan trading post by the Dutch ended the Portuguese and Spanish monopoly of China’s market. By the end of the 1630s, Japan’s Tokugawa Bakufu expelled the Spanish and the Portuguese and gave the Dutch and the Chinese the right to trade in Japan under the Kaikin edicts beginning in 1636 (Blussé 2008, 23–25). The change in international relationships benefitted the Dutch and Taiwan’s trading post. According to Dutch Taiwan Governor Pieter Nuyts, Taiwan had a geographic advantage in trading with the Chinese mainland market because it was close to trading markets in Macau and Guangzhou (Campbell 2001, 51–60). Chinese mainland merchants also had a low risk of being robbed by pirates and/or encountering accidents at sea when going to trade in Taiwan (Andrade 2004). Because of its Taiwanese outpost, the VOC Company had the opportunity to significantly expand its business, which threatened the Manila-Fujian and Fujian-Jilong (Northern Taiwan) trade routes used by Spain. Finally, the Dutch expelled the Spanish from the island in 1642 (Borao 2003).

Taiwan was designated as the entrepôt between Hirado, the Chinese mainland coast, Siam, Quinan, Patani, and Batavia. Some of the important trading goods from Taiwan included raw silk, silk wares, porcelain, deerskins, and sugar. When the Fort Zeelandia and Taiwan trading post was completed in 1634, the trading network in Asia became more regular and predictable (Van Veen 2003). The management model and organisational design of the trading post were dependent on the function of the trading network and its relationship with the local administration. Once the Company decided to use military force to conquer the local ethnic people, its first task would be to build an agricultural settlement (Gaastra 2003, 71). This was exactly how plans proceeded in Taiwan, unlike in the Dutch trading post in Japan, where there was only a commercial function. In the 1640s, the high profits earned from Taiwan made the Company invest more money and human resources. A second large fort in Taiwan, Fort Provintia, was built to monitor the agricultural hinterland and Chinese mainland migrant workers.

The Fort Zeelandia and Dutch Trading Post achieved several historical milestones in Taiwan through its location. These are as follows:

  1. 1.

    It is where the first modern capitalist centre of international trade was established.

  2. 2.

    The first modern artilleries and armaments used in military conflicts were found in this area.

  3. 3.

    The European style of town planning and architecture was first realised and erected here.

  4. 4.

    Individuals with different cultural backgrounds and diversities from overseas competed for or shared the island’s resources and fortunes.

These milestones are reasons why Taiwan’s Dutch Trading Post is so important in the history of Taiwan. All these facts were discovered after archival research was conducted into VOC records, correspondence, and contemporary journals in the area. These archival materials (Blusse, van Opatall, and Ts'ao 2000; Chiang and Ong 2018) are now part of the area’s history and provide evidentiary support for scholarly contributions from modern-day researchers in various disciplines. These documents also laid the foundation for this paper.

Researchers of colonial architecture and city planning study the influence of Dutch city planners and engineer Simon Stevin (1548–1620) on the design of colonial cities, for example, Van Oers (2000), Weebers and Ahmad (2014) on Malacca in Malaysia, Oosterholf (1985) on Fort Zeelandia in Taiwan, and Van Oers (2001) on Recife in Brazil. Oosterholf (1985) regarded Fort Zeelandia as a colonial city like Batavia. He observed that the cities share some similar characteristics, such as how the people lived within the city but outside the castle and how the cities seemed to be designed in accordance with the thinking of Simon Stevin. The author of the present paper disagrees with Oosterholf’s (1985) statements that the settlement was designed on a town/city scale. The author takes the same standpoint as Funo’s (2005) classification of VOC heritage sites, with each kind having its own scale, function, and purposes. Fort Zeelandia is a mixture of a fort, factory (trading post), and village (Table 1).

Table 1 Construction purposes and scale of VOC Heritage Sites

There were at least five stages during which the VOC sought to optimise their location for a trading post in the Taijiang area. During these five stages, the Dutch made efforts to search, make trial settlements ending in fateful abandonment, and make subsequent substitutions of such locations (Chiang 2016).

During the late 1630s, the role of the Taiwan trading post became essential. Taiwan successfully turned into a transit port in the trading route between Batavia and Japan and became the main player in the trade with Chinese mainlandFootnote 1. The last historical stage of the VOC factory (trading post) in Taiwan was its relocation within the terrace of Fort Zeelandia (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3
figure 3

A model of the Fort Zeelandia layout in the 1650s. Note: This model is currently displayed at the National Museum of Taiwan History. The upper part is the inner fort, and the lower part is the outer fort. The last stage of development of the Dutch Trading Post is depicted here (Source: the author)

3 Research design

It is a known fact that case studies are considered a useful research method (Yin 2009). According to Yin (2009), case studies can be utilised as a research method if the purpose is to have an in-depth understanding of a real-life phenomenon; such understanding encompasses important contextual conditions. In addition, case studies are bounded and small-scale; thus, they are more feasible for a small-scale research team or individual to undertake (Tight 2017). Since this paper aims to analyse how the lost VOC heritage building complex could be reconstructed in a national park, it is appropriate to use a case study approach as a method for research.

Initially, information from the VOC history and the Dutch Trading Post was mainly sourced from previous research reports by historians. After analysing relevant legislation and data from formal institutions, the author established a reconstruction strategy; later, an analytical framework was developed. A process of reconstruction site selection, mainly through the geographical information system (GIS), was performed. GIS is an information system that provides functions, including visual presentations of geographic locations and geospatial analysis by an integral process. Whittal and Bell (2015) used GIS to trace the extent of the original farm in Cape Town, South Africa in the VOC Era and to identify its original boundaries. Their spatially accurate research on the early settlement at Cape Town was useful in verifying historians’ work from archival evidence. The current paper used GIS as a tool for site selection to provide scenarios for the decision-makers of the national park authority.

4 Spatial context of the case study: Taijiang National Park and Fort Zeelandia

4.1 Taijiang National ParkFootnote 2

Taijiang National Park is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan established in 2009 and is the only one in a metropolitan area as originally proposed by the local government. Fort Zeelandia in Taijiang National Park was the trading and colonial hub of Dutch settlers during the 17th century. This extensively fortified base, which lasted from 1624 to 1662, was a branch office under the command of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) dispatched from headquarters in Batavia, Java. This historical background provides rich cultural resources to inform modern-day understandings of battlefields and heritage sites and further shapes Taijiang National Park as a historical park.

In terms of recreational resources, Taijiang National Park’s ecological ‘wetland landscape’ includes mangroves, lagoons, habitats or shelters for migrating birds and other animals, abandoned salt fields, fish farms, and the historical sites of the Dutch- Zheng Cheng-gong (KoxingaFootnote 3) battlefields. Taijiang Lagoon is approximately 30,000 to 40,000 hectares in size and was famous for its ability to accommodate thousands of anchored vessels during the 17th century, which was the period when Taiwan was under consecutive foreign rule by the Dutch, the Zheng Regime, and subsequently the Qing Dynasty. At present, this is where the main seat of the national park of Taijiang is located. As one of the earliest places to undergo large-scale development in Taiwan, the historical Taijiang area and its remnants have been incorporated into the park’s historical sightseeing tours.

The purpose of the reconstruction strategy of Taiwan’s Dutch Trading Post was to enhance heritage tourism and to educate the public about Dutch colonial history and its impact on Taiwan’s history. The main goal of the national park authority is for tourists or visitors to have meaningful experiences at a heritage tourism site. One of the ways to do this is through the reconstruction of a heritage building (complex) that could historically represent the site and evoke the historical imagination of the tourists. This also indicates that the reconstruction of the Dutch Trading Post as an iconic building or building complex is intended to attract tourists. By properly designing and reconstructing the historical building (complex) in a coastal landscape, tourists’ experiences are expected to be further enriched. More importantly, it could educate the public about 17th century Taiwan and how it relates to the present day. This is the educational task of the national park authority.

4.2 Fort Zeelandia and its contemporary remains

In the past, colonial heritage was usually demolished by the next colonizer. In some circumstances, the building materials were torn down and reused to construct another building for new purposes. This is why only a few colonial heritage sites remain (see Fig. 4).

Fig. 4
figure 4

Remnants of the Walls of Outer Fort Zeelandia (Source: the author)

Fort Zeelandia, especially its settlement, was greatly damaged and abandoned after the war between the Dutch and Zheng Cheng-gong (Koxinga) in 1662. The fort was then reused as Zheng’s new command headquarters. In 1874, Japan invaded southern Taiwan, and a new fort was built near Fort Zeelandia to strengthen coastal defences against the Japanese. The bricks and other raw materials that were used to build the new fort were mainly from the remains of Fort Zeelandia. Moreover, the residents used bricks from Fort Zeelandia to build or repair their own houses.

After Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, the Japanese further destroyed the Dutch fort. In 1897, since there were insufficient dormitories for customs officers, the Japanese levelled a portion of Fort Zeelandia and built a three-story brick platform. Later in 1908, an iron-cased lighthouse was relocated to the northwest side of the brick platform. After 20 years, the Japanese colonial government demolished the official residential housing around the brick platform and renovated the mansion on the platform to become an exhibition hall and a place for celebrating the “Tercentenary of Taiwan’s Culture” (Fu 2009, 15). This was the first time that Fort Zeelandia was reused as a heritage tourism destination. After World War II, Taiwan was restored to China. Later, the civil war lead to a political rivalry across the Taiwan Strait. In 1975, the Tainan City Government added a pointed roof to the observation tower and painted the walls white for tourism purposes; this is how the site appears now (see Fig. 5). In 1983, it was ranked as a first-grade heritage site. Since the Law of Preservation of Cultural Assets requires static preservation, the status quo at Fort Zeelandia has been maintained until now.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Different regimes shaped the historical site at Fort Zeelandia. Note 1: The observation tower was built by the Japanese colonial government to monitor American bombers during World War II. Note 2: In 1975, the Tainan City Government added a pointed roof to the observation tower and painted the walls white for tourism purposes. Note 3: The Dutch settlers built the three-story platform (Source: the author)

5 Results and analysis

5.1 A reconstruction strategy was established using a new chosen location that is different from the original one and a similar plan was selected for constructing the building complex

The location of the heritage building is an important part of the character of authenticity. Based on the author’s observation of previous reconstructions of 17th century VOC sites, such as the trading posts in Hirado and Dejima, both in Nagasaki, JapanFootnote 4, replicas were reconstructed in situ.

In Taiwan, legislation requires that actual national heritage sites be sealed off. And archaeological digs for research purposes must pass through a strict application process to be allowed inside high-status heritage sites. This is the case for Fort Zeelandia, which has been left undisturbed to this date. The in situ reconstructions done in Japan’s Hirado and Dejima locations and Ayutthaya in Thailand may not be suitable for heritage sites in Taiwan because of strict legislation; therefore, this study proposed to reconstruct the building in a different location instead of in situ.

In addition, this study chose the last stage of the building complex in Fort Zeelandia, built between 1635 and 1662, as the target of reconstruction. The three main reasons are as follows: first, the only information about the trading post built in 1627 was the size and the drawing of the building, while there is a substantial amount of archival historical data of the one built between 1635 and 1662; second, the trading post in the last stage has more interesting functions, including a governor’s office, official ceremony area, areas for meeting functions, an area where parties were held, and storage, etc., which provide more elements that are representative of Dutch history and culture in Taiwan. Third, a building complex with several parts and elements can give tourists a more vivid and memorable experience than a single building (McMullen 2018; Willson and McIntosh 2007).

5.2 The site selection process for reconstruction

The site selection process was comprehensive and rigorous to obtain the optimal result. The following factors were included in the process: location, cultural assets, zoning, typography, environmentally sensitive areas, transportation accessibility, and administrative feasibility. Cultural assets and location both represent the cultural and historical context; zoning, typography, and environmentally sensitive areas are related to the mitigation of environmental impact. Meanwhile, transportation accessibility represents convenience for tourist arrival and deductions from the infrastructure investment, and administrative feasibility represents institutional management concerns (Hsu et al. 2015). Based on these variables, GIS was used to set up rules for the evaluation of alternative sites. The whole diagram and the steps involved are presented in Fig. 6.

  • Step 1: Identifying and excluding areas not permitted for construction

Fig. 6
figure 6

The Analytical Framework and Process for Site Selection (Source: the author)

Areas in which the construction of a multipurpose complex building is impossible were excluded. National parks have five types of zoning: heritage conservation areas, specific scenic areas, ecologically protected areas, recreational areas, and generally controlled areas. There are strict regulations that prevent the development of facilities in heritage conservation areas, specific scenic areas, and ecologically protected areas. Therefore, the locations of these three zoning types were excluded. Additionally, two environmentally sensitive areas, including the protected forest area regulated by the Bureau of Forest Affairs and the areas that are vulnerable to floodingFootnote 5, were excluded. Aside from excluding areas with zoning restrictions and environmentally sensitive areas, this paper also considered the administrative boundary of Taijiang National Park.

  • Step 2: Merging some of the tourism planning factors

To integrate the potential sites into the existing tourism system, it was necessary to identify the scenic spots within the vicinity of the planned cultural heritage site in the national park. Hence, three tourism planning factors were identified: (1) proximity to current scenic spots, recreational activities, and tourism resources in the national park to strongly incorporate them with the potential site; (2) transportation accessibility to minimise the cost of developing more transportation utilities and infrastructure; and (3) integration of the existing sightseeing tours with other heritage site tours.

Since the reconstruction of the building complex will be expensive, the cost, market orientation, and facilities integration were all considered important aspects in tourism planning. Thus, the selected site must be close to existing cultural resources, national park attractions, and planned itineraries. Accessibility is considered a crucial factor in the commercialisation of heritage sites (Laws and Pan 2008). Since accessibility is also related to travel safety, it was included in the second phase.

  • Step 3: Considering land property rights, land size, and coastal landscapes

In this last phase, the attributes of the land, including property rights, size, and coastal landscapes, were considered. Land property rights refer to the feasibility of land acquisition; therefore, public lands were prioritised since they are cheaper than privately owned lands. In terms of land size, a larger site was preferred since multiphasic development will be performed in the future. For the coastal landscapes, those that could represent the image of the trading post during the 17th century were preferred; therefore, those near or on the seashore were considered.

In summary, the process of site evaluation involved several aspects, such as excluding areas through the superposition of GIS layers, weighing favourable and unfavourable tourism planning factors, and considering land attributes such as property rights, land size, and coastal landscapes.

After the site selection process, the Dutch Trading Post was sited in the River Estuary next to Taijiang National Park’s headquarters (see Fig. 7).

Fig. 7
figure 7

The chosen site for the Dutch Trading Post is the River Estuary next to the headquarters of Taijiang National Park (Source: the author)

5.3 The results of the reconstruction concept plan and 3D simulation

Based on a previous study on the planning and reconstruction of the Dutch Governor's House almost twenty years ago (Lin et. al. 2003), we proposed a reconstruction plan for the Dutch Trading Post. Based on the literature review, the last phase of construction of the Dutch Trading Post was located in the outer fort of Zeelandia. Therefore, it neighboured the Dutch Governor's House. These two buildings shared the same spatial context.

The plan was to build the main building complex in two rows within the bailey of the outer fort of Zeelandia, with each loosely bracketing a street. The two-level, northern row of the historical, warehouse-looking units is interconnected with fire separation gables that stick out above the pitched tiled roof, perpendicular to the frontage. Under each south-facing frontage gable is a door entrance. The miniature castle-like centrepiece of the southern row features a flat roof with battlements facing towards the sea, equipped with cannons and carriages. There is also an observation tower with a steep metal roof, which both serves as a landmark and shows its dominating position as it had once been the governor’s quarters. At the northern front of the headquarters are the ceremonial entrance balcony and the outdoor stairs. Last, the south wing is flanked on both sides by a two-story, warehouse-like annex (see Fig. 8).

Fig. 8
figure 8

The three-dimensional simulation of the Dutch Trading Post Building Complex (view from the top). Note: The three-dimensional simulation was helped by Dr. Kwo-wei Chen (Source: the author)

6 Discussions

6.1 Whether to reconstruct a heritage building (complex) or not

Reconstructing a heritage building (complex) to enhance heritage tourism and educate the public is a critical decision that requires thorough evaluation and planning. There are several different ways to achieve these policy goals, such as implementing new information and communication technology such as VR (Virtual Realty) or AR (Augmented Reality) and establishing an effective interpretation system. The issue of the effect of the visual environment is analysed below.

Heritage buildings and townscapes provide an experiential space filled with emotion, engagement, memories, and personal meaning (McMullen 2018; Pansukkum and Swanson 2018); thus, when tourists view and visit buildings, tourists can use their imagination to create a more personal and memorable experience. Therefore, architecture matters in tourists’ experiences.

Not only does architecture provide space to accommodate interpretation and educational activities, but it also deepens the tourist experience. Since architecture matters to tourist experience and the Taijiang National Park Authority needs architectural space to satisfy its policy goals, the reconstruction of a building (complex) is a superior alternative to the application of new information and communication technology (virtual reconstruction) or to the establishment of an effective interpretation system.

Aside from the reconstruction strategy, this study also developed a minor strategy to emphasise the coastal landscapes to provide a system of signs. According to Rickly-Boyd (2013), existential authenticity still needs a place-based context, not a vacuum; this is why landscape and place matter.

In addition, internet communication technology may have potential to act as a mediating agent in the authentication process. A critical discourse on the digitisation of authenticity and digital authentication remains an unexplored study area (Chhabra 2022, 10).

The policy aim of Taijiang National Park is mainly to strengthen the park’s brand identity in five aspects: (1) history of its maritime trade, (2) history of its geoeconomics, (3) storytelling of the park’s unique history, (4) heritage education, and (5) enhancement of the regular forums formed by the members of the allied networks on VOC heritage. The spaces in the cultural complex and tourist facilities are intended to achieve these five goals of brand identity. Therefore, this study proposes four main functions of architectural space: (1) for educational activities, (2) for the exhibition of historical sites and events, (3) to serve as international cultural exchange offices, and (4) as a hostel for tourists.

6.2 The debate on the authenticity of the strategy to reconstruct in a different site

The main concern of the reconstruction plan was how to enrich the tourist experience in a historical environment. To achieve this goal, this plan selected a location through the use of GIS layering to identify a space that is close to the coast with a view of the seashore landscape. The chosen location is also close to the original historical site of phase one, which is at the sandy bar (Chiang 2016, 139-140). Our contextual simulation of the Fort Zeelandia base was intended to enforce a sense of place. This is quite different from the reconstruction model of archaeological sites, such as Japan’s Hirado and Dejima and Thailand’s Ayutthaya. According to the literature review, the viewpoint of tourism suggests that the new heritage building is still considered “authentic” even when it is not in its original location because of the engagement and experiences that tourists will experience (Wang 1999, 2000; Rickly and McCabe 2017; Silverman 2015).

Second, there is limited knowledge about the details of the original buildings. This is what Timothy and Boyd (2003) call “the unknown past”. From the author’s first-hand discussion with Hirado’s and Dejima’s reconstruction teams in Japan, we knew that their philosophy to reconstruction was for the new site to be as similar as possible to the old one. However, this approach also admits that the building (complex) is not 100% the same as the original. A building intended to enhance the tourist experience does not need to be the same as the original building. However, a scientific investigation of the original building supports necessary information to prevent violations of the “authenticity” rule. In this study, the author emphasised the Dutch Trading Post in the context of the fort layout. Additionally, the author chose a location with coastal landscapes to be consistent with the maritime harbour.

According to the literature review, different aspects of information, knowledge level, and cultural background lead to different expectations among tourists (Cohen 1988, 2004). Therefore, the aim of Taiwan’s reconstruction strategy is not to become a total replica or to become exactly like the original. The building complex was designed by a catalytic strategy. The author does not object to a reconstruction that was well informed by and undertaken according to the historical documents and archival information. Furthermore, the author strongly supports that a reconstruction project always needs a thorough review of historical documents and archives. What the author means by “a catalytic strategy” is that the reconstruction building (complex) in the case study of this paper could be used as a catalyst to stimulate heritage tourism, park identity, and heritage education.

Third, Disneyfication is surely a challenging issue of authenticity. This issue is related to contrived authenticity and commoditisation. Contrived authenticity means tourists believe the experience is staged. The supreme example of a contrived tourist destination is Disneyland, which has become a vital component of contemporary American culture (Cohen 2004, 110). Although historical/cultural theme parks worldwide serve both educational and entertainment purposes, strengthening the purpose of education will make it easier to obtain support from preservation advocates and the public. The strategy for resisting Disneyfication is to designate a part of the function of the building complex for public use, e.g., allocating a portion for a public museum and a tourist information centre. Adding space for public use may help distinguish the building from being merely a source of entertainment. In the ethnographic study on the New Salem Historic Site of Abraham Lincoln for tourists, Bruner (1994) pointed out that “historic sites like New Salem do provide visitors with the raw material (experiences) to construct a sense of identity, meaning, attachment, and stability”. This means that the iconic building or building complex could stimulate the public’s historical consciousness and questions about the past.

The process of the commoditisation of culture for tourism purposes may endanger the intrinsic meaning of a historical building in certain conditions. However, the claim that “once a cultural product is commoditised the meaning is gone” is an overgeneralisation. Additionally, Cohen fiercely criticises the previous claim in quotation marks and supports the positive function of commoditisation (Cohen 2004, 112). The tourist market can do some things well; it can preserve folk arts and crafts by maintaining an art centre or a commercial gallery (Silverman 2015, 79-80) and can maintain a meaningful local or ethnic identity that is now slowly fading in the modern world (Cohen 2004, 113). That is why the constructivist paradigm supports commodified forms of authenticity and facilitates the commercialised use of heritage (Chhabra 2010, 33-34). The reconstruction strategy developed in this paper could enable the public to experience and understand the historical identity of the place (Table 2).

Table 2 Issues of authenticity and strategies to solve them

At its core, existential authenticity is defined by activities. In the past, there was a Holland Day sponsored by the Netherlands Office, Taipei, in the Taijiang area. To strengthen the existential authenticity of a historical area, the author suggests the continuation of the Holland Day event on an annual basis.

6.3 The need to discover more archaeological facts

At present, the visual artefacts of historical ruins at the Fort Zeelandia site are few, consisting only of the following: part of the fort wall, the outer fort structure, one semi-circular bastion, and four archaeological excavation units. The excavation units were part of the archaeological project, which was held from 2003 to 2005. Limited numbers of artefacts are a common problem for heritage sites that have experienced different government regimes and colonisers. The succeeding regime or coloniser may redefine the role and function of the buildings, tear them down to reuse the materials, or completely demolish the buildings and records for ideological purposes. For Taiwan’s Fort Zeelandia, Commander Zheng Cheng-gong (Koxinga) reused the fort as his command headquarters in 1662. In 1871, some of the outer fort walls were torn down, and the bricks were reused to build a new fort to protect against the Japanese invasion during the Qing Dynasty. Additionally, the residents reused the bricks of the abandoned fort to build their houses and fences. Therefore, the historical ruins of the Fort Zeelandia site are far less available for the tourist experience.

This study believes that archaeology matters greatly, especially in buildings that seemingly have vanished without a clear construction blueprint, materials, and related information. Some archaeological efforts have been made to discover more artefacts related to the Dutch colonial heritage in Asia, such as those by Sihamat (2011) at Thailand’s Ayutthaya, Wibisono (2011) at Indonesia’s Batavia, and Katsu’s (2011) analysis of bricks and roof tiles in Japan and other Asian Trading Posts.

Previous small-scale archaeological excavations from 2003 to 2005 discovered the almost exact fort area layout, the inner and outer fort foundations, and pieces of evidence of the porcelain trade. Archaeological findings helped to accurately define the spatial layout and improved architectural surveys of the fort’s remains on the surface today. It also helped us understand the human activities embodied by the Dutch construction processes and their evolution (Liu et al. 2011). In terms of material culture, the porcelain left by the Dutch were similar to those found in Pasar Ikan and Barten in Indonesia and Nagasaki in Japan. Additionally, some porcelain from Germany, Holland, Thailand, and Japan reflected Taiwan’s position as a hub port of 17th-century Asian trade (Hsieh 2005). However, since the excavation was small-scale and only for specific purposes, the findings were quite limited. Although the establishment of the fort’s museum in 2009 compensated for this condition, more historical facts are needed to help the general public understand and learn about the Dutch colonial past in Taiwan.

Fortunately, the 1643 Estate Registers of Zeelandia were accidentally discovered in Amsterdam in 2015 (Academia Sinica 2018). This accidental discovery provided an ethnic portrait of landowners, the mapped boundaries of street blocks, and the traces of power relations among settlement residents (Huang 2019). Additionally, the Tainan City Government in partnership with Cheng Kung University has explored the periphery of the fort in the past three years. In 2021, the outlying walls and part of the sewage system of the fortification were discovered, which enriched the understanding of the settlement and Fort Zeelandia (Chin 2021).

Since tour planning means integrating tourism spots, increased effort and investments in archaeology are necessary. More archaeological evidence will be beneficial for understanding material culture. Additionally, underwater exploration can be performed to obtain more historical artefacts. As Parthesius (2003, 34) said,

“(T)he archival information will pose questions answered by the archaeological record, and at the same time it is anticipated that archaeological results will create questions clarified by historical research.”

7 Conclusions

The main purpose of this paper was to discuss how a lost colonial architecture can be reconstructed to enrich the tourist experience and promote heritage education in a national park. Since the colonial architecture was already “lost”, reconstruction was based on archival records and excavated artefacts. Although historians and archaeologists have contributed findings from their disciplines, there is still a gap in architecture and tourism. This study proposed that by reconstructing the Dutch Trading Post, the tourist experience may be enriched and the general public’s knowledge of heritage education may be improved.

Based on previous historical understandings and due to the legal restrictions of Taiwan’s Cultural Assets Preservation Act, a strategy to reconstruct the building on a site other than the original one was proposed. The last stage of the building complex built between 1635 and 1662 in Fort Zeelandia was chosen as the target for the current study’s reconstruction proposal.

Through the use of GIS technology and knowledge about site restrictions, an appropriate site was selected. Inaccessible sites and those for which land use permits were difficult to obtain were excluded from selection. Three tourism planning factors were also identified (proximity to current scenic spots, transportation accessibility, and integration into existing sightseeing tours) to help with site selection. Finally, land property rights, land size, and coastal landscape views were considered. The main functions of each space of the building complex were also proposed.

This paper further discussed three academic issues that were encountered during the implementation of this research. The first issue is whether to reconstruct a historic building (complex). Although there are some other ways to achieve the policy goals of enhancing heritage tourism and educating the public, the author believes that the reconstruction of a building (complex) is a superior alternative. Another concern is the authenticity of a reconstructed building that is not in its original location. Since there is limited knowledge of the details of the original building, the author suggested that Taiwan’s reconstruction strategy should aim at becoming a catalytic building rather than creating a replica. The viewpoint of social constructivism in tourism studies indicated that despite displacement from the original location, the reconstruction can still be “authentic”. Subjective authenticity in tourism studies entails that authentic products and experiences are personal and that the concern with authenticity in tourism should be directed at understanding the nature of engagement and experience rather than a quest for authenticity in the heritage itself (Silverman 2015, 77). Finally, the author believes that archaeology could play a large part in enhancing VOC heritage tourism in Taiwan. The reason is tourists need more historical facts to help them understand and visualise heritage and human activities in the past.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to the datasets are owned by government but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Change history

  • 14 December 2023

    The keyword "Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC)" was captured as two in the HTML version due to a typesetting error and has been corrected.


  1. In 1638, the senior merchant in Japan, Francois Caron, recommended that the council at Batavia double their investment intended for purchasing merchandise in Japan and transfer it to Taiwan (Van Dyke 2002, 52).

  2. The following statements can be confirmed on the official website of Taijiang National Park (

  3. Koxinga approximates the name as spoken in the local Chinese dialect; the Dutch called the commander Zheng Cheng-gong (in pinyin).

  4. The administrative and responsible bodies for the Hirado and Dejima projects included the government and the private sector in the two municipalities. The parties concerned have carried out lengthy and thorough research and investigations, exhausting every aspect of physical and archival evidence in the sciences of archaeology, architecture, and other disciplines.

  5. A vulnerable flood zone is described as an area where a “daily rainfall of over 350 mm/day has been recorded in climate history” (Hsu et al. 2015, 79).



The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie)


Geographical Information System


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation


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I would like to thank all members of the academic and professional team who tendered the feasibility study of reconstruction project of the Dutch trading post in Taijiang National Park. Especially Dr. Kuo-Wei Chen has helped to the design of the work; English translation; improved tables and figures; and 3D simulation in this paper. The author is also indebted to the anonymous reviewers. However, the contents of this paper are fully responsible by the author.


In 2014, the Taijiang National Park Authority put forward a feasibility study of reconstruction project of a Dutch trading post within the existing administrative boundary. The author was a member of the academic and professional team who tendered the reconstruction project and had worked through 2015.

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Ping-hsiang Hsu has made substantial contributions to the design of the work; literature review; the acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data; has drafted the work and substantively revised it. Also, he is the corresponding author. The author read and approved the final manuscript.

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The author had received his Ph. D. degree from Graduate Institute of Building and Planning, Taiwan University.

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Correspondence to Ping-hsiang Hsu.

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Hsu, Ph. Reconstruction of the lost colonial architecture in the context of heritage tourism: Dutch Trading Post in Taiwan. Built Heritage 7, 14 (2023).

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