Daily Archives: 1 January 2006

Coxinga’s Sino-Japanese Parentage

In infancy, Coxinga was known as Fukumatsu, literally Lucky Pine, though the name is loaded with other meanings. To a Chinese reader, the two characters of the name combine the Fu of Fujian with the Matsu of Matsuura, the feudal family that ruled the Hirado area. Matsu could even have been a pun on the name of the goddess of the seas so revered by [Coxinga’s father Nicholas] Iquan and his fellow sailors, divine patron of Fujian and Macao. In later centuries, legends linked Coxinga directly with her, claiming that while Miss Tagawa gave him life, his true mother was the goddess herself, who appeared in the spirit of the storm and the great whale on the morning of his birth, and who watched over his ships throughout his life.

The pine was also a symbol of longevity, and of loneliness, since a different kind of matsu was also the Japanese verb ‘to wait’. If a pun was intended, then perhaps we can guess at which of the many possible readings of Miss Tagawa’s first name is correct–Fukumatsu also means ‘Fuku Waits’, and wait she did. [This seems a bit silly and a bit garbled.–J.]

Miss Tagawa and her son remained in Hirado, where their means of support are unknown–presumably either through occasional stipends from Iquan, or on the mercy of her stepfather. Though contemporary sources record that Iquan visited his former lover on occasion, he was occupied with the Taiwanese operation, and now had a prominent wife in Fujian who demanded more of his attention. In modern parlance, he was an absentee father.

SOURCE: Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty, by Jonathan Clements (Sutton, 2005), p. 52

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Chaucer on Latvians

In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer (1340-1400) mentions Latvia in the Knight’s Tale:

Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in pruce;
In lettow hadde he reysed and in ruce, …

Full oft the table’s roster he’d begun
Above all nations’ knights in Prussia.
In Latvia raided he, and Russia, …

Chaucer’s reputed model for the Knight, King Henry IV of England, made it to Latvia in July, 1390, while temporarily attached to the Knights of the Livonian Order. Even earlier, a Latvian who had come to England with a party of Norse invaders wound up battling against William the Conqueror around 1070.

via Latvians.com, a well-done site that offers a lot of things you won’t find in the CIA World Factbook, such as:

  • Latvia is about the size of West Virginia, or Belgium plus the Netherlands.
  • About 2,500,000 people live in Latvia, mostly Latvian; and about 1/3rd Russian, the result of intense Russification during the 50 year Soviet occupation; students of history will note this was not the first campaign to Russify Latvia, the prior one being conducted by Czar Alexander III in the late 1800’s — motivated more by fear of Germanic ambitions, but also a time during which speaking Latvian in public was grounds for imprisonment.

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