In 1624 the VOC set up a base on the island of Formosa, today known as Taiwan. There it built Fort Zeelandia on a small peninsula off the coast, level with where An-Ping is today.
From here the VOC hoped to gain access to trade on the Chinese mainland. But China showed little interest. The Company's idea that it would be able to achieve its desired aim through the use of force proved to be a miscalculation. In the 17th century the VOC's aggressive stance worked to its disadvantage. Even so, Zeelandia soon proved to be a promising trading base. Chinese merchants brought porcelain, silk and gold to the base, and when the VOC found that Formosa had a plentiful supply of deer, a lucrative export trade in deer hides to Japan began.
Soon the mainland of Formosa was brought under the control of Zeelandia. Alongside the fort the town of Zeelandia grew up, with a weighing-house, a market hall, a hospital and an orphanage. Formosa became the VOC's first real colony in Asia.
The VOC's regime on Formosa came to an end as an indirect result of political disturbances in China. The coastal province of Fukien, opposite Formosa, was ruled at the time by a Chinese merchant and warlord whom the Dutch called Coxinga. In 1662 Coxinga was driven out of mainland China by his enemies and set sail for Formosa with a large fleet. After a siege lasting for some months Zeelandia was forced to capitulate.
The bulk of the VOC's income on Formosa came from trade with Chinese merchants. In the main the VOC sold spices and silver, and received porcelain, gold and silver in exchange.
In addition the island itself became an increasingly important source of income; growing numbers of Chinese refugees from the mainland began cultivating sugar cane, indigo and rice. The VOC traded sugar in India, Persia and Europe. Eventually, almost 40 percent of Zeelandia's total income came from taxes that the VOC levied on Chinese merchants, and from land leases, hunting and fishing rights.
Until 1651, the administration, legal system and tax collection on Formosa was in the hands of clergymen and schoolmasters. They were also charged with teaching the population Christianity, reading and writing.
However, these company employees did not always behave as well as they might. In 1662 the population joined Coxinga. The unpopular pastors and schoolmasters were imprisoned somewhere in the interior and according to reports were cruelly treated. Formosa functioned as a 'gouvernement' or colonial department from 1624 to 1662. The governor was based at Fort Zeelandia in An-Ping.