Taiwan: Penghu Islands (2015)


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The little known (outside Taiwan) Penghu Islands are located in the strait between Taiwan and China. They form an archipelago of 64 islands. The main island is Magong (meaning: ″Matsu Palace″), which is connected through bridges to 3 other islands. These 4 islands form 3 townships: Magong, Huxi (also located on Magong Island), Baisha, and Xiyu.


Despite their small size, but because of their strategic location, the Penghu Islands are rich in history. A little known fact in both Penghu and French history is the following: in March 1885 during the short Sino-French War, French Admiral Anatole-Amedee-Prosper Courbet captured the Penghu Islands, then known to him as the Pescadores Islands. But he died in June of the same year aboard his flagship Bayard in Magong harbor.


Fishing is a major component of Penghu‛s economic activity. Penghu fishing boats are characterized by their spiky bows.






Statue of the Fisherman at the eastern tip of Xiyu Island, near the Great Bridge connecting the Baisha and Xiyu islands.


Women repairing fishing nets.



Cleaning oysters and afternoon auction sale of a fish catch in Magong harbor.



Penghu Islands are not short on temples. In Magong City, the beautiful Penghu Tienhou (Empress of Heaven) temple is the oldest Matsu temple in all Taiwan (300-year old):

- Main entrance gate.


- Two of the wood carvings below the ceiling of the entrance gate. (Several such carvings are barely visible in the above photo.)


- Inner courtyard.



- Left: Incense burner in the main entrance gate. Right: Altar in the main hall of the temple.


Extravagant roof of a modern temple on Magong Island.


Left: A typical soulless modern Taiwanese hotel in Magong city. Right: A 10m-high circular ″shita″ in the southern part of Magong township.

[A ″shita″ is a religiously significant stone tower believed to protect villagers and fishermen against strong winds. It is similar in purpose to the Wind Lion God statues on Great Kinmen island (see here).]


Walking on water in Kuibishan (north-east of Magong Island). When tide level is receding a narrow footpath slowly appears between Magong Island and tiny Chi islet.


Sacred large banyan tree in the village of Tongliang (western tip of Baisha Island) in front of the Baoan Temple:

- It has nearly 100 aerial roots that have been gathered to form an array of columns. Covering an area of 660 square meters, it is said to provide the largest shade in Penghu.




- Left: all the aerial roots derive from this less-than-impressive initial trunk, revered as a deity by the people of Penghu. Right: nicely decorated ghost money burner under the banyan tree next to the temple.

[Ghost money, also called fake money, joss paper..., usually consists of printed paper. Its burning is widespread in Taiwan to honor ancestors and venerate deities. In addition to temples, many houses have their own small money burners. Estimates of the amount of ghost money paper burned each year range from 90,000 to 220,000 tons.  It is a major cause of air pollution in urban areas, especially during the Ghost Festival. Some people now try to replace this tradition with cleaner on-line virtual money burning!]


Inside the Baoan Temple. The temple is over 100 years old.






Xiaomenyu, at the northern tip of Xiyu Island:

- The basaltic Whale Cave.


- The north coast at sunset.


Old traditional houses constructed in classic Fujian style in Erkan village (central Xiyu Island).






Daguoye columnar basalt cliff (central Xiyu Island).



Xiyu Western Fort, initially built in 1681 to defend Penghu against attacks by Qing Dynasty admiral Shi Lang, renovated in 1717 and extended in 1883. It is located on the southern coast of Xihu Island.




Yuweng Tao Lighthouse built in 1875 to replace a previous lighthouse built in 1778, which was the first known lighthouse in Taiwan history. It is located at the southwestern tip of Xihu Island.



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