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.

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

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Women repairing fishing nets.

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

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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 gate.

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- Inner courtyard.

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Glorious roof of a modern temple on Magong Island.

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

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

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- All the aerial roots derive from this less-than-impressive initial trunk, revered as a deity by the people of Penghu.

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Inside the Baoan Temple, next to the big banyan tree. The temple is slightly over 100 years old.

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Details inside the temple (first four photos below) and nicely decorated ghost money burner outside the temple under the banyan tree (rightmost photo).

[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!]

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Xiaomenyu, at the northern tip of Xiyu Island:

- The basaltic Whale Cave

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- The north coast at sunset.

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Old traditional houses in Erkan village (central Xiyu Island).

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Daguoye columnar basalt cliff (central Xiyu Island).

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Left: Xiyu West Fort, initially built in 1681 to defend Penghu against attacks by Qing Dynasty admiral Shi Lang, renovated in 1717 and extended in 1883. Right: Yuweng Tao Lighthouse built in 1875 to replace former Hsi Yu Lighthouse built in 1778 (the first known lighthouse in Taiwan history). Both Xiyu West Fort and Yuweng Tao Lighthouse are located at the very south of Xihu Island.

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