Matsu Islands

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"Lienchiang County" redirects here. For the county of the People's Republic of China, see Lianjiang County.
Lienchiang County
Flag of Lienchiang County
Coat of arms of Lienchiang County
Coat of arms
Taiwan ROC political division map Lienchiang County.svg
Country  Republic of China (Taiwan)
Province Fujian
Region Southern Fujian
Seat Nangan Township
Boroughs 0 cities, 4 (4 rural) townships
 • County Magistrate Yang Sui-sheng
 • Total 29.6055 km2 (11.4307 sq mi)
Area rank 22 of 22
Population (January 2014)
 • Total 12,195
 • Rank 22 of 22
 • Density 410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
Time zone CST (UTC+8)
Bird Chinese Crested Tern (Sterna bernsteini)
Flower Hairy Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea glabra)
Tree none
Matsu Islands
Traditional Chinese 馬祖列島
Simplified Chinese 马祖列岛
Lienchiang County
Traditional Chinese 連江
Simplified Chinese 连江
Top: Magan Tianhou Temple in Nangan, Bottom left: Matsu display monument in Nangan, Bottom upper left: Lin Moniang Tomb in Mazu Temple, Bottom lower right: Dongyong Lighthouse

The Matsu Islands (simplified Chinese: 马祖列岛; traditional Chinese: 馬祖列島; pinyin: Mǎzǔ Lièdǎo; Fuzhou dialect: Mā-cū liĕk-dō̤ or less frequently, simplified Chinese: 马祖群岛; traditional Chinese: 馬祖群島; pinyin: Mǎzǔ Qúndǎo; Fuzhou dialect: 馬祖島 Mā-cū-dō̤) are a minor archipelago of 19 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait administered as Lienchiang County (連江縣; Lièng-gŏng-gâing pinyin: Liánjiāng Xiàn;) under Fujian Province of the Republic of China (ROC). It is the smallest county in the ROC.

Only a small area of what is historically Lienchiang County is under the control of the Republic of China. The People's Republic of China (PRC) administers the part of the historical county on mainland China as Lianjiang County, which claims the entire archipelago to be its Mazu Township (馬祖鄉; Mā-cū-hiŏng). The Matsu Islands are named for the goddess Matsu. Kinmen is the other archipelago along the coast of Fujian that is controlled by the Republic of China (Taiwan).


Yuan Dynasty[edit]

Fujianese Mainlanders started migrating to the islands during the Yuan Dynasty. Most of the people on Matsu came from Houguan (侯官) (today Changle County (長樂縣 Diòng-lŏ̤h-gâing), Fujian).

Ming Dynasty[edit]

Some crewmen of Zheng He temporarily stayed on the islands.

Qing Dynasty[edit]

During the early Qing Dynasty, pirates gathered here and the residents left temporarily. In contrast with Taiwan and Penghu, the Matsu Islands were not ceded to the Japanese Empire via the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. Neither were they occupied by Japanese troops during World War II because they were not important militarily.

Republic of China[edit]

After the Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang) (KMT) retreated to Taiwan in 1949, they retained the part of Lienchiang County offshore, and also all of Kinmen County. In July 1958 the PRC began massing forces opposite the two islands and began bombarding them on 23 August, triggering the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. On 4th September 1958 the PRC announced the extension of its territorial waters by 12 miles to include the two islands. However after talks were held between the USA and PRC in Warsaw later that month, a ceasefire was agreed, and the status quo reaffirmed.[1]

The phrase "Quemoy and Matsu" became part of American political language in the 1960 U.S. presidential election. During the debates, both candidates, Vice-President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy, pledged to use American forces if necessary to protect Taiwan from invasion by the P.R.C., which the United States did not recognize as a legitimate government. But the two candidates had different opinions about whether to use American forces to protect Taiwan's forward positions, Quemoy and Matsu, also. In fact, Senator Kennedy stated that these islands - as little as 5.5 miles off the coast of China and as much as 106 miles from Taiwan - were strategically indefensible and were not essential to the defense of Taiwan. On the contrary, Vice-President Nixon maintained that since Quemoy and Matsu were in the "area of freedom," they should not be surrendered to the Communists as a matter of "principle."[2]

In January 2001, direct cargo and passenger shipping started between Matsu and Fujian Province of the PRC.[3]

In April 2003, the county government started considering changing the name to Matsu County to avoid confusion with the county of the same name on the mainland. Some local people opposed the name change because they felt it reflected a Democratic Progressive Party Taiwan Independence viewpoint.[4]


Subdivision of Lienchiang county into townships
Nangan Township, the seat of Lienchiang County

Lienchiang County is divided into 4 rural townships. It is further divided into 22 villages and 137 neighborhoods (鄰). Nangan Township is the county seat which houses the Lienchiang County Government and Lienchiang County Council. Lienchiang County is the only county in Taiwan which doesn't have any city or urban township.

Name Chinese Wade–Giles Pinyin Fuzhou dialect
Rural townships
Beigan Township 北竿鄉 Pei³-kan¹ Hsiang¹ Běigān Xiāng Báe̤k-găng Hiŏng
Dongyin Township 東引鄉 Tung¹-in³ Hsiang¹ Dōngyǐn Xiāng Dĕ̤ng-īng Hiŏng
Juguang Township 莒光鄉 Chü³-kuang¹ Hsiang¹ Jǔguāng Xiāng Gṳ̄-guŏng Hiŏng
Nangan Township 南竿鄉 Nan²-kan¹ Hsiang¹ Nángān Xiāng Nàng-găng Hiŏng

All townships, except Juguang, are named after the largest island in its jurisdictional area, but most townships also include other islets.


The Matsu Islands include five major islands: Nangan, Dongju and Xiju (both in Juguang Township), Beigan, and Dongyin. Minor islands include Liang (亮島), Gaodeng (高登), Daqiu (大坵), and Xiaoqiu (小坵) - all belong to the Beigan Township.

  • North: 26º18' N
  • South: 25º56' N
  • East: 120º1'20" E
  • West: 119º51' E

Another set of coordinates: 119°51'-120°31' E, 25°55'-26°44' N.

Dongyin is the northernmost and Dongjyu is the southernmost.


  • Nangan: 10.43 km²
  • Beigan: 8.86 km²
  • Dongyin: 4.35 km²
  • Juguang islands: see Juguang

Average annual temperature is 18.6°C, with the lowest point being 1.3°.

The total number of islands and islets is 19.[4]


The language spoken by Matsu residents is Fuzhou dialect (福州話), a dialect of Min Dong Language.

Chen (陳) is the most common surname, then Lin (林), Wang (王), Tsao (曹), and Liu (劉).

Several of the islands are not inhabited permanently. Some of these are garrisoned by soldiers from the Republic of China.


Vegetable farming park in Nangan Township

Farm products include rice, sugar cane, tea plant, orange. Sea animals, such as fish, clams, and jellyfish, are also popular exports.


Beihai Tunnel in Nangan Township

One of the most promising resources for local economy is tourism. Lienchiang County Government is making great efforts to attract more visitors to the Matsu Islands, especially among foreigners.[5][6] In fact, Matsu islands are famous for their historical sites and beautiful scenery. Due to their size, travelling by motorized scooter is an ideal way to get around the main islands such as Nangan and Beigan. Both Islands have regular buses and taxis are also economical.

Both Nangan and Beigan have airports, but because the main airport is located in Nangan, travel between the islands is frequently done by boat. In fact, boats are the main form of transportation between the Matsu islands.

Nangan is the capital of Matsu and it is noted for its granite tunnel and the Iron Fort. It has two interconnected main roads.

The Beihai Tunnels are manmade granite tunnels. Both tunnels were remarkable for their time, and they took great effort to construct. The tunnel in Nangan was built in 1968. The completion of Beihai Tunnel took the effort of thousands of men. The 700 metre tunnel has a width of 10 metres and a height of 16 metres. It was completed in 820 days with shovels, spades and explosives; the tunnel also took the life of a platoon of soldiers. The tunnel was considered a military location and was not opened to the public until 1990.

The Iron Fort is located on the Southwest side of Nangan island. Located by a small cliff, it is a vulnerable spot for outside attacks or illegal smuggling of materials. With that in mind, the fort was built for defence. It is equipped with multiple machinegun rooms and rudimentary living facilities. It is now open to the public, and although most of the equipment has been removed from the site, the site itself brings back a vivid image of what it was like for soldiers at that time.

Natural reserves[edit]

Since 1990, the county controls the Matsu Islands Bird Sanctuary (馬祖列島燕鷗保護區), which spreads across eight islands and islets in Nangan, Beigan and Tongyin Townships. It contains 30 species in 15 orders, mostly gulls and terns. In 2000, four pairs of the critically endangered Chinese Crested Tern, previously thought to be extinct, were discovered nesting on the Matsu Islands, giving them global conservation importance.

There are also mosses and ferns rare or absent elsewhere in the ROC.[7]

Connection to the goddess[edit]

Matsu Nangan Tianhou Temple

Matsu, though named after the goddess Matsu, is written with a different character that has a different tone. But the Matsu Islands are not the birthplace of the goddess as the human Lin Muoniang - Meizhou Island is — but her death place (on a seaport named after her on Nangan Island).[8]

The Matsu Nangan Tianhou Temple (馬祖南竿天后宮), a temple dedicated to the goddess, contains the sarcophagus of Lin Muoniang. It is, however, not as popular as the Meizhou temple.

Most Taiwanese pilgrims to Meizhou start off their journey in the Matsu Islands because they are the closest ROC-controlled territory to Meizhou, which is controlled by the PRC.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Study of Crisis, Michael Brecher, 1997, p385
  2. ^ Norris, Robert B. (November 29, 2010). "Quemoy and Matsu: a historical footnote revisited". American Diplomacy. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Sandy Huang (April 6, 2003). "Cases of mistaken identity perplexing Lienchiang County". Taipei Times. Retrieved January 14, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Matsu Island opens doors to tourists". Taiwan Today. March 3, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Matsu islands aim to attract more overseas tourists". Taipei Times. August 29, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Climate, Flora and fauna". Matsu National Scenic Area. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  8. ^ "History and customs". Matsu National Scenic Area. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 26°09′04″N 119°55′38″E / 26.15111°N 119.92722°E / 26.15111; 119.92722