The Penghu Islands are an archipelago of ninety islands in the Taiwan Strait. Magong is the largest city, which is on the largest island, also named Magong.
Penghu is part of the Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as Taiwan. The three most populated islands are Magong, Baisha and Xiyu. They connect via bridges.
Portuguese sailors named the islands “Ilhas dos Pescadores” which means “Fishermen Islands”. From this, The Pescadores became the traditional English name for the islands.
Discoveries of fine red pottery suggest that Penghu’s inhabitants were from southwestern Taiwan, around 5,000 years ago.
Han Chinese from southern Fujian established a fishing community on the islands during the 9th and 10th-centuries. Much later, in the 15th-century, the Chinese Ming Dynasty ordered the evacuation of the islands and a ban on maritime activity. A century later, the removal of the restrictions allowed for the fishing communities to exist once more. The fishermen worshipped at the Mazu Temple and were the reason for the name Pescadores.
In subsequent years, the Dutch East India Company set up shop in the region. They tried to force China to open a port in Fujian for Dutch trade. They also wanted to expel the Portuguese from Macau. The Portuguese, however, defeated the Dutch at the Battle of Macau in 1622. They seized Penghu and threatened to raid Chinese ports and shipping unless the Chinese conceded to trade with them on Penghu. The Chinese governor demanded that the Dutch withdraw from Penghu to Taiwan before he would agree to trading rights. Years of conflict resulted in the expulsion of the Dutch from the islands. They moved to Taiwan.
During part of the 17th-century, the Kingdom of Tungning ruled Taiwan and the archipelago. The Qing dynasty defeated the Tungning rulers in 1683 at the Battle of Penghu.
Then along came the French navy in 1885, led by Admiral Amédée Courbet during the Sino-French War. Courbet was a French hero because of his many battle successes. He succumbed to cholera and died while in Penghu, along with many French soldiers and sailors.
In 1895, the Japanese defeated the Chinese and occupied Penghu. The harbour gave the Imperial Japanese Navy an excellent base from which to control the Taiwan Straits.
Republic of China
During World War II, Magong served as a vital base for the Imperial Japanese Navy, especially for their Philippine invasion. The Cairo Declaration of 1943 drove the statement by the United States, the UK and China that “all territories stolen by Japan from the Chinese, such as Formosa and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China”. Japan surrendered in 1945, leading to The Republic of China becoming the ruling government of the archipelago.
There is much controversy over the political status of Taiwan. However, both the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (Mainland China) agree that Penghu is a county of the Taiwan Province. Geographically, the Penghu archipelago is not part of the island of Taiwan. Therefore, Penghu is different from Taiwan in some contexts; for example it is a separate customs territory.
In the 1990s, most of the islands and islets of the archipelago became “The Penghu National Scenic Area”. Visitors to this beautiful area are now a vital source of income to the county.
Historical sites include the Mazu Temple, Central Street, the Four-eyed Well, and the Qimei Lighthouse. The ancient fortresses of Siyu Eastern, Jinguitou and Siyu Western are also tourist attractions. Additionally, there are interesting sites for visitors such as the Double-Heart of Stacked Stones, Little Taiwan, Whale Cave, and the South Penghu Marine National Park.
Both Magong and Qimei Airports (Taiwan) offer scheduled flights to Penghu from mainland China and other international destinations.