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Matsu Islands

The Matsu Islands (馬祖列島 or less frequently, 馬祖群島 Pinyin: Mázǔ) are a minor archipelago of 19 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait administered as Lienchiang County (連江 Pinyin: Lianjiang), Fujian Province of the Republic of China (ROC, based on Taiwan). Not all of what is historically part of Lienchiang county is under the control of the ROC. The People's Republic of China controls the part of the county adjoining the mainland and has a separate administration for that jurisdiction, Lianjiang County, which claims the entire archipelago to be its Mazu Township (妈祖乡).

They are named after the goddess Matsu. Quemoy is the other island on the Fujian coast controlled by the ROC.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Townships
3 Geography
4 Demographics
5 Economy
6 Natural reserves
7 Connection to the goddess
8 External links


Fujianese Mainlanders started migrating to the islands in the Yuan Dynasty. Most people on Matsu came from Houguan (侯官) (today Changle County (長樂縣), Fujian).

Some crewmen of Zheng He temporarily stayed on the islands. In early Qing Dynasty, pirates gather here and residents temporarily left.

After the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan in 1949, the ROC retained the part of Lienchiang County offshore (and the entire Kinmen County as well). The common romanization used in the ROC is Wade-Giles (Lienchiang) while the PRC uses pinyin (Lianjiang). However, the name is the same in Chinese.

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. This is the first example of a local government officially wishing to change its name.


Lienchiang County (of the ROC) is currently divided into four townships:

Altogether, there are 22 Lienchiang villages, which are further divided into 137 neighborhoods (鄰 lín).

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


The Matsu Islands include five major islands: Nankan, Tungchu and Hsichu (both in Chukuang Township), Peikan, and Tungyin. Minor islands include Liang (亮島), Gaodeng (高登), Daqiu (大坵), and Xiaoqiu (小坵) -- all belong to the Peikan Township.

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

Tungyin is the northernmost and Tungchu is the southernmost.

Areas: Average annual temperature is 8.9°, with the lowest point being 1.3°.


The language spoken by Matsu residents is the Ping language (平話), a dialect of Northern Fujianese.

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

Several islands are not inhabited permanently, some of which are stationed by ROC soldiers.


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

Natural reserves

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 Nankan, Peikan and Tongyin Townships. It contains 30 species in 15 orderss, mostly seagulls and swallows.

There are also mosses and ferns rare or absent on Mainland China and Taiwan

Connection to the goddess

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 Nankan Island).

The Matsu Nankan Heavenly Empress Palace (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 Matsu Islands because they are the closest ROC-controlled base to Meizhou, which is controlled by the PRC

See also: Political divisions of the Republic of China

External links