The Matsu Islands (; Foochow Romanized: Mā-cū liĕk-dō̤) are an archipelago of 36 islands and islets in the East China Sea officially named Lienchiang County (; Foochow Romanized: Lièng-gŏng-gâing) in the Republic of China. It is the smallest county in the free area of the Republic of China.


Lienchiang County, Taiwan (R.O.C.) uses the traditional Chinese characters name () and the romanized name Lienchiang which is derived from the Wade-Giles romanization (''Lien²-chiang¹'') of the Mandarin pronunciation for those Chinese characters that also refer to Lianjiang County, Fuzhou, Fujian in mainland China. Lienchiang has also been written as Lien-chiang and Lienkiang and by a postal romanization of the local language pronunciation Lienkong. The term Lienchiang can also refer to the homophonous Lianjiang in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, China. The Matsu Islands are named after the main island, Nangan (Nankan). Nangan is also named Matsu Island because of a temple on the island which is supposed to be the burial site of the similarly named goddess Mazu (). Matsu is the Wade-Giles-derived romanization of the Mandarin pronunciation (''Ma³-tsu³'') for the Chinese character name () of the islands. The Matsu Islands are also known by other names in Chinese languages including and ; Foochow Romanized: Mā-cū dō̤). In April 2003, the Lienchiang County government considered changing the name of the county to Matsu County in order to avoid confusion with the nearby Lianjiang County on the mainland. Then-Magistrate Chen Hsueh-sheng said some local people opposed the name change because they felt it reflected the pro-independence viewpoint of the Democratic Progressive Party.


Yuan Dynasty

Mainlanders from Fujian and Zhejiang started migrating to the islands during the Yuan Dynasty. Most of the people on Matsu came from Houguan () (today Changle, Fujian). The popular net fishing industry had established the base for development of Fuao settlement and industrial development of the region over several hundred years.

Ming Dynasty

Some crewmen of Zheng He temporarily stayed on the islands.

Qing Dynasty

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. Due to its strategic location for the only route for spice road, the British established the Dongyong Lighthouse in Dongyin Island in 1912 to facilitate ships navigation.

Republic of China

In 1911, the Qing Dynasty was toppled after the Xinhai Revolution on 10 October 1911 and the Republic of China (ROC) was established on 1 January 1912. Matsu Islands was subsequently governed under the administration of Fukien Province of the ROC. On 1 August 1927, the Nanchang Uprising broke out between the ruling Nationalist Party of China (KMT) and Communist Party of China (CPC) which marked the beginning of Chinese Civil War. On 10 September 1937, Japan occupied Beigan and Nangan via the Collaborationist Chinese Army, making the islands the first in Fujian to fall to Japan. The Surrender of Japan took place on August 15, 1945. As a result of the Chinese Civil War, in 1949 the Communist Party of China (CPC) managed to take over mainland China from the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) and established the People's Republic of China (PRC) on 1 October 1949 which includes administration of today’s Lianjiang County of Fujian. The KMT retreated from mainland China to Taiwan at the end of 1949. After their retreat, the KMT retained some of the offshore parts of Lienchiang County (namely, the Matsu Islands), and also most of Kinmen County (Quemoy). On December 15, 1950, the Matsu Administrative Office () of Fujian Province, Republic of China was established including modern-day Lienchiang County (the Matsu Islands) as well as islands in present-day Haidao Township, Xiapu County and Taishan () in present-day Shacheng, Fuding, Ningde, Fujian, China (PRC) which were attacked in 1950 and 1951. In early July 1953, Chinese Nationalist guerillas retreated from islands in the Xiyang Island (Chihchutao) area of present-day Haidao Township (PRC). The area came under the control of Chinese Communists. In June 1955, there was considerable road and military construction around Haitan Island, Pingtan County, Fuzhou, Fujian, China, including roads leading to possible artillery positions on the mainland. These positions might have been used to protect the Haitan Strait, which was thought of as a favorable staging area for amphibious operations against the Matsu Islands. In July 1958 the PRC began massing forces opposite of Kinmen (Quemoy) and Matsu (Lienchiang) and began bombarding them on 23 August, triggering the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. On 4 September 1958, the PRC announced the extension of its territorial waters by 20 kilometres (12 mi) to include the two islands. However, after talks were held between the USA and PRC in Warsaw, Poland later that month, a ceasefire was agreed and the status quo reaffirmed. 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 PRC, which the United States did not recognize as a legitimate government. But in the second debate on October 7, 1960, the two candidates presented different opinions about whether to use American forces to protect Taiwan's forward positions, Quemoy and Matsu, also. Senator Kennedy stated that these islands - as little as 9 kilometres (5.5 mi) off the coast of China and as much as 170 kilometres (106 mi) from Taiwan - were strategically indefensible and were not essential to the defense of Taiwan. 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. Earlier in the debate, then-Vice President Nixon mentioned: Later in the debate, Edward P. Morgan asked then-Senator Kennedy: Then-Senator Kennedy responded to Morgan's question saying: Then-Vice President Nixon retorted: Matsu Islands in the upper left of the map on the obverse of the Commemorative NT$10 Coin in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Taiwan's Retrocession After the third debate on October 13, 1960, Kennedy's advisers spoke with then Secretary of State Herter and said Kennedy was willing to revise his position on the Quemoy and Matsu issue so as not to give the Communists the impression that the USA would not stand united against aggression. Nixon pointed out the change in Kennedy's position but decided not to press the point due to the importance of the USA's role in what was an extremely tense situation. Nixon's polls among Republicans and Democrats showed overwhelming support for Nixon's position. Self governance of the county resumed in 1992 after the normalization of the political warfare with the mainland and the abolishment of Battle Field Administration on 7 November 1992. Afterwards, the local constructions progressed tremendously. In 1999, the islands were designated under Matsu National Scenic Area Administration. In January 2001, direct cargo and passenger shipping started between Matsu and Fujian Province of the PRC. Since 1 January 2015, tourists from mainland China could directly apply the Exit and Entry Permit upon arrival in Matsu Islands. This privilege also applies to Penghu and Kinmen as means to boost tourism in the outlying islands of Taiwan. In December 2015, the Huangqi-Matsu ship route was introduced as part of the Mini Three Links. In 2020, rampant illegal sand mining in the waters around the Matsu Islands by Chinese ships caused concern in the islands and in the Executive Yuan about damage to the marine environment, potential damage to underwater telecommunications cables, and the potential for coastal erosion. Auctioning impounded ships was seen as an easy way for the dredging companies to get their ships back via intermediaries, hence sinking impounded ships was under consideration.


The Matsu Islands comprise 19 islands and islets, which include five major islands, which are Nangan, Dongju and Xiju (both in Juguang Township), Beigan and Dongyin. Minor islands include Liang Island, Gaodeng Island, Daqiu Island and Xiaoqiu, which are part of Beigan Township. The shortest distance between Huangqi, Lianjiang County and the Matsu Islands is also the shortest distance between China (PRC) administered territory and territory in the ROC (Taiwan)-administered Matsu Islands. Dongyin is the northernmost and Dongju is the southernmost. * Dongyin is 100 nautical miles (190 km) from Keelung, Taiwan, 180 to the Penghu islands, and slightly over 10 nautical miles (19 km) from Mainland China. * The soil is not ideal for farming. * The highest point is on Beigan, 298 metres (978'). Areas: * Nangan: * Beigan: * Dongyin: * Juguang islands: see Juguang


The islands are predominantly composed of Jurassic and Cretaceous intrusive (emplaced ~160 Ma, ∼130 Ma and ∼94 Ma) granite and diabase.


Average annual temperature is 18.6 °C (65°F), with the average low being at 13 °C (55°F) and average high at 29 °C (85°F). The daily temperature varies greatly during day and night. The region experiences subtropical maritime climate, which is influenced by monsoon and ocean currents and its geographic location. Matsu has four seasons, where during winter it is cold and wet, during summer and spring it is foggy and during autumn the weather is generally stable.

Politics and government

Matsu Islands is administered as Lienchiang County under the Fujian Provincial Government. Nangan Township is the county seat which houses the Lienchiang County Government and Lienchiang County Council. The county is headed by a magistrate, elected every four years in the ROC local elections. The incumbent magistrate is Liu Cheng-ying of Kuomintang.

Administrative divisions

Lienchiang County is divided into four rural townships. It is further divided into 22 villages and 137 neighborhoods (鄰). Lienchiang County is the only county in Taiwan which does not have a city or an urban township. The county seat is Nangan Township (Nankan). All the townships administer more than one island.


Before 1993, county magistrates were appointed. *Elected magistrates # Tsao Chang-Shun () (1993-1997) (KMT) # Liu Li-Chun () (1997-2001) (KMT) # Chen Hsueh-sheng, also the current national representative of Matsu. (2001-2009) (PFP, later KMT) # Yang Sui-sheng (2009-2014) (KMT) # Liu Cheng-ying (2014-present) (KMT)


The Matsu Islands are protected by the ROC Army Matsu Defense Command ().


Lienchang County voted one Kuomintang legislator out of one seat to be in the Legislative Yuan during the 2016 Republic of China legislative election. While the Democratic Progressive Party have had difficulty winning a county-level election in this area, most of the competitions are among local strategies. In 2018, a Green Party member, 蘇柏豪 attempted to run for the magistrate yet failed.

Cross-Strait relations

The PRC claims the three northern townships of the Matsu Islands as ''Matsu Township'' (; Mā-cū hiŏng) (Note: In the map, the northern three townships of Lienchiang County, ROC (Taiwan) are explicitly included within the boundaries of Lianjiang County, PRC (mainland China) while the southernmost township of Lienchiang County, ROC (Taiwan) is explicitly not included within the boudaries of Lianjiang County, PRC (mainland China).) and the Juguang Islands (the southernmost islands, formerly named the Baiquan Islands) as part of Changle District. Vessels from the Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) have confronted sand dredging by Chinese vessels near the Matsu Islands. This dredging activity began from 2018. Since March 2019, the Lienchiang Cross-Strait Matters Forum started as an official forum between Lienchiang County of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Lianjiang County of the People's Republic of China to discuss matters regarding the two sides.

Demographics and culture


The majority of native Matsu Islands residents originated from Northern Fujian. Several of the islands of Matsu are not inhabited permanently. Some of these are garrisoned by soldiers from the Republic of China Armed Forces stationed in the county since the end of Chinese Civil War in 1949 and during the First and Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1954 and 1958 respectively. Due to that high military demand large numbers of military personnel stationed on the islands produced unprecedented population growth in the county. The population reached its peak in 1971 with a total of 17,088 people. After those period of high growth the population decreased year after year due to the poor economic growth which resulted in mass youth emigration due to lack of employment opportunities. In recent years the population in the county has gradually increased because of immigration. The population has stabilized and become stable due to the improved transportation between Taiwan Island and Matsu Islands as well as mass construction projects.


The native language spoken by Matsu residents is Matsu dialect, a subdialect of Fuzhou dialect, which is one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in the Matsu Islands.大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法 Mandarin Chinese is one of the official languages of Lienchiang County.


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


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). The Matsu Nangan Tianhou Temple (), 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.


Due to its geographically remote location, the manufacturing business of Matsu has never been fully developed. Among them, the wine making industry of Matsu Distillery is the most distinguished feature. Tourism has become a highly important feature of the economy. However, most of its commercial tradings focus on retail businesses and restaurants for stationed military consumption. Farm products of Matsu include rice, sugar cane, tea plant, orange. Sea animals, such as fish, clams, and jellyfish, are also popular exports due to its nature as the major traditional industry in Matsu. However, the flourish of fishing ground is almost exhausted by arbitrary fish bombing by Mainland China fishing boats, while the population of fishes is decreasing as well. In July 2012, Matsu residents voted in favor for the establishment of casinos, which led the path of the prospect gaming industries in the county and the passing on of Gaming Act ().

Energy and environment

Power generation

On 1 July 1975, the Matsu Power Company was founded to operate all of the power plants in the county. On 1 July 1986, the company was incorporated into Taiwan Power Company. The county is powered up by its fuel-fired (diesel) Zhushan Power Plant located in Cingshuei Village of Nangan Township with a capacity of 15.4 MW commissioned on 22 March 2010. The other power plants are Beigan Power Plant in Beigan Township, Dongyin Power Plant in Dongyin Township and Dongju Power Plant in Dongju Island and Xiju Power Plant in Xiju Island of Juguang Township. The county is also powered up by its photovoltaic system with a capacity of 0.074 MW.


Generally, the environment of Matsu Islands is still good. The major source of pollution is from family and military households waste. There are however concerns that the continued lack of modern sewage facilities results in household waste seeping into groundwater.


Tourism has become a critical sector in the local economy. Lienchiang County Government is making an effort to attract more visitors to the Matsu Islands, especially among foreigners. Dongyin Visitor Center is the main visitor center of the township. 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 (800 yard) tunnel has a width of 10 metres (33') and a height of 16 metres (52'). 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. Museums in Matsu including the Matsu Blue Tears Ecological Museum, Matsu Folk Culture Museum, Ching-kuo Memorial Hall and War and Peace Memorial Park Exhibition Center.


Since 1990, the county manages the , 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. Cetacean species that have become rare along Chinese coasts are still present here such as false killer whales and finless porpoises, providing opportunistic observations at times. Finless porpoises in this areas are generally smaller than other subspecies, and it is unique that two subspecies inhabit in this region where Matsu region is the northern limit for one of these.



Both Nangan and Beigan have airports which are the Matsu Nangan Airport and Matsu Beigan Airport respectively. Dongyin and Juguang (in Xiju Island) house heliports which only operates during winter time and priority is given to local residents to travel to Nangan.


Due to the fact that the main airport is located in Nangan, boats are the main form of transportation between the islands in the county. There are two ferry rides to Mainland China. One arrives at Mawei District of Fuzhou and departs from Fuao Harbor at Nangan Township in which the journey normally takes 90 minutes while in Nangan. Another arrives at Huangqi () of Lianjiang and departs from Beigan Township in which the journey takes only 20 minutes. Dongyin Township houses the Zhongzhu Harbor.


Due to their size, travelling by motorized scooter is an ideal way to get around the main islands such as Nangan and Beigan, despite the steep hills. Both Islands have regular buses and taxis are also economical. In October 2019, Mainland China announced 'initial plans' to build a bridge linking Fuzhou to the Matsu Islands. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said that the plans were made unilaterally by China as part of its schemes to absorb Taiwan and divide Taiwanese society and that they see no need for bridges linking either Matsu or Kinmen to China.

Notable persons

* Chen Pao-yu, Chief of Staff of the Republic of China Army (2019-)

See also

*''Matsu Daily'' *Lianjiang County(located in mainland China) *Administrative divisions of the Republic of China *List of Taiwanese superlatives *List of cities in the Republic of China *List of islands of the Republic of China



External links

Military importance from www.globalsecurity.org

Smaller map
(from CNN)
Name change
''Taipei Times'' article
Matzu Scenic Area

Satellite image of the Nangan and Beigan islands by Google Maps
{{Territorial disputes in East and South Asia Category:Islands of the East China Sea Category:Archipelagoes of the Pacific Ocean Category:Archipelagoes of Taiwan Category:Taiwan Strait Category:Territorial disputes of China Category:Territorial disputes of the Republic of China Category:Islands of Fujian, Republic of China