The original inhabitants of Little Liuchiu, the Siraya, called it Samaji. During the Dutch occupation, the island was under VOC control and when the crew of the shipwrecked Golden Lion were killed by the Siraya, the Dutch forcibly removed the entire population. This act included a notorious slaughter of several hundred Siraya. The massacre is now remembered (and bowdlerised) in the legend on the plaque in front of the Black Dwarf Cave.

In the 18th century, Taiwanese fisherfolk started to settle in small numbers. Until recently about 80% of the island's residents made their living from fishing.