Penghu’s strategic position between Taiwan, China, Japan and Southeast Asia has proved both a blessing and a curse. Over the centuries Penghu was grabbed by various colonisers from Asia and Europe looking to get a toehold in the Taiwan Strait.

The Dutch were the first to take the islands, in 1622, but they moved to the Taiwanese mainland when they learned that the Ming imperial court had plans to remove them from Penghu by force (a stele in the Matsu Temple in Makung inscribes this threat). In 1662 the Ming loyalist Koxinga was sent to oust the Dutch from Taiwan for good. Penghu was a convenient place to station his troops as he drew up his battle plans. Some troops stayed in Penghu after the Dutch were gone and set up their own regime, which was short-lived, however, because the Qing court threw them out in 1683. The French were the next to arrive, in 1884, followed by the Japanese, in 1895, who settled down and stayed for the next 50 years, only to be replaced by the Nationalists in 1945.