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Windswept Penghu has served for centuries as a strategic connection point between Taiwan, mainland China, Japan and Southeast Asia. But its strategic position proved both a blessing and curse, and over the centuries Penghu was grabbed by various colonisers from Asia and Europe looking to have a toehold in the Taiwan Straits.

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. 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 in 1895 by the Japanese, who settled down and stayed for the next 50 years, only to be ­replaced by the Nationalists in 1945.

Penghu is rich with historical relics, evidence of its long colonial history. Martial law lifted from the islands in 1979 and mainland Taiwanese were finally able to visit the island. To capitalise on Penghu’s history and boost a drooping economy, the islands were transformed into a beach mecca for local and foreign visitors. The Penghu Archipelago has been designated a national scenic area and the islands have been given a makeover for the visitors that crowd Penghu’s shores each summer.