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September 20, 2017

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Matzu struggling to become a tourism destination

When the airplane zooms down and approaches Matzu (馬祖), I saw several islets below through the airplane window. They do not look different and seem just like common islands that I have seen in Taiwan. However, when we touched down on the islands, I found that they are quite different from those in Taiwan in many ways.

For many people living in Taiwan, Matzu is imagined as a battlefield and a frontier. Truly, it is only five to six thousand meters to mainland China, but it is over 300 kilometers away from Taiwan.

The government left the military administration in 1992 and opened it for tourism in 1994. The general public has yet had a chance to see its mysterious face.

Furthermore, the government designated Matzu as a place of Small Link between Taiwan and mainland China in 2001 so that more and more Taiwanese businessmen and their families can go to mainland China through Matzu, boasting the prosperity of Matzu.

According to Chu Meng-huang, director of the Matzu National Scenic Administration, the total number of tourists is expected to increase to 150,000 by the end of 2008.

The Matzu archipelago is named after the goddess Matzu.

It consists of five major islets; Nangan (南竿), Beigan (北竿), Jyuguang (莒光), Dongyinh (東引) and Lian. For about a half nautical mile around the islets of Matzu, the continental shelf is 20 meters in depth.

Total area of the archipelago is 25,052 hectares, including a land area of about 2,952 hectares and maritime space of about 22.1 hectares. All of these islets lay off the estuary of the Fu Chien (福建) Province's Ming River like a string of pearls.

Matzu is rich in natural resources, bird species, marine life, plants, and unique geological landscapes. It is a great place to learn to respect living together with the natural world and other living creatures.

The coasts of Matzu have been sculpted by the sea into varied and beautiful landscapes. Matzu also boasts more than 500 different species of plants as well as numerous forest areas, embellishing the scenic beauty of the islands.

In addition, the islands are home to Taiwan's only red spider lilies and the selaginella matsuensis. There are nearly 250 species of birds in Matzu, including numerous migratory birds that come to winter and breed, as well as home swallows and gull species. The main marine species found on the coasts and seas of Matzu are cowries, clams, sea bream, and bass.

In my trip to Matzu, I only saw the black tie sea gull in Dongyin islet. A guide told me that the black tie gull is almost a stationary bird on the island. You can see it all year round.

The guide also told me that several islets still have some precious and unique sea birds but for environmental protection, these islets are only open to research groups.

Over the years, Matzu has undergone numerous changes with its transformation from an eastern Fu Chien fishing community into a frontline bastion against mainland Chinese communism, and more recently as well with the opened direct cross-strait links in January 2001.

Visitors to Matzu will discover the vestiges of varied history in the dialects, architecture, infrastructure and cultural activities on the islands.

Matzu has retained many examples of traditional eastern Fu Chien dialect and architecture, including its famous granite houses, seal-style, and fire damping walls, and other traditional buildings that reveal the unique style and cultural flavor of Matzu.

Cinbi (芹壁) Village is a typical eastern Fu Chien architecture village. The village is like a stone town, made of giant rocks, one can also take a broad view of the wall to bank up a fire, or see wood structure, and the five ridges and four eaves of a house structure.

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