Nangan- The heart of Matzu
By David Hsu, Special to The China Post July 13, 2006, 12:00 am TWN
Nangan is the largest islet of the Matzu (馬祖) archipelago with an area of 10.64 square kilometers. It is about 1/32 of the Taipei City in land.
Nangan (南竿) is the political and economical, cultural and educational, transportation transfer center. Also, it can be a home base to group or individual travelers and has developed a tunnels and wharfs attraction guide center.
Matzu is an off-shore archipelago located northeast of Fujien (福建) Province of mainland China. Most of the inhabitants at Matzu came from East Fujien.
Therefore, Matzu has retained many examples of traditional Eastern Fujien dialect and architecture. One of the examples is the look of temples.
Visitors may find that temples in Nangan are distinguished by their "fire dampening walls", which are formed by the wave-like contours of the roof ridges, imparting a sense of wind blowing on a blazing fire. This architectural design serves a fire prevention role, quite different from the look of Taiwan's temples.
There are several scenic spots that are worth seeing, and if you join a tour group, these spots should be included in your schedule.
There is Nioujiao village, Jinsha village, Shengtian park, Iron Fort, Queen of Heaven temple, Tianhou shrine, Beihai tunnel and Matzu harbor.
Iron Fort (鐵堡)
Iron Fort is one of the major sites that tour groups must visit. Iron Fort is a strip of wave-sculpted granite that juts into the sea at Renai Township and forms a natural barrier protecting the bay.
Previously, this was a major base for military frogmen and an important defense of the island due to its shape and strategic location.
Today, the fortress continues to stand firm against the onslaught of waves, its defensive works hidden beneath the surface. This is where soldiers once made their home, and where it is said, some lost their lives to Communist infiltrators.
When I visited Iron Fort, I found a guard shelter built for dogs near the human guard shelter. I was told that dog guards are formally organized in the troop stationed in the Iron Fort. The importance of the dog guards to Iron Fort's soldiers can be imagined.
Fu Shan Big Wall
There are four Chinese character on the big wall, reading "Readiness for War (枕戈待旦)." The wall was erected in 1958 to alert the soldiers in Matzu to be ready for war at anytime. The giant wall was built at the entrance of the Fu Ao Harbor, the main port of Nangan. The four Chinese characters will be seen by visitors on when ships enter the Fu Ao Harbor.
Queen of Heaven Temple (Tianhou Shrine) (天后宮)
The Queen of Heaven Temple is the most popular temple in Matzu. In legends, it is said that it is the place where Tatzu jumped into the sea to save her father at the cost of her own life.
When her body was found, the people built a temple to worship her for her bravery and to pray for her blessings so that all the fishing boats might return safely from the sea. Today, the main islet of Nangan is also known as Matzu Islet.
The original temple was built around the 17th century and the current new Matzu Temple was completed in 2002. The splendid and spectacular temple is also a very good site for an ocean view.
Shengtian Park (勝天公園)
With an area over 10 acres, Shengtian Park is the largest beach park in Matzu. There is a reservoir in the park that is one of the major water sources for Nangan inhabitants.
In addition to tresses, there are some rich and precious plants in the park. I was told that it is the most popular place of Matzu's youth, especially during the summer. There is a Tang Dynasty style pavilion made of wood in the park. Visitors enjoy looking at the ocean from the pavilion.