Fri, Sep 08, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: Dongju: an island on the edge of the (Taiwanese) World

One of the most remote outposts of the Taiwan-controlled Republic of China, Dongju remains a picturesque getaway

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing Reporter


If time is limited, head north to the little settlement of Fuzheng (福正), which is second to none for sheer charm. Lovely traditional stone houses back the pale golden sands of Fuzheng Beach, which at low tide is one of the largest in all of Matsu, while behind, the rolling hillside of close-cropped grass is capped by the whitewashed Dongju Lighthouse (東莒島燈塔), one of the oldest in Taiwan. Standing at the northern tip of the island, and built to a British design 140 years ago, Dongju Lighthouse is Matsu’s only Grade Two Historic Monument. You can’t go inside, but the view from its base over the sea and surrounding islands is magnificent. Note the long wall accompanying the footpath from the parking area up to the entrance to the lighthouse, which is an original feature designed to shelter visitors from the icy gales that pummel the headland in winter.

The lighthouse stands near the northern extreme of the island’s scenic eastern coastal cliffs, which, for the active visitor, are perhaps the most compelling reason to visit this beautiful island. The entire eastern coast of Dongju, from the lighthouse to the island’s southern tip, is quite magnificent, and its deeply eroded rocky cliffs offer some of the finest coastal scenery in all Taiwan, reminiscent of, say, Cornwall in western England, although on a slightly smaller scale.

Apart from near the lighthouse, there are a couple of main access points to this cliff-path walkers’ and scramblers’ paradise. Follow the main road south from Fuzheng village and then take the second fork on the left, which soon ends at a parking area at the start of a short and easy trail that provides absolutely magnificent views of some of the finest sea cliffs the ROC has to offer. The trail ends at a circular viewing platform overlooking the cliff-bound Mysterious Little Bay (神秘小海灣), which is best seen from another viewing platform on the cliffs beside the coast road a few hundred meters further south.

The main subject of the view from here is the Lu-He Cliff (呂何崖), a pair of rather suggestive rock formations named after Lu Dongbin (呂洞賓) and He Xiangu (何仙姑), two of the Taoist Eight Immortals. Suffice to say Lu was a famously lecherous god, He Xian-gu was a favorite object of his attentions, and these two formations depict the two in an exceedingly compromising position.

Richard Saunders is a classical pianist and writer who has lived in Taiwan since 1993. He’s the founder of a local hiking group, Taipei Hikers, and is the author of six books about Taiwan, including Taiwan 101 and Taipei Escapes. Visit his Web site at

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