Archaeologists have discovered from their digs in Penghu that the islands were inhabited by man 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, and that Chinese migrants from the southeastern coast of China arrived before the time of the Northern Song Dynasty (A.D. 998-1127). However, they used the islands only as a temporary base for fishing activities. The Chinese began settling the islands only during the Southern Song (A.D. 1127-1278), and an official office to govern the islands was set up in 1281. Chinese settlers began arriving in large numbers in the late Ming Dynasty (ended 1628) to escape the ravages of war in the mainland and to pursue their occupations of fishing, gathering shellfish, raising cattle, and growing crops.
More than 700 years have past since government and settlement came to the Penghu Islands, making them the earliest part of the entire Taiwan area to be subjected to Chinese administration and development. In the earliest days, Penghu was under the jurisdiction of Jinjiang County, Fujian Province. The course of development has left the islands with a rich diversity of cultural and historic sites, from the old streets of Magong, the more than four-century-old Queen of Heaven Temple, and the remains of the old city wall to the traditional cultural practices that are still carried on today. The old face of Penghu, indeed, presents a many-faceted countenance.
The courtyard houses and the entire appearance of the settlements evidence the architectural style of Southern Fujian, and hold to the old Chinese “Doctrine of the Mean” with the central chamber as the core of the houses and two wings projecting forward on either side. The courtyards are screened in by front walls with gateway constructed in a variety of shapes. Erkan Village on Xiyu is perhaps the best-preserved residential compound in all of the Taiwan area, and other representative ancient settlements rich in cultural scenes are found in Wangan’s Jhongshe and Huxi’s Shagang.