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Kinmen County

Kinmen, also known as Quemoy, is a small island with a very big reputation. Situated just off the coast of Mainland China, it was the site of fierce fighting between Communist and Nationalist forces when the latter withdrew from the mainland in 1949.

The Kinmen Islands were known in earlier times as Wuzhou. In 1387, the Marquis of Jiangxia Chou Te-hsing erected walls to defend the Kinmen Island against pirates. Because of its geographic position, the Kinmen Wall became known as the "impregnable fort guarding the gate to the sea," from which the name "Kinmen," or "Golden Gate," derives. For nearly a half century, Kinmen was a battleground in Taiwan's defense against the mainland forces. Military administration of Kinmen was lifted in 1992, marking the start of the island's emergence as a tourism destination. In January 2001, direct cross-strait links were opened between Kinmen and Xiamen in mainland China, putting the island in a key position for cross-strait interactions.

During the period of military administration, the soldiers and civilian residents of Kinmen lived in stoic conditions and worked together to develop the island infrastructure. The military installations developed at that time have today become an invaluable tourism resource for the islands. Major reforestation efforts by the military since 1950 have further endowed Kinmen with lush greenery and roadside flowers, giving the islands a reputation as a "park in the sea."

In recent years, government conservation efforts and greater eco-awareness among the island residents have helped Kinmen's bird population to steadily grow in numbers and species. The coastal waters of Kinmen are also home to several rare and protected species, including the Chinese otter (Lutra lutra chinensis) and the "living fossil" horseshoe crab.

Among Kinmen's best-known specialty items are knives fashioned from old mortar shells, peanut candy, sorghum wine, vermicelli, sorghum vinegar, porcelain and ceramics. The climate, soil, and water quality of Kinmen are ideal for growing high-oil peanuts with rich flavor. The local harvest is used to make crispy peanut candy. Kinmen's climate is also well suited for making strong sorghum spirits. The local vermicelli, taro, and pickled cabbage also stay true to tradition. Products made with the medicinal Glycine tabacina (wild soybean), and fine earth-fired ceramics are also popular specialty items here.

The snack culture of Kinmen has southern Fujian roots, while also infusing a unique local touch. Seafood specialties include oyster omelets, oyster vermicelli, and fried sandworms, and for a light snack one can choose from bite-sized savory pastries, date candy, Cantonese congee, stuffed clay-oven rolls, and other taste bud pleasers.

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