Tag Archives: 媽祖

Mazu Statue, Hsinwu

This is the largest statue of Mazu (媽祖) in the world, located in Hsinwu (新屋), the township which is home for much of my wife’s extended family.

Mazu, perhaps the most popular Chinese deity in Taiwan, is considered the goddess of the sea, and has an estimated 800-1,000 temples dedicated to her name on the island.

The statue stands at about 50 feet tall, overlooking the sea. This is appropriate as Mazu is perhaps the most popular Chinese deity in Taiwan. This is evidenced by a pilgrimage which lasts for three days each spring.

 

Nanfang’ao Mazu Temple, Yilan County

Nanfang’ao (南方澳) is a small but important fishing port in Yilan County, located on Taiwan’s eastern coast. I visited 南方澳 a few weeks ago with my wife’s family on a somewhat dreary overcast day.

One of the main draws to the town is the city’s Mazu temple. A temple for Mazu (媽祖) would be fitting here, as she is the goddess of the sea and heavily respected and loved in Taiwan.

I’m not extremely happy with this shot, but it was hard to take. I could obviously not fire a flash and the only light was the dim overcast coming in through the opening. I opened the aperture up, but this created issues with focusing everything.

Partway through the visit, a large group brought Mazu statues to have blessed at the temple.

  

Jhubei Mazu Parade, 11/12

These shots were from a Mazu procession a week ago. The local Mazu temple was celebrating a 15th anniversary (of what, I’m not sure, as the temple has been around for much longer than that) and spared no expense in its celebration. This celebration only ended last night as the entire town could hear fireworks coming from the older section of Jhubei all evening.

I followed the parade through the full route and had a great time shooting with my friend Matt as we were welcomed by the participants. They offered us binlang, beer, and cigarettes (the last of which we politely declined) and let us take part in more ways than simply photographing the event.

  

  

Mazu Statues, Jhunan (竹南)

Jhunan, or Zhunan (竹南) is a city in northern Miaoli County, Taiwan located about twenty minutes south by train from Hsinchu City. Its name comes from the Chinese word for “bamboo” (竹, or Zhu) and mixes in the direction “South” (南, or Nan) and literally means “south of bamboo.” Hsinchu, or probably more correctly “Xinzhu” means “New Bamboo” – so this obviously refers to the larger city in the north.

One of the main draws in the city is a temple dedicated to Mazu (媽祖), goddess of the sea. Mazu is huge in Taiwan as a religious figure. She is also referred to as the Heavenly Queen or simply as “Grandmother” or “Mother” as the name Mazu actually implies. The temple is home to the largest statue of Mazu on the island – to my knowledge. It is said to be over 100 feet from bottom to top and I will post more about it later.

Something that is less known about the temple is the 10,000 or so Mazu statues that line the walls of different floors. I wasn’t sure if that was an accurate number at first – then I started to climb stairs and see the huge number of figures. They line every wall in the temple in some parts, acting much like the golden temple donor plaques. These shots are made at an angle and it was hard to grasp the huge number while still dealing with the low light – you’ll just have to trust me when I say 10,000.

I’ll be posting more about Mazu in the coming weeks as the Jhubei temple will soon be having a large celebration. The last big Mazu event I attended was the Mazu Pilgrimage, which takes place around the time of her birthday in Changhua City. You can see posts here and here.

  

Goddess of the Sea

Before I begin, I should mention and thank GigGuide.tw, a primarily English music site in Taiwan which chronicles music on the island. They featured some of my photos in a Spring Scream guide – check them out here.

Instead of covering more bands, as I planned, I’ll switch back to Taoism after some incredible events last weekend.

One of the largest pilgrimages in the world is underway. While many people think of the Muslim Hajj in Mecca or the various festivals in India which draw millions when it comes to these events, a festival currently underway in Taiwan is drawing huge crowds for Mazu, goddess of the sea.

Mazu is worshiped across East and Southeast Asia – especially by seagoing people as in Taiwan. Her blessing is seen as so powerful that people all over Taiwan and some outside of Taiwan will be sure to visit her as she makes her way through various cities.

Last weekend, I went with Yuling to witness such an event in Changhua, a city just south of Taichung.

This festival is indeed a pilgrimage – and a large one at that. It snakes around Taiwan, through various cities which are all excited at the presence of one of the most important gods in Taiwan. The parade processions include costumes, banners, fireworks, horns, and as said earlier, massive crowds. A perfect day for a camera. With the crowds and smoke, my 35mm f/1.8 never left the camera body.

Participants, like these seen above, wear simple clothing and are fed by people while making the trek throughout the island. I was offered food and drink multiple times by complete strangers, testament to the attitude of giving throughout the day. Many temples set out vegetarian food which was free in exchange for a small temple donation.

These scooters were caught up in the endless traffic. We actually left Changhua before it got even worse, with thousands filling the streets at night.

The people kneeling above are prostrating themselves so Mazu’s altar will pass over them. It is said to bring blessings if she visits you – even more if she passes directly overhead.

This man looked over his shoulder at me as the sparklers coming from the sky rained down – the parade had to stop multiple times for fireworks, sparklers, and other things which purposely try to keep the goddess in the town as long as possible so she will bless the residents.

These men were carrying banners and large spears ahead of Mazu as a sort of honor guard. It was great to spend time with the parade in the evening as we got some beautiful light from the setting sun.

   

Left: The crowds in the above photo are waiting for Mazu to arrive as fireworks are laid out before her altar moves through. Right: …and some fireworks to finish off this post. I’ll be back later with another post about this huge event, I’m sure.