Tag Archives: goddess

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.

 

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.

  

  

More from Mazu Temple, Jhunan

These shots include the statue from Mazu Temple, which I recently posted about. This statue is apparently the largest in Taiwan of Mazu and is quite an intimidating sight when you first approach the temple. It sits on a platform behind the temple itself – the platform actually acts like a sort of second temple with three levels and rooftop access at the base of the statue.

One of the most beautiful parts is on the second building’s roof. You can see the ornate decorations on the temple and they work beautifully together as they’re so colorful.

  

These shots of the statue were from the roof at the base of the statue.

This tries to give you an idea of the scale of the statue compared to the very regular-sized temple in front of it. It was a hard shot to take as the dynamic range of the very dark interior mixed with the very bright sunset – try to excuse the mix of over and underexposure in the same photo!

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.

Watching the Sea

This weekend became a time of remembering Hurricane Ike, which came through my community in Texas about two years ago and devastated much of the surroundings – and in addition gave us all two weeks of unneeded “vacation” as students and teachers.

Oddly enough, I had another storm come in right about the same point that I was previously at in the school year.  This time, a typhoon – called Fanapi, which is a Micronesian name for “sandy islands” was scheduled to hit in north-central Taiwan over the weekend.

It’s interesting to see how Taiwanese react to these storms.  They’re a normal part of life, and if this one hadn’t been so strong, I doubt many people would’ve reacted seriously to it at all.  Thankfully for my area, it mostly went south – we got very little rain but certainly did get some heavy winds.

Yuling, my girlfriend, had me join her family for a Moon Festival barbeque today.  As a result of the storm, we were treated to some amazing skies – half blue and half a slightly spinning gray.  One of the areas I checked out in her grandparents’ rural community of Sinwu was a statue and temple dedicated to Mazu, Chinese goddess of the sea.  Photos follow.

The sheer size of this statue made it hard to capture.  For this reason, I did not get a good HDR of the entire ~50ft. bronze behemoth.  What you see is the goddess looking toward the sea (west – away from where the typhoon was coming) with two spirits near the bottom acting almost as assistants.  You can see one of them pointing to his eyes and the other to his ears.  They have these odd headdresses that look like horns…

The following is an HDR of the top part.  I had to use the 70-300mm for this because of the size of this thing!

Above is the altar – which you can’t see in the first picture.  It is situated at the base of the main statue and gives a place for people to offer prayers and incense to the sea goddess.

Above we have the main temple building in HDR.  The temples in this rural area are very ornate – and numerous.

The temple interior had a lot of these lanterns hanging in an area that was naturally lit.  You’d think I’d get sick of photographing these by now, but I was really impressed by the amount and played around a little bit with the depth of field.  Check the Flickr by clicking on the photo to see the other shots of these I took.