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 (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.
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.
Last weekend, I was able to follow and slightly take part in a Mazu festival for a local temple. I’ll tell more about the day itself when I make a proper post with the photos from that day, but I took many Instagram shots. I am enjoying the update to Instagram – it seems that they have improved sharpening and while my iPhone 3Gs is no 4s, I can’t complain. These photos look great for coming out of a phone and as more features are added to the software, it’ll be fun to see what I can do.
As I said, these are from a temple celebration in Jhubei. It involved a very large, very long parade that I followed with a friend. We were treated with great hospitality by the participants as they let us photograph them throughout the afternoon.
This temple is located near the water in Hsinwu, a mixed farming-fishing town. It represents the very-important Mazu, goddess of the sea, and is mostly known through its giant bronze statue of the deity.
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!
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.
Part of the Mazu Pilgrimage, which I recently posted about, was an ongoing celebration at a Mazu temple in Taichung. This celebration was going on at the same time the pilgrimage made its way to Changhua just south of the city.
These gods represent Ne Zha San Tai Zi, or 莲花三太子. He is known as a trickster god, usually represented as a boy, and is seen as playful and mischievous. You’ll see him even on Taiwanese television, as he has sort of melded into a pop culture symbol.
These mobile altars were common through the day, as certain gods “visited” Mazu. The man on the left was dressed in traditional clothing and I’m regretting every time that I missed taking his portrait.
This man is pulling a San Tai Zi costume off the line, presumably to give the dancer a break. Later, I had a chance to get an image of the three costumes lined up as the dancers rested at the temple.
Offerings are given to the temple gods. Notice the pile of burning “ghost money” on the ground at their feet.