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Temple and Sakya Buddhist Pagoda
(Woodcarvers, waterfalls, Dream Temples) Fujian
Shaolin Temple (home of Kung Fu?) Plum
Putian Burgess Family!Mazu
(Sea Goddess) and Meizhou Island
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Birthplace of Mazu the Sea Goddess
off Fujian¡¯s coast, between Quanzhou
and Putian, lies Meizhou Island, the Mecca for
has it that Mazu was called Mo (silence) because she never cried until
one month old (at which time she let loose, ¡°Enough already! Feed me!¡±).
Little Miss Mo could understand and interpret Buddhist scriptures by the
tender age of eight when, according to a guidebook, ¡°she began to worship
gods and recite texts, with an intention to salvate [sic] poor people.¡±
When she was 16, a celestial being gave her a bronze talisman, and from
then on she grew in supernatural powers and wisdom. She went about doing
good deeds, healing the sick with herbs, teaching how to prevent disease,
and reading the sea and stars and weather to help farmers know when they
should fish and when they should stay home and tell fish stories. So far
so good¡ªbut then she was credited with riding the clouds, and using her
power to turn the tide and to save ships, and people began calling her
¡°The Goddess¡± or the ¡°Daughter of the Dragon.¡± And her fate was sealed.
As Marilyn Monroe learned 2,000 years later, goddesses lead a lonely life,
and Lin Mo ended hers at age 27, when she told her family, ¡°I feel peace,
but don¡¯t want to live this life anymore. I want to ascend the mountain
and travel far.¡± Lin Mo climbed Mount Meifeng, where mysterious clouds
and music appeared. She hopped up on the clouds and sailed away with the
wind, and has been salvating folks to this day.
Her spirit began appearing to ships in distress and guiding them to safe
haven, and grateful fishermen started worshipping her as the goddess of
the sea. Even the Imperial Court, thankful for an uninterrupted supply
of fish and chips , granted her 28 royal titles, including ¡°Holy Queen,¡±
¡°Holy Lady,¡± and ¡°Holy Mother.¡± (I wonder if Hindus call their goddesses
¡°Holy Cow?¡± ).
A tour book claims, ¡°Mazu now becomes a tie linking the mainland and
Taiwan, and has aroused the interest of the world.¡± (How about a joint
venture between the ¡°Holy Lady¡± and ¡°Our Lady of Fatima?¡± ).
Hundreds of thousands
of pilgrims from around the world flock to Mazu Island each year to visit
the temple and worship small statues of the goddess. They hold a special
ceremony to invoke Mazu to live in the idol, and then invited the idol
to return with them to their homes in Taiwan or Singapore, or Los Angeles.
China held an International Mazu Cultural Tour Festival from April 29th
to May 6th, 2002. In addition to religious services and Mazu arts and
cultural displays, her devotees angled to get more participants by holding
fishing contests and kite flying competitions.
While on Mazu Island,
you may notice that women¡¯s hair is coiled in the shape of a ship¡¯s sail
on the back of their heads. This is to honor Mazu, and to invoke their
husbands¡¯ safe return from the sea. Meizhou women also wear half-red,
half-blue baggy pants in memory of Mazu¡¯s red-trousers. Only half of their
trousers are red because they believe they are unworthy of all-red trousers
like Mo. Red tape , I suppose.
Over the past 1,000 years, people from humble fishermen to
famous officials like General Shilang and Admiral Zhenghe credited safe
journeys or success at war or business to Mazu¡¯s intervention.
Even today, Meizhou Island is visited by hundreds of thousands of Mazu
devotees from all over the world, and especially from Taiwan, where 2/3
of the population worship Mazu. Mazu worship is one of the many close
ties between Taiwanese and Fujian. Even the day we visited, we met two
groups of Taiwanese worshippers. I wondered why one group of worshippers
belched every few steps, and was told it was to expel unclean things from
their body (photos above)
China¡¯s 5th International Mazu Cultural Festival, held in November, 2003,
attracted tens of thousands of Mazu worshippers. They engaged in traditional
religious ceremonies, as well as other activities.
Traces of Mazu worship can even be seen in Meizhou Islander¡¯s daily life.
Some women still show their respect for Mazu by wearing the Mazu hair
style, in which hair is coiled on the back of the head like a ship¡¯s sail.
In addition, virgins wear red trousers, in memory of Mazu¡¯s red pants.
Wives wear trousers that are half red and half black, and widows¡¯ trousers
are entirely black.
Our female Putian guide told us, with much pride,
that in a sense, Mazu liberated Putian women,
giving them equality with men. And as we saw in the Mazu temple, three
goddesses are enthroned in the center, while the great men are standing
on the sidelines! Even today, Putian women still
have the upper hand; I just hope my wife doesn¡¯t follow their example.
Last Updated: May 2007
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