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The Celestial Meizhou Mazu Temple

Updated: 09 Mar 2007
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For hundreds of years people have been burning incense at the Meizhou Mazu Temple, although it has been rebuilt and extended many times. In recent years the temple has undergone further repairs and reconstruction and has now reached an unprecedented scale, looking more like a celestial palace than a simple temple.

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The temple's gate is in the style of a magnificent ancient city tower. On a sumeru platform constructed of rocks stands a city wall, on top of which is a tower with a nine-ridged roof. Its three arched doorways resemble those of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Behind the temple gate is the "Heavenly Ladder", a flight of 150 steep stone steps leading up to a huge stone ceremonial gateway. Behind it is a large square with a platform in the centre and a Drum Tower and Bell Tower on either side. If you walk up the stone steps along the central axis between the two towers you come to the Main Hall of the temple.

 

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The magnificent Main Hall has a nine-ridged roof with upturned double eaves. On the front terrace of the Main Hall are two stone columns with exquisitely-carved coiling dragons, and inside the hall is a statue of Mazu. The Main Hall and the square are where the memorial ceremonies are held for Mazu every year. All kinds of activities such as performances, operas and acrobatics take place here. But the busiest place, the place where all worshippers come to burn incense, is Tianhou Hall, located just behind the Main Hall.

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Tianhou Hall, also known as Chamber Hall, enjoys paramount prestige in the minds of believers because it was the first place where Mazu was ever worshipped. It is in fact the temple's ancestral hall and holds two statues of Mazu. The one in front is known as "Mazu Parading the Sky", as it can be dismantled and carried in a parade; the one at the rear is a clay statue called "Mazu Guarding the Hall", which is not removable. In front of the shrine is a "Dark-faced Mazu" statue brought from the town of Lukang in Taiwan, and another statue of Mazu from Hsinkang in Taiwan. Inside the hall are also various statues of the gods of the sea, military officers and civilian officials all in attendance, as well as images of the devils and spirits that have been subdued by her.

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Pious worshippers cross the threshold with great respect, sincerely burning incense, making offerings and kneeling down to ask Mazu for blessings. Past this hall is the newly-built Ascension-to-Heaven Pavilion. From the top of the three-storey, pagoda-like pavilion one can see the entire temple complex. However, the best view of the island and its temples is from the summit of Mount Meifeng.

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When pilgrims reach the top of the mountain, however, their first objective is not to enjoy the scenery but to look at the towering statue of Mazu there. This 14-metre-tall granite sculpture blends in beautifully with the white clouds floating past the peak. The statue embodies the qualities of both a goddess and a kind mother figure.

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Folk Customs

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