Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lukang Mazu Temple

Allow me to make a confession: I have never been to a temple as crowded as the this temple, the Lukang Mazu Temple (鹿港妈祖庙). The stream of worshippers was never-ending...

This temple exuded a slightly different feeling to that of the earlier Long Shan Temple. Not quite sure how to put it, perhaps because this was slightly more modern.

Just as we stepped into the courtyard, there are rows of yellow and red paper money/offering bundles available for purchase (a form a charity towards the temple) for worshippers.

Having purchased a bundle, the incense sticks are removed from the plastic packaging to be lit. Starting from the right side of the courtyard, move clockwise through the temple grounds, stopping at each deity to pay respect and to place incense sticks in each urn.

The temple has two levels with each level housing their own deities. There is no need to purchase incense sticks here, as worshippers only need to clasp palms together to pay respects to Mazu, the patron goddess of the seas, the believed protecter of seafarers. Literally meaning mother-ancestor (妈祖), Mazu is also known as Empress of Heaven or Thean Hou (天后), which clarified how instead of being known as Mazu temples, some are known as Thean Hou temples (天后宫).

As Mazu was a native of Fujian, the worshipping of Mazu started there and was continued to be practised by seafarers to neighbouring coastal provinces such as Zhejiang and Guangdong, and then all coastal areas of mainland China. Naturally, the worship followed the Chinese diaspora to Taiwan, Japan and most of the South East Asian countries, which is why we have many Thean Hou temples in Malaysia. Newly arrived immigrants often erected temples to first honour and give thanks to Mazu, as she ensured their safe arrival.

In Malaysia, the most well-known Thean Hou temple would be Thean Hou Temple situated atop a hill across the highway from Midvalley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur. In other states, there is the famous Seng Hoon Keong (圣春公) Temple situated at Kampung Tokong or Kampung Chiakka in Kota Bharu, Kelantan and the Thean Hou Temple situated on Muntri Street in Penang.

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