Friday, March 28, 2014


Built around 1899 Chi Cheng temple is dedicated to Matsu or Matzu, one of the most famous, powerful and popular Taoist goddess who is known as Thien Hou in Malaysia (as in the famous Thien Hou Temple in KL) and is the Goddess of the Southern Seas who controls the often deadly waves and ocean currents. Fishermen going out to sea pray to her for a good catch while sailors and emigrants leaving China worship her to ensure a safe passage, calm sea and fortuitous winds.

Mazu literally means 'Mother-Ancestor' and she is sometimes called Mazu-po which means 'Grandmother' which is odd as this historical figure died at 28. She is so beloved she is often referred to as Thien Hou or 'Empress of Heaven'!

As Thien Hou Shengmu, she is 'Heavenly Holy Mother' though sometimes she is called 'Thien Fei' or 'Princess of Heaven' which is a grade lower than Empress of Heaven but this title could be due to her youthful  age when she died since a princess is always younger than an empress.

Matsu's original name was Lin Mo Niang and she was born on 23 March 960 in Fujian which explains why Hokkiens are her most ardent worshippers. She started swimming at the late age of 15 but soon became renowned as the best swimmer ever recorded. She always wore red garments and while standing on the shore or beach guiding the fishing boats home, regardless of fair or inclement weather.

Once her father and 3 brothers were caught in a violent storm while out fishing and the community feared for their safety. Lin Mo Niang went into a trance and her astral spirit went to rescue her family. Unfortunately her mother did not realise what was happening and thought she had fainted and shook her to arouse her. This caused Mo Niang's astral spirit to drop one of her brothers who drowned but the rest made it to shore.

One version said she climbed a mountain and flew to heaven to be a goddess while another said she drowned while swimming out to rescue her father caught in a storm.

Though she wore red garments when alive, all her statues depict her dressed in grand imperial robes like an empress, holding the ceremonial tablet or jewelled staff and wearing the imperial crown with the traditional curtain of dangling beads front and back.

Chi Cheng or Ci Cheng temple is located smack in the middle of Shilin's main shopping street though it is easy to see the well lit temple behind the stalls.

I went in to pray to Matzu or Mazu and the pantheon of other gods so I arrived home in KL safely on 27 March. In Taiwan, this Goddess of the Southern Sea is very popular and important and she is worshipped more than Kuanyin though some believe Mazu is an emanation of the Goddess of Mercy. 

In Jave, they to worship the Goddess of the Southern Seas called Nyi Loro Kidul  the Queen of the Southern Sea which refers to Indian Ocean while Mazu is Queen of South China Sea. The Javanese goddess continues to be worshipped as she is supposed to be the spiritual wife of the ruling Sultan of Yogyakarta and Sultan of Mataram. During the coronation of a new Sultan, a building is purposely built or set aside for the new Sultan to spend the first night of his reign alone. It is assumed Nyi Roro (or Loro) Kidul will appear and confirm the Sultan's right to rule by spending the night with him. Another name is Gusti Kanjeng but in her mermaid form (when she appears with a fish tail or snake tail in lieu of legs) she is called Nyi Blorong.

A specific shade of aqua green is forbidden to be worn as this is her favorite colour. Each year, a dozen or so men are mysteriously caught and washed away by waves from the beaches of southern Java who are assumed to be taken to her celebrated palace beneath the sea. And they all happen to be young and handsome!

In the hotels I stayed, a room or suite is reserved for this goddess, all decorated with paintings of her as a beautiful young woman. The room is cleaned and filled wit fruits, food and flowers each day as if a guest is staying there. No hotel in southern Java disobeys this tradition as terrible misfortune will occur if Nyi Blorong's wrath is aoused and anyway no Javanese will work in a hotel without a room permanently reserved for the Queen of the Southern Seas. For some reason, I feel very attached to Nyi Blorong.

The openair courtyard of Ci Cheng Temple in Shilin 
People enjoying themselves
The entrance is lit by red lanterns
Na Cha the naughty, mischievous boy god
A larger than life statue of Mazu or Thien Hou 
Dramatic red lanterns fill the ceiling
The Goddess of the Southern Seas
Mazu the Goddess of the Southern Sea
Mazu is dressed in full empress apparel
The Goddess of the Southern Sea
I worship her
So impressive
Mazu holds the imperial tablet denoting her heavenly status and dominion over sky and sea
Mazu or Thien Hou wears the imperial crown
Main altar
Main altar
I love the red lanterns
The main shrine at the end of temple
The golden statue of Mazu
Mazu in golden robes and jewels
Mazu in the main shrine at back 

She wears the dangling curtain of pearls
Thien Hou as we call her in Malaysia

Golden shrine
Spiritually impressive
Mazu or Thien Hou is Taiwan's most popular goddess
Chi Cheng temple
Gold pillars of oil wicks
The temple was almost deserted at 11 pm
Back of Mazu as she is seated on throne
Mazu the Queen of Heaven
Not to be confused with Queen of Western Heaven who is Xi Wangmu 
Other deities

This worshipper wore red in Mazu's honour as she wore red robes when she was alive in 10th century
Other deities

Grand regalia

Kee Hua Chee and Mazu
Worshipper of Mazu or Thien Hou the Goddess of Southern Sea

So impressive and awesome!
Smallish temple but fantastic

1 comment:

Ernei Ribeiro said...

Great photos! I am a Brazilian that lives in Japan and I love Mazu.