The Cult and Festival of the Goddess of the Sea - a Maiden Encounter with Mazu

Szan Tan


The belief in the Goddess of the Sea is still very much alive in Taiwan today. During the annual celebration of her birthday, hundreds and thousands of devotees flock to greet and worship her. This essay is based largely on my personal experience during a Mazu birthday celebration in Taiwan. It provides a first-hand account of the goddess' continuing influence in modern day Taiwanese society. The Goddess of the Sea is known popularly as Mazu, Tianfei, Tianhou (Heavenly Concubine), Tianshang Shenmu (Empress of Heaven) and Tin Hau (also Heavenly Empress in Cantonese, used by the people in Hong Kong). Her influence can be attributed to the growth of coastal regions of China as trading and economic centres. Mazu's popularity began in the fishing communities of the southern coasts of China, especially in Fujian and Guandong. By the 19th century, the cult of Mazu had become deeply entrenched in Taiwan, Hong Kong and many Chinese communities in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Malaysia (Malacca and Penang), and Indonesia (Semarang).

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