Tainan Grand Matsu Temple
Tainan Grand Mazu Temple 全臺祀典大天后宮
Mazu, Goddess of the Sea, is worshiped as the Heavenly Queen (called Tianhou in Mandarin) in China’s coastal areas. Out of the approximately 400 Mazu temples in Taiwan, Tainan’s Grand Mazu Temple was the first official Matsu temple ever built. the temple is a treasure trove of Taiwanese works of folk art, and a popular tourist destination you should not miss if you decide to pay Tainan a visit.
在中國沿海地區，媽祖被尊崇為海上女神，備受世人敬崇並稱之為「天后」。在台灣 400 多間媽祖廟中，大天后宮則為清代全台唯一奉旨祀典的媽祖廟。現今，大天后宮的廟宇建築是台灣民間藝術瑰寶，更是觀光客來台南不可錯過的景點。
The history of Tainan Grand Mazu Temple 大天后宮歷史沿革
- The Beginning 創立初期
During the Ming Dynasty (1426 – 1435), It is said that the statue of Mazu was brought by a eunuch from Fujian Province to Taiwan, and people built a temple called Tianfei Temple (literally, “Heavenly Princess Temple”). At the end of the Ming Dynasty, Kozinga occupied Taiwan and stayed in Tainan. He persuaded the Prince of Ningjing to renovate his home into a temple.
In 1683, the Qing empire invaded Taiwan. Learning of Taiwan's surrender, the Prince of Ningjing summoned his five concubines and informed them of his decision to take his own life. In fidelity to the king, they hanged themselves one after another. After burying his concubines (nowadays, they are worshipped in Wufei Temple, also called Temple of the Five Concubines), and making obeisance to heaven, earth, and the ancestors, the Prince of Ningjing committed suicide.
Note: The Prince of Ningjing was a descendant of the founder of the Ming Dynasty, and was one of its last remaining symbols when the Qing took power. Just before the Ming dynasty collapsed, he was invited to settle in Taiwan, which still recognized the legitimacy of the Ming.
- During the Qing Dynasty 清朝時期
After the Qing General Shih Lang occupied Taiwan, he stationed himself in the Prince of Ningjing’s mansion. Had experienced the miracle that Mazu displayed, Shih Lang presented the petition to Emperor Kang Xi and rename the temple as “Grand Mazu Temple”. Therefore, Grand Mazu is the first official Mazu temple that Qing government approved. In spring of 1818, the Tainan Grand Mazu Temple was badly damaged in a fire, and a three-phase restoration was implemented. This particular effort was the largest, and the most elaborate restoration in the history of the temple.
- Up to the Present 現今
Although the Tainan Grand Mazu Temple building has been renovated several times, it has retained the same fundamental architectural features since the third restoration effort in the early nineteenth century. The palace hall boasts the tall roof truss. Nowadays, Tainan Grand Mazu Temple has been listed as a historic site of the highest category in Taiwan and also one of Hundreds of Religious Site in Taiwan.
Introduction of Deity Statues in the Temple 廟內神祇簡介
In the main palace 正殿
- Mazu: this statue is about four meters tall. She wears a crown with nine beaded tassels and a splendid royal gown. Her eyelids droop slightly as she overlooks all living beings with a solemn but benign expression. Her golden face looks peaceful and regal.
- The deities Qien-li-yen (“All-seeing”) and Shun-fuon-er (“All-hearing”) are the two guardians of the Goddess Matsu. In folklore, the two were monsters that terrorized the village of Meijhou in China, each with extraordinary abilities of seeing and hearing. Matsu subdued them, thereafter using them as her guards. Together they patrol the coast, and offer protection to seafarers and fishermen. 為媽祖的護衛。在民俗傳說中，千里眼與順風耳是居住在媚洲(媽祖故鄉)的兩隻怪物。據說千里眼可目測千里以外的事物；順風耳則可耳判八方。由於兩隻怪物騷擾居民多時，媽祖便施以法力收服他們做為手下部將，一同守護沿海境內及漁民。
- Dragon Kings of the Four Seas (at the left side of the statues of Matsu as you standing before the temple): they are the Gods of the Sea and also the Gods of the Rain. In folklore, the four Dragon Kings include the East, West, South and North Dragon King. The statues shown here include the four Dragon Kings, two generals and four servants.
- Honorable Kings of the Water Immortals (at the right side of the statues of Matsu as you standing before the temple): these are water-related deities that guard the safety of ships. The five statues here are five Chinese historical figures, including Da Yu(大禹), who is noted for his great accomplishments in regulating watercourses. Cyu Yuan(屈原), a patriotic poet who killed himself by jumping into a river, Wu Zih-Syu(伍子胥), whose body was abandoned in a river, Siang Yu(項羽), who committed suicide in a river, and Han Ao (寒澆), who had great strength and could move a boat on land.
- The Sanguan Dadi (“Emperors of the Three Realms” – Heaven, Earth and Water) statues are enshrined at the back of the Main Palace. They are the gods of Heaven, Earth and Water. It is said that the Emperor of Heaven bestows fortune, that of Earth bestows reprieve for misdeeds and that of Water solves difficulties.
In the Sacred Parents Hall 聖父母廳
This hall initially was Prince of Ningjing’s chamber. Prince of Ningjing’s five concubines hanged themselves here from the crossbeam in the Main Palace. Deities enshrined here currently include the Prince of Ningjing, Matsu’s Father, Matsu’s Mother and others with merits and virtues.
- God of Matchmaking: this deity matches couples in marriage by facilitating romantic bonds. It is one of the four famous marriage deities in Tainan (the other three are located in Dianwu Temple, Guanyin Temple and Chongcing Temple).(其它三尊供奉於祀典武廟、大觀音亭及重慶寺)。
- Fu De Jheng Shen (Village Deity/"Lord of the Soil and the Ground"): this god is in charge of a small regional area. Taiwanese people believe that one must have land before he has any wealth; therefore, people call this deity the “Land God” or “Fu De Deity.”
福德正神(土地公) 為村里的守護神。臺灣人的傳統觀念認為「有土斯有財」，因此人們更加重視 土地之神，即土地公 。
- Lady Jhushan (Goddess of Childbirth): this goddess is in charge of childbirth; she is the protectress of expectant mothers, women in labor and infants.
Guanyin Palace (the left rear palace of main palace) 觀音殿
After General Shih Lang came to Taiwan and turned the mansion into Tianhou Temple, the Guanyin statue was enshrined in this military supervision office, which since then has been called “Guanyin Palace.” The statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva (Avalokitesvara or “Goddess of Mercy”) is enshrined in the center, its originally golden face has been blackened over time by incense smoke. The two statues reflect the preferred features of young Chinese boys and girls, and they are located in front of Guanyin. The boy named Shancai has a high forehead, big eyes and full lips, and with palms held together as if in prayer. The girl named Longnu has arched eyebrows, beautiful eyes and hair in a bun, holding an alms bowl in her hands, looking cherubic and graceful.
Sanbao Palace (the left front palace of main palace) 三寶殿
Sanbao Palace was built during the renovation of 1765. In 1971, the original official hall was transformed into a temple hall to worship the Sanbao Buddhas. There are two guardian statues, Weitou Guardian and Chelan Guardian, standing in front of the Sanbao Buddhas. The Sanbao Buddhas are Amitabha Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha and Bhaisaijya Buddha (the Medicine Buddha). Shakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism; he comprehends all sufferings in the world and combats it with compassion. Amitabha Buddha and the Medicine Buddha give people hope for the afterlife and strength to fight illness, respectively.
No.18, Ln. 227, Sec. 2, Yongfu Rd., West Central Dist., Tainan City 700, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
06 221 1178