Tianhou Temple is also called "Mazu Temple" ,"Heavenly Empress Temple" . Zhijiang Tianhou Temple is the largest Mazu Temple in mainland China. Built in the year 1748, Qing Dyasty, Tianhou Temple is located at The West Street, Downtown of Zhijiang County.
Let’s go up the stone steps and have a close look at the relief up there. (At the front gate) Now we can see two lovely stone lions, one male, the other female. Can you tell the male from the female? Yes, the one with baby lions is the female. In China, stone lion standing at the front gate are a common sight. It is believed that these lions can drive off evil spirits and serve as protectors. Here are two stone drums.
The front gate is made of large stone carvings in relief. It is a masterpiece of the same kind. Immortals, ghosts from legends and fairy tales, flowers, grass and even insects are depicted in these relief. The technique of hollowing out in relief sculpture can be seen here. Of the 95 relief sculptured here, each picture tells a story. If we had a microscope or telescope with us the subtle facial expression could be discerned from the characters sculptured. Reading the relief here, we can’t help feeling ourselves in the picture.
(Inside the temple)This statue is Tianhou, the patron saint of the sea. It was offered by a group of Taiwanese tourists when they visited Zhijiang in 1992. This temple used to be the gild hall of traveling traders from Fujian , a coastal province It was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of Qing dynasty, viz. in 1774.
With a history three hundred years, the temple was composed of 15 halls which covered an area of 3,000 square kilometers.Tianhou Temple is rich in architecture and decoration arts, ant it is also praised as a special treasure in China.
Legend has it that Tianhou, the patron saint was born of a local official’s family in Meizhou, a small island of present Putian City, Fujian Province, in 960A.D. According to religious records, she was the incarnation of the Big Deeper or the Plough. March the 23rd Chinese lunar calendar marks her birthday. She was believed to be a child prodigy. At the age of 15, she got a pair of Taoist magic figures or incarnation made of copper from a well. Ever since then, she was bestowed a magic super power. Legend has it that she was often seen in red standing on a straw mat traveling over seas helping the fishermen or traveling traders who got stuck in calamities. Any person in trouble on the sea only needs to recite her name to get help. That’s why the coastal provinces and southeast Asian countries boast the vast majorities of Mazhu believers.
According to historical records, many of the people from coastal province Fujian went to inland to trade and they had temples built along the inland rivers in the hope of ensuring the good fortune and safety. This temple is just one of them.