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Goddess Mazu Ceremonies
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申報地區或單位: 福建省莆田市; 中華媽祖文化交流協會
Inscribed list: National List, First Batch
Inventory no.: X-36
Nominating unit(s): Fujian Province, Putian City, Chinese Mazu Cultural Exchange Association
The Goddess Mazu ceremonies are held every year on the twenty-third day of the Third month in the lunar calendar – a day which is believed to be the birth date of Mazu, a goddess of the sea. Alongside the ceremonies of Confucius and Huangdiling memorial ceremony, the three ceremonies are known as “The Three Ceremonies of China”.
Originating from the Song Dynasty, the Goddess Mazu Ceremonies has 1000 years of history. During the main ritual ceremony in Meizhou Island, drums and percussions signal the beginning of the ceremony, and the performers, religious officials will then proceed to their positions. After they welcome the goddess and grant her the offerings, speeches of blessings are read and recited. The worshippers will then bow and pay their respects to Mazu, which will be followed by music performances. After this, a final bow is performed, then the written copy of the blessing speech and white silk for sacrifice are burnt in the final stage of the ceremony.
The legend of Mazu is recorded in both ancient documents and oral folklore. Both folklore and historical records agree that Mazu was a maiden born in the Northern Song era, originally named Mo Niang (默娘) because of the fact that she remained silent without crying after her birth. Her home was on Meizhou Island, an island close to Putian City, Fujian. The surname of Mazu was Lin, as she was a member of the Lin Family. Several sources from Southern Song and Ming Dynasty cited that Lin Mo Niang was an intelligent sorceress, who had the power to predict and possess celestial knowledge.
There are various speculations on how she became a goddess. Popular versions state that she sacrificed herself while attempting to rescue her father, who was stranded in the ocean; other versions include Mo Niang falling into eternal sleep during meditation, or stepping onto the clouds upon a hill before being declared as Mazu – the goddess of the seas. No matter the way she became a goddess, the islands and villagers commemorated and worshiped her, thus marking the beginning of the Mazu worshipping.
Apart from folk worshipping, Mazu was also well regarded by the rulers of various dynasties from the Song to Qing Dynasty, and her influence has extended from the southeastern side of China to the rest of the world, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and the United States, where Mazu Temples have been constructed.
In 2009, Mazu Worshipping was inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Culture Heritage.
Video 1 (above):
UNESCO video on Mazu belief and customs
CCTV news on Mazu Ceremonies
CGTV show, "Travelogue" episode on Mazu worship.