Mazu Welcoming Ceremony by Tainan’s Grand Mazu Temple
Tainan’s Grand Mazu Temple (also Grand Tianhou Temple) was the first and one and only government-built Mazu temple, and whose sacrificial ceremonies are held by the government as well. The temple was previously the residence of King Ningjing, a.k.a. Jhu Shu-guei. In 1683, Shih Lang was ordered by the Cing Dynasty to lead armies to cross the Taiwan Strait and defeat Jheng Ke-shuang. After that, in order to win people’s trust, Shih petitioned the Cing court to turn the residence of King Ningjing of Ming Dynasty into Tianfei Temple, which was later changed to Tianhou (literally Heavenly Queen), and hence the Chinese name of the temple. The extravagant inspection tour rites depicted by the Taiwanese proverb “March Craze for Mazu” actually originated from Tainan’s Grand Mazu Temple. The Sanjiao Association has, since the reign of Emperor Cianlong in Cing Dynasty, has taken care of the temple affairs, and through dividing incense, the association collaborates with associations of such in other places, and hence the traditions and customs of Welcoming Mazu. During the Cing Dynasty, Mazu set off from Beigang Town of Yunlin County, on a journey of 7 nights and 8 days all the way to Tainan under an escort of more than 100 thousand people. In 1915 (Taisho 4 during the Japanese Rule), Jhennan Mazu (statue of Mazu) took over and made the inspection tours, and suspended later in 1937 (Showa 12 during the Japanese Rule) on account of the outbreak of Sino-Japanese War. After WWII (1945), the rites were not held each year owing to political turmoil, and have been organised every four years. The rites are scheduled to take place one month before Mazu’s holy birthday. Each time more than a dozen of temples along with more than a hundred of palanquins and religious troupes participate in the event. The Mazu Welcoming Ceremony has been the largest inspection tour rite so far in Taiwan.