Please note: This page is still in
development. The notes are therefore sketchy, and not all picture links
have been completed. Please scroll to the bottom of the page to enjoy the
Chiwan Six Road runs along the
north side of the temple. As you get off the bus here, you are facing the back
of the temple. On the right is a gate that leads to a circular drive.
Pay the 15RMB entrance fee at the ticket office
and continue all the way into the grounds, passing the side gate to
the temple compound and reaching the large statue of Tian Hou standing
between two ponds. (The office/classroom on the right as you pass includes a small museum;
be sure to visit this later.)
The wall behind the large statue
was formerly the sea wall; it now blocks one's view of a shipyard. The ponds
on her right and left are unusual in shape: they are the Sun and the Moon,
representing yin and yang, with the Goddess standing at the balance point.
Away to the left as you face the
statue are an aviary and a second museum; visit these later.
Turning around to face the Main
Gate, you will see two towers, a Drum Tower on the left and a Bell
Tower on the right. (Unfortunately, you may also see a lot of parked cars!)
The Main Gate has several
interesting features: The attractive dragon-bedecked pillars, the
two Men Shen, the large model boats
(representing Tian Hou's role as a patron of sailors and fishermen), and the rooms
inside that are home to Donated Deities.
Stepping inside the gate,
immediately in front of you is a well. Legend says that the well is
inhabited by the spirit of a young boy who drowned in it. On either side
of the well are the incinerators for ghost money, decorated with
beautiful images of the Eight Immortals on the two lateral front panels, and a
dragon and a phoenix on the back panels.
To the left, you will see an enclosure
for turtles, and the incense pavilion where 14- and 28-day coils of
incense are burned for the ancestors.
To the right, a small Tu Di
Shrine rests under the Wish-Giving Tree mentioned above.
Straight ahead is the Main Hall,
with censers and offering tables in front of it, and offices and classrooms on
The Main Hall has three
bays and three constellations of figures, the largest by far being that of Tian Hou
herself. She is guarded by the two great generals Chien
Li Yen and Shun Feng Er, whose postures indicate their abilities to
see and hear far. She is flanked by rather unusual representations of the
two figures of the "Golden Boy" and "Jade Girl"
often associated with Chinese gods, and especially with Guan Yin; the girl holds
gold, and the boy a sword. She also has two "serving girls"
(holding fans?) whom I haven't been able to identify.
On the left Side Altar is Cai
Shen; on the right is Guan Yin. To the right of her,
in the corner, is Tian Hou's bed and bedroom furniture, used in the
yearly celebration of her birthday.
Along the walls of the Hall are
paintings of the Eighteen Arhats of Buddhism; chim for
telling fortunes, and moon blocks for divining "yes" or
"no," are found on the table in front of the main image; a fortune
teller is often on hand, and purchases of offerings (incense, oil,
paper goods for burning, etc.) can be made at the side counters.
This is the first non-Buddhist temple I
visited in China, and the one I have visited most frequently. I have
learned a great deal from visiting here. For example, although this
is a "folk" temple, the music played is usually a chant
dedicated to "Amitofo," the popular Amitabha Buddha. That
Buddha's name is used in greeting, as it is in Buddhist temples; and the fine
paintings of the Eighteen Arhats add to the "Buddhistic"
presence in this place.