Luermen Matsu statue verified by experts to be over 800 years old
Third reconstruction of the largest Matsu Temple in Taiwan
Tainan is the oldest city of Taiwan, and its former name, Tayouan, has been claimed to be the origin of the name "Taiwan". The story of Tainan begins with the arrival of Koxinga at Luermen Island. The Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple of Tainan originated in the 16th century, and was built to worship Luermen Matsu. According to legend, in 1661 (15th year of Yungli, Ming Dynasty), Luermen Matsu aided Koxinga in his landing at Luermen. The Dutch had sunk obstacles along the shore of Luermen to prevent any enemies from landing, but when Koxinga arrived the waters miraculously rose several feet and Koxinga was able to secure his victory against the Dutch. Koxinga built a temple in honor of Luermen Matsu to show his gratitude for the Goddess’s help, and honored the Goddess as the “Protector of Ships”, “Wuguan Matsu” and “Guosheng Matsu”. Luermen Island was gradually regarded as the gateway to Taiwan and Tainan became a major military and commercial town, while Luermen Matsu gained more followers and rose in popularity with the occurrence of repeated miracles. In July 1831 (11th year of Daoguang, Qing Dynasty), Zengwen River burst its banks and the temple was destroyed. The statues within the temple were relocated to the Sanjiao Hai’an Temple. In 1918, the second Matsu Temple was rebuilt and over 70 deities returned to the temple. In 1975, the second temple could not cope with the overwhelming number of devotees who came to pay their respects, and the Matsu Temple was reconstructed a third time after obtaining the consent of the Goddess, and was formally named the “Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple” to honor its origin as the Ancient Shaoyanjing Luermen Matsu from the Ming Dynasty. The Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple is the only temple in Taiwan to house a Luermen Matsu with over 800 years of history, and is also the grandest Matsu Temple (in terms of land area) in Taiwan.
In 1913 (2nd year of the Taisho Period, Japan), a King Boat carrying the Wufu Chiensui (aka ‘Five Royal Lords’) that was released by Fumei Temple of China’s Quanzhou Province braved the perilous waters of the Taiwan Strait and arrived at the shores of Tucheng (located in Annan District of Tainan City). Upon consulting the Goddess Matsu, locals learned that the Five Royal Lords had been invited by the Goddess to come bless the people. Upon hearing it, the people of Tucheng joyfully built a temple devoted to the Five Royal Lords. In 1916 (5th year of the Taisho Period, Japan), the locals invited Luermen Matsu to return to the newly built temple along with over 70 other deities that had previously been relocated to Sanjiao Zhengang Hai’an Temple when the first temple was destroyed by the flood. Construction of the second temple was finally completed in 1918 (7th year of the Taisho Period, Japan). It was originally named “Bao’an Temple”, and was only renamed as the “Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple” in 2005. Construction of the third temple was finally completed in 1981, thanks to the divine blessing of the Goddess Matsu.
The temple is comprised of the Hall of the Five Royal Lords, Hall of the Goddess Matsu, Hall of the Buddha, Hall of Guanyin, and the Hall of the Jade Emperor. It is modeled after the Forbidden City in Beijing, and covers an area of over 20,000 ping (about 66,116 sqm). The temple hosts a series of spring carnival activities each year, starting from the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. On the second Saturday after the new year, the temple organizes high-altitude firework displays, lighting beehive firecrackers, and the “welcoming the spring cattle” event, attracting the participation of countless people. Over 300,000 people turn up for the events each year. The Goddess’s birthday falls on 23rd of March of the Lunar calendar, during which the Goddess gives away rice for free to those in need, and treats visitors to free milkfish cuisine. The temple also houses the “Yuelao Deity (God of Love and Marriage)”, who has successfully brought together over 20,000 couples. Every three years, the temple holds a “Tucheng Hsiang Jiao (a celebratory ritual)” to commemorate its establishment, which occurs during the year of the Ox, Dragon, Sheep and Dog; this large-scale event has been listed as a city-level cultural asset. The temple also provides Fortune Money, an Artifact Museum, a Cultural Creative Corner, and a Pilgrim’s Lodge. Its efforts in promoting the local culture, tourism industry, cuisine, and its contributions to recreation and charity, has made the Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple the very top of visitors’ must-see attractions in Tainan.
(Text and Image courtesy of the Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple)