Difference between revisions of "The Motherly Matriarch"

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Revision as of 15:52, 12 October 2009

Immortals and Immortalism
The Heavenly Lords
The Primeval Lord of Heaven
The Heavenly Lord of the Numinous Treasure
The Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue
The Great Jade Emperor
The Heavenly Lord of Supreme Oneness and Salvation from Misery
The Three Great Emperor-Officials
The Four Heavenly Ministers
The Emperors of the Soil
The Queen Mother of the West
The Thunder Patriarch
The Stellar Sovereigns
The Great Perfect Warrior Emperor
Imperial Sovereign Wenchang
The Stellar Sovereign of the Five Planets and Seven Stars
The Four Numinous Animals and Twenty-Eight Constellations
The Big Dipper
The Sixty Daily Spirits of the Celestial Trunks and Earthly Branches
Spirits of Mountains, Rivers, Seas and Thunder
The Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the East
The Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud
The Five Supreme Commanders of the Thunder Agency
The Father of Thunder and the Mother of Lightning
The Dragon King
The Master of Rain
The Earl of Wind
Spirits of the Soil and Local Protector Spirits
The City God
The Door Spirits
The Earth Spirit
The Kitchen Spirit
Spirits of Wealth and Longevity
The Spirit of Wealth
The Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity
Guardians of Hell
The Great Emperor of Fengdu
The Yamas of the Ten Halls
Perfect Men and Immortals
Guanyin (Avalokitesvara)
The Eight Immortals
The Motherly Matriarch
Emperor Guan
Patriarch Lü Numinous Official Wang
The Water-Margin Lady
The Three Mao Perfect Sovereign Brothers
The Great Life-Protecting Emperor
The Saintly Founder-King of Zhang
The King of the Three Mountains

Origin of the Motherly Matriarch

As the sea protector worshiped by people in the southeastern coastal area as well as by overseas Chinese, the Motherly Matriarch ( 媽祖 Mazu ) was also known as Heavenly Consort ( 天妃 Tianfei ), Queen of Heaven, Lady Heavenly Consort and Goddess of Heaven, etc. According to the Supreme Venerable Sovereign' Book of the Miracles of the Heavenly Consort Who Saves from Disasters ( 太上老君說天妃救苦靈驗經 Taishang Laojun Shuo Tianfei Jiuku Lingyan Jing ), the Supreme Venerable Sovereign conferred on the Motherly Matriarch the title of 'Heavenly Consort of Universal Salvation, Demonstrator of Benevolence in Brilliant Communion, Sublime and Numinous Protector of People, Guardian of the Kingdom, Trustworthy Saviour in Numinous Communion, Pure and Orthodox Promoter of Filial Piety, and Assistant of the Big Dipper' ( 輔斗昭孝純正靈應孚濟護國庇民妙靈昭應弘仁普濟天妃 Fudou Zhaoxiao Chunzheng Lingying Fuji Huguo Bimin Miaoling Zhaoying Hongren Puji Tianfei ). The records about the Motherly Matriarch started to appear in the Northern Song dynasty. It is said that the Motherly Matriarch was born in the first Jiannong year of the first Song emperor (AD 960) and was the daughter of Lin Yuan, who was a high-ranking military official. The Motherly Matriarch's personal name was Moliang. She died in the fourth Yongxi year of the Song emperor Tai (AD 984) at the age of 28. It is said that when she was born, the room was filled with red light and strange smoke. She was born one month old and didn't cry even once. So she was called Moniang, which means 'Silent Girl'. She started to attend a village school at the age of eight and showed a special interest in burning incense and worshiping Buddha. She was taught Daoist books and secret skills at the age of thirteen, and granted a mysterious talisman at sixteen. Since then, she was able to stretch a straw mat to sea, saving people in danger. After her ascension, she always responded quickly to prayers. Since the Xuanhe year, between the Northern and Southern Song dynasties, she was granted various titles nine times, which continually increased her importance and prestige. Her original title 'Madam' was replaced by 'Higher Consort' in the Shaoxi year of Southern Song dynasty emperor Guang (AD 1190). Then her title was changed to 'Heavenly Consort' during the first Yuan emperor's reign, then, further, to 'Queen of Heaven' during reign of the Qing emperor Kangxi. During reign of the Qing emperor Jiaqing, the titles conferred on the Motherly Matriarch added up to 28 Chinese characters.

Salvation for People

Most stories about the Motherly Matriarch were related to her salvation of people stranded in the sea. It is said that she could save people from far away with the help of two aids: her Penetrating Eyes ( 千里眼 Qianli Yan ) and Penetrating Ears ( 順風耳 Shunfeng Er ). Usually dressed in red, the Motherly Matriarch traveled among the islands on clouds. When ships sailing on the sea were hit by storms and people on board recited the Motherly Matriarch's sacred titles, she would emerge to help. According to the Supreme Venerable Sovereign's Book of the Miracles of the Heavenly Consort Who Saves from Disasters, the Motherly Matriarch's obligations included saving wrecks, people in danger, and innocent souls seeking for release. In later periods, her obligation was enlarged. In the Daoist book mentioned above, she claimed to save businessmen, farmers, craftsmen, soldiers, women suffering from difficult labor, and patients if they call her name piously and let her know their wishes. So in folk culture, she was also called 'Auntie Who Delivers Babies'.

Worship for the Motherly Matriarch

In most parts of China's southeastern coastal area, there are temples dedicated to the Motherly Matriarch, among which the oldest one was in Putian county of Quanzhou city, Fujian province. In Taiwan province, there are 74 temples dedicated to the Motherly Matriarch, 39 of which have a reliable history as to their origin and development. Among these temples, two were constructed in the Ming dynasty and 37 in the Qing dynasty. It is said that the Motherly Matriarch was born on the 23rd day of the third lunar month, a day when memorial activities such as worshiping rituals and parades of Motherly Matriarch statues would be held by the different temples dedicated to the Motherly Matriarch, among which the temple in Putian, Fujian province and Chaotian temple in Beigang, Taiwan were most influential. Even today, worship for the Motherly Matriarch remains prosperous in terms of the number of believers as well as the scale of its rituals.