Sacrificial Ceremony of Mazu’s Birthday

Source: 2022-01-25

The Sacrificial Ceremony of Mazu’s Birthday is a traditional folk festival in Houhai Village of Yuehai Subdistrict. As Houhai Village borders Shenzhen Bay, villagers made their living by raising oysters and fishing in the early years, so they are inclined to feel great respect for Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess. The Houhai Tianhou Temple was established during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. In the past 400 years or so, the temple has attracted endless streams of pilgrims. Ordinarily, hundreds of people come to worship Mazu every day, and on the first and 15th days of each month, even more people come. On the birthday of Mazu, namely the 23rd day of the 3rd lunar month, the temple is swarming with believers to worship Mazu, creating quite a lively hubbub.

Whenever the birthday of Mazu is celebrated, the temple is filled with sacrificial offerings such as roasted whole pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, snacks and fruits, with the hall ablaze, incense smoke curling up and incessant sound of bells and drums. From 4 o’clock in the morning till the afternoon, worshippers keep coming. In the morning, a dozen elders representing the whole village come to worship Mazu, followed by thousands of people including nearby residents and other non-native people. Through the festival, people express their wishes for good luck and peace, prosperity for their families, good health and a happy life. Due to the large number of worshippers, each person is allowed to enter the temple holding only three sticks of incense. After the worshipping is finished, the abbot will sprinkle the worshipper with holy water, and give him or her a blessing. In the hall, smoke of incense and candles is curling up, with the sound of bells and drums lingering in people’s ears, and there is the hustle and bustleoutside the hall. The atmosphere of piety, solemnity, warmth, and festivity permeates the Sacrificial Ceremony of Mazu’s Birthday.

The festival with a history of more than 500 years is one of the well-preserved customs of worshipping Mazu in the country, embodying Chinese people’s virtue of attaching emphasis to the tradition, recalling ancestors, and passing on the good qualities of our ancestors from generation to generation. The festival has precious historical value, because it is conducive to studying social changes and the transition of traditional customs. The festival reflects the cultural image of Mazu who is intelligent, brave, beautiful, benevolent and kind-hearted. What is more, the festival serves as a bridge spreading Mazu culture and passing on folk cultural customs, showing its strong cultural value. The truth, goodness and beauty of Mazu culture reflects a kind of eternal spirit, which is a shared wealth for Chinese all over the world. The participation in the festival strengthens the unity and connection among relatives and friends, neighbors, natives and non-natives, and offers an opportunity for people in trouble to open their minds to each other, which has important social value. In addition, it has a certain research value for marine culture and belief culture.

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