Beliefs in The Sea Goddess Mazuism
  • Manage No, Sortation, Country, Writer ,Date, Copyright
    Manage No EE00001971
    Country Thailand
    ICH Domain Social practices, rituals, festive events
    This belief can be found in almost every Chinese community in Thailand. A particularly famous and important shrine is housed in Lhong 1919 which has become one of the most popular spots in Bangkok for whoever is looking for Thai-Chinese culture and heritage.
Description Mazuism is a form of belief that is centered on the veneration of Mazu, the Chinese seafarer’s goddess. At Lhong 1919 an long-established shrine dedicated to Mazu is testimony of the popularity that this form of belief enjoyed. The shrine houses three Mazu figurines that had been brought to Bangkok by overseas Chinese who came to the city about 167 years ago. This goddess was once only a local deity revered by Fujianese, before she became widely known and worshiped by oversea Chinese communities. The process of paying homage to the goddess is an intangible cultural heritage that represents the blend between Chinese and Thai cultures. The three main figurines of Mazu that form the material anchor of this practice of veneration have been passed down through six generations of Thai-Chinese families and have come to be widely known within Thai-Chinese society. A localization of this form of worship can be seen in the fact that the chanting done in honor of the goddess is nowadays delivered as a Thai Buddhist mantra while the statue arrangement remains the traditional way that goes back to Chinese roots. There are three Mazu figurines, representing the different stages of her manifestation, each protected by further guardian spirits. The first manifestation is symbolized by a girl who healed the sick and ensured safety during sea travel. The second manifestation is the goddess Mazu who brings good fortune to businesses. The last manifestation is as the empress in heaven, full of kindness and compassion.
Social and cultural significance The Mazu shrines function as something of a spiritual center for Thai-Chinese communities in Thailand and in Bangkok. For example, in Lhong 1919 where the shrine is housed within old structures that once served as a steamship terminal known by its official former name as “Huo Chuan Lhong” simply meaning steamship terminal, the shrine was integrated into an important business hub, showing the importance people attached to it. It was built in 1850 during King Rama IV following the design of Chinese-style ports that also included shops, offices and a shrine in the complex. In recent days, Lhong 1919 has been transformed into a cultural space that offers modern visitors insight into the intangible values of Thai-Chinese culture. After the revitalization of Lhong 1919, it has become popular among local people of all ages to come and pray for the realization of their wishes. The shrine is thus bringing together not only people from all over the country to pay respects and fulfill their wishes but also foreigners who either come to worship for success in trade or business or who are just curious to learn about the spiritual beliefs of the large group of the Thai-Chinese.
Transmission method Specific ways of paying respect to Mazu are widely spread and followed in every shrine. Due to its popularity, the shrine in Lhong 1919 is a particularly good location to see the passing on of the know-how included in the worship process. The worship at the shrine follows a strictly regulated protocol. The Worshipper must begin the first step from the outdoor altar, then face the river with five packs of three incense sticks each and two candles. After that, one has to face the shrine and place each pack of three incense sticks into five burners. For the last step, one incense stick must be placed for each of the spirit houses. Should the worshiper have made wishes that get fulfilled later on, they must return to repay their gratitude to the goddess. Again, this follows a clear protocol, albeit a somewhat easier one: required is only the offering of a plate of oranges, drinking water and a pack of incense sticks at the shrine. There is however, important symbolism behind this selection of offerings, since the Chinese took the oranges as a sign of soil, drinking water as a representation of water more generally and the incense sticks as a symbol of heaven. Taken together, the offerings resemble the three realms in which the worshipers’ wishes must be made heard and where they might be granted. Depending on the nature of the wishes made, sometimes additional offerings that help their fulfillment might be in order.
Community Many Chinese who immigrated to Thailand and Bangkok and who believe that paying homage to her is crucial for the safety of their journeys and their trade. Thai – Chinese people have worshiped this deity since the Ayutthaya to early Rattanakosin period, referring the deity either in the Hokkien Chinese as “Ma Jor” or in Central Chinese as “Mazu”. Nowadays, Thai – Chinese people continue to venerate Mazu and even among Thai believers who are seeking divine protection and great fortune complete the rituals at Mazu shrines in a hope to see their wishes realized and their projects met with success.

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