March 16, 2008

290407 Thian Hock Kheng temple - 03 main altar

Mazu, the Goddess who calms the raging seas & protects those who travel across them:


表海昭神 biao2 hai3 zhao1 shen2:


Not sure if 表海 (see #5 in link) here means 临海 (overlooking/before the sea) or 滨海 (bay/shore)? 昭神 means illustrious heavenly being. A similar inscription in another Mazu temple in Taiwan here. The four gold characters in red circles partially blocked by the man above are 天上聖母 (天上圣母 in simplified Chinese) - Goddess of Heaven, a title for Mazu.

On Mazu's left is 关羽 Guan Yu...


...with his characteristic red face:


Also known as 关圣帝君 (Guang sheng di jun, Heavenly Sage Guan) or 关公 Guan Gong, this military general from the 三国 Three Kingdoms period in ancient China was deified after his death & worshipped for his bravery & loyalty. Chinese Mahayana Buddhists even worship him as a bodhisattva (Sangharama Bodhisattva or 伽藍菩薩 qie2 lan2 pu2 sa4). Members of the Hong Kong police force pray to him, & the cat remembers spotting his altar in scenes of police stations in Hong Kong TV drama serials =P

The tradition of depicting him with a red face might come from Chinese opera, where traits of the characters are reflected in the colours used to paint the performers' faces.

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