No.430, Zhongshan Rd., Lukang Township, Changhua County 505, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Taiwan is renowned for a wealth of temples. Each of them is a local center of faith and living folk art museum whose collections include exquisite stone carvings and elaborate wood decorations. If you are keen for a cultural and artistic experience, Lukang Mazu Temple in Lukang is especially not to be missed. First established in 1725, Lukang Mazu Temple underwent extensive renovations and repairs during the Japanese Colonial Era and after the takeover of Taiwan. Only the rear hall remains as intact as ever, where the precious stone carvings preserved from the Qing dynasty are kept.
Upon entering the front hall, you will soon be amazed by the elaborately carved stone windows and wooden beams that greet you with their vibrant beauty, grace and rich cultural heritage. In the main hall, the intricate stone carvings depict the ancient stories of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義) — the artistic significance is unarguable. Above the shrine, you will find three wooden plaques given by Qing emperors with their seals placed right in the middle of the plaques. Venerating the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝), the rear hall was constructed with pillars adopting five-clawed dragon designs. As ancient Chinese emperors were identified as the sons of dragons, the five-clawed dragon was therefore used as a symbol of imperial power.
Born as Lin Mo-niang (林默娘) in Fujian around 960 CE, Mazu is commonly worshipped by fishermen and sailors as the sea goddess who protects people's lives during their journeys at sea. The worship of Mazu began around the Ming dynasty, and now her followers are scattered all around southern China and Southeast Asia. Lukang was once a thriving port in central Taiwan, where most residents relied primarily on trading and fishing, and the Mazu Temple of course became the most incense-choked temple in town. When the very first of Taiwan's largest rebellion broke out, the Qing general Fu Kang-an (福康安) was sent to suppress the armed insurrection with a force of 20,000 soldiers. After his mission was accomplished, the general received the support from Qianlong Emperor (乾隆皇帝) and started to build up Lukang Mazu Temple to celebrate her blessings during the voyage at sea.
From the first to the third lunar month, myriads of pious worshippers flood to Lukang Mazu Temple from every corner of the island to celebrate Mazu’s birthday. Parades are often involved, and the statue of Mazu will be carried around to patrol the neighborhood. If you happen to be in Lukang during this time of the year, don’t miss out on the pilgrimage! As many night markets in Taiwan have sprung up around temples, which makes a lot of sense if you consider the temple as a community gathering spot that has always had snack vendors outside, and some of them therefore grew into full-blown snack markets or night markets. Around Lukang Mazu Temple, you will find myriads of traditional Taiwanese eateries dishing out oyster omelettes (蚵仔煎), vermicelli (麵線糊), sweet-and-sour plum juice (酸梅湯), steamed buns, mung bean cakes (綠豆糕) and many more.