Art Show Extols Goddess Mazu
The China International Science and Technology Exhibition Center in north Beijing is holding a grand art exhibition entitled "The Culture of the Mazu Goddess and the Traditional Virtues of the Chinese People."

The exhibition, which ends today, displays some 200 works of sculpture, folk painting, traditional Chinese ink painting, oils, watercolors and calligraphy selected from more than 1,000 entries from across the country, according to Liu Jiancheng, an organizer with the Chinese Modern Culture Research Center.

Of the exhibits, 30 works were created by artists from Macao and Taiwan.

"It is the first time in history that such a large scale art exhibition on a special theme has been jointly held for artists from both sides of the Taiwan Straits," Liu said.

Since its opening on October 15, at least 5,000 people have attended the exhibition, Liu said.

The world-famous sea goddess Mazu (actual name Lin Mo) was born in AD 960 in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and died at the age of 28 at Meizhou Bay in Putian in East China's Fujian Province.

During her lifetime, Lin offered medical services to fellow islanders. With her natural born weather forecasting ability, Lin saved the lives of many fishermen from the menace of typhoons. Touched by her kindness and good deeds, the local people greatly respected her and eventually deified her as the Goddess of the Sea and the Holy Mother who could bring them blessings.

Locals built a temple at Meizhou Island soon after her death to offer sacrifices to her. As time went by, thousands of similar temples were built all over the world where there are Chinese communities. Mazu has in time become one of the symbols of the Chinese nation.

On her birthday which falls on the 23rd day of the third lunar month, and the anniversary of her death on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, thousands of pilgrims, many of them from Taiwan, come to pay homage to the goddess at the Temple of Mazu.

Ocean-going Chinese bring her statue when traveling and they build temples for her wherever they settle down.

In Macao, scholars believe that fishermen built the Temple of A-Ma centuries ago in honor of the Goddess A-Ma (Goddess Mazu), the protector of seafarers and fishermen.

The Portuguese called the area "A-ma-gao" or "Bay of A-Ma" which was eventually shortened to the present Macao. The temples have expansive courtyards and various shrines and altars where prayers, incense and offerings are made to the various deities under the rule of Mazu imploring their divine beneficence. Joss sticks and hanging coils of incense perfume the air at the temples.

In Taiwan, at least 900 Mazu temples have reportedly been built and worshipped at regularly over the past few centuries.

"The Mazu Goddess perfectly embodies such precious Chinese virtues as courage, diligence, intelligence, selflessness, kindness, love of peace and devotion to society," said Leong Man Lin, a 52-year-old painter and sculptor from Macao whose 3.6-metre-tall golden statue of Goddess Mazu is one of the most eye-catching showpieces in the exhibition.

He also designed the largest jade and marble statues of Goddess Mazu in 1998 and 2001 in Macao.

"For centuries, Mazu culture has been a spiritual bond for Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. As an artist, I am willing to try my best to help Chinese people all over the world maintain this inner connection," he added.

"By presenting their works about the Goddess Mazu, the artists sing an ode to traditional Chinese virtues," said Zhang Zhenguo, a researcher from the Research Institute of Chinese Philosophy and Culture at Peking University.

Coinciding with the art show, a photo album of selected works from the exhibition has been published and released by the Contemporary World Press in Beijing.

Also, the shooting of a 20-part television series entitled "Mazu Qingyuan (A Love Story Blessed by the Goddess Mazu)" began in mid-October, with Li Jinbo as director and scriptwriter, at a film studio in the Chinese capital.

The art exhibition, which ends today, was co-sponsored by the China International Exchange Association, the Culture Market Development Center of the Ministry of Culture, the China Modern Culture Research Center, the China Council for the Promotion and Exchange of Chinese Culture, the Research Institute of Chinese Philosophy and Culture at Peking University and the Chinese Artists Association.

(China Daily October 28, 2002)