Over 900 people from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and Southeast Asian nations attended a ceremony on Thursday to mark the 1,046th anniversary of the birth of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, at Meizhou Island off East China's Fujian Province.
Nearly 1,000 worshippers performed a variety of worshipping activities such as local music and traditional dance in ancient costumes before showing respect to the statue of the goddess.
Sea goddess Mazu, worshiped in coastal areas in southeastern China, was granted the title of Tianhou (celestial empress) by an emperor from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The legend of Mazu began 1,000 years ago and it told of a young woman who sacrificed her life to save seafarers during storms.
Mazu was believed to have been taken to Taiwan during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when Zheng Chenggong, a famous general, recovered the island.
Taiwan, with three quarters of its population believing in Mazu, has around 800 Mazu temples.
There are more than 4,000 Mazu temples in over 20 countries and regions and there are 200 million Mazu followers worldwide.
The Mazu Temple in Meizhou Island, however, is believed to be the ancestral Mazu temple and one of the largest in China. About one million tourists visit the temple every year, including 100,000 from Taiwan.
(Xinhua News Agency April 21, 2006)