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Tianhou Temple, Chiwan

This article was originally published on July 23, 2010, in the Shenzhen Daily.
The information was accurate at that time, and may be outdated now. Use with caution.

The main hall at the Tianhou Temple, Chiwan

The Tianhou Temple (or Tianhou Gong, 天后宫) at Chiwan is the largest of its type in Guangdong. Dating back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), the temple was really "put on the map" by the Ming admiral Zheng He.

Wishes hang on Zheng He's tree at the Tianhou Temple
They say that in the early 15th century, Zheng's fleet encountered a storm in the Pearl River Delta, and Tianhou, Goddess of the Sea, saved them. Zheng had a tree planted at the temple in thanksgiving. Tianhou then appeared to the emperor and told him to build (or enlarge) her temple at Chiwan; a more prosaic version says that Zheng himself initiated this appeal.

The name Tian Hou actually means "Empress of Heaven"; she is also known as Mazu ("Maternal Ancestor"), a name which through a misunderstanding came to be applied to Macao, where there is a major Mazu temple.

Sadly, the Sun and Moon Ponds with their statue of Tianhou are gone.
When you visit today, there are several eye-catching attractions. Note the Sun and Moon ponds (representing Yin and Yang) at the south end of the grounds; the sea used to be just beyond the wall, where a freight yard now lies. [The last time I visited, these ponds were gone.] Two or three halls in the area house small museums.

The Drum Tower outside the temple's main gate
Just north of the [non-existent] ponds are the quaint bell and drum towers, and the main gate with its ornate dragon columns. Model boats are parked in the gate, reflecting Tianhou's assistance to sailors and fishermen; and rooms just inside the gates hold statues of deities donated by those who could no longer house them.

The main gate with its dragon columns
The central courtyard features a turtle pond, an incense pavilion, a well, and the afore-mentioned "wishing" tree.
A worshipper in front of statue of Tianhou in the main hall
Finally, in the main hall, see the Lady herself with her attendants, the demon-faced generals who can see and hear a great distance. Also, on the side walls, are exquisite paintings of the Eighteen Arhats, usually associated with Buddhism.

You can reach the temple on buses 226 or 355; or now you can take the Shekou Metro line to the last station, Chiwan, and walk west. There is a 15 or 20 rmb admission fee.

Another article in the Shenzhen Daily:  "The largest Tianhou temple in Guangdong"

Other nearby sites are discussed in the article "A Walk in Chiwan."

GPS Info:
  •  22.478632, 113.892399


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