Faith in Taizhou

( | Updated: 2018-11-29

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With various deities and religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism believed in, different patron saints are worshipped in different activities. The gods and the Buddha are adored in daily lives, and those in adverse situations beg for the gods’ help by praying for peace, luck and exemption from troubles.

In the past, land deity temples were distributed in rural areas with various unknown deities being worshipped there. There are temples for gods in charge of easing floods in towns near water. In the coastal areas there are Mazu temples for people to pray for peace on the sea, as well as the temples of fishery gods for good harvest in fishing. The dragon king is worshipped in droughts to appeal for rain and plays are staged when there is a fire disaster to pray to the god of fire. The founder of every trade is adored and the god of fortune is universally worshipped by business men and residents.

Temple fairs were usually held at Dongyue Temple, Town God’s Temple, Emperor Guan Temple, Temple of Yang’s and King Yu’s Temple on the birth or death anniversaries of the gods, when folk amusements such as plays, performances and stilts were staged to entertain them. The vendors would also get together to form markets.

There were various activities of worship throughout the year. On the eighth day of the first month of the lunar year, women would travel to all the major temples in the area to pray for luck. There were also quite a few customs during the lantern festival on the fourteenth of the first month of the lunar year. During the night women went to the temples to pray. Women long married but failing to conceive would ask her confidante to tie her to a citrus tree or a pomegranate tree and beat her gently with branches while saying prayers. The children would shake bamboo in bamboo forests, praying for growth. Young wives and girls would perform a ritual to forecast family affairs. In some areas people would throw seven black beans onto the roof beams in the hope of avoiding mice. On the night of the eighteenth of the first month of the lunar year, when people thought the dragon should return to the Heaven, dragon dances would be performed on the streets at late night, sacrifices offered at the altar and then the dragon would be burnt. On the night of the thirtieth of the seventh month of the lunar year, the birth anniversary of the King of the Inferno, who was deemed a kind deity concerned with the sufferings of the people, incense would be burnt in every household. On the day of Great Heat, in Jiazhi town, Jiaojiang district, a 15-meter wood boat containing various sacrifices would be sent off to the port in the ebb tide in the hope of bringing peace, and if it came back to the port with the rising tide, it was not a good omen.

Yin and yang, witchcraft, horoscopes, selecting and forecasting lucky days and fengshui were also practised, with witches and wizards sought to convey gods’ messages. When people were ill, the gods were worshipped in the hope of getting rid of the disease.

A lot of folk beliefs have been fading away, with some extinct and the majority of worshippers now being senior women. In the 1950s, the temple fairs were replaced by trade fairs organized by the commercial authorities and were gradually abandoned.