Orthodox Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple
The history of Orthodox Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple 廟宇沿革
Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple is located in what was previously the Taijiang inland sea on the southwestern coast of Taiwan, to the north of Bei-Wei island. By the 12th century, fishermen who lived on Bei-Wei and Luerhmen islands had built a shrine to Sheng Mu.
In 1661, the Ming general Zheng Cheng-kung (also known as Koxinga) planned to invade Taiwan to use it as a base to resist the Qing Dynasty and restore the Ming family to the throne. Upon arrival, they found the tide too low to enable a surprise attack. While waiting for the tide to rise, he took a small boat to scout the enemy’s fort and unexpectedly found the Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple. After offering incense and praying to the Sheng Mu, Koxinga marveled at the sight of the sea level rising higher than usual, allowing his navy to sail to the the Dutch fort at Chi-Kan. Afterward, he established his kingdom in Taiwan and rebuilt the Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple, to thank Sheng Mu for her help.
In 1831, the Temple was flooded and the foundations of the temple were washed out due to a severe thunderstorm. The statues of Luerhmen Sheng Mu and hundreds of other gods were forced to move to the nearby Hai-An Temple. Plans to rebuild the Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple were constantly thwarted by flooding, so the statues were kept in Hai-An Temple for eighty-seven years.
In 1912, Fu-Mei Temple in Cyuanjhou City, China, built a boat that was to serve as a kind of floating temple. The people believed that god would live on the boat and direct the boat wherever god wanted to go. This kind of boat is refered to as a “king ship.” Sometime later, the people of Hai-Ling Temple on Penghu Island found the boat floating eastward. The island residents gathered around the king ship, making offerings to it and praying that it could stay permanently to protect them. Priests from the temple divined god’s will. This divination revealed that the god wished to visit Luerhmen Sheng Mu temple; it needed to keep sailing east to provide blessings to the people there. In mid-July, the king ship was found floating near Luerhmen harbor. Lacking resources to worship the king ship, the fishermen of Luerhmen pushed the ship back to the ocean. No matter how many times they pushed the ship away, it would simply float back the next day. On the fourth time, as the fishermen tried to push away the ship at night, loud music suddenly burst out from the ship, and the whole ship lit up. Frightened, the fishermen stopped pushing the ship. Later on, priests again divined the will of the goddess Matsu. They revealed that the king ship was invited here by Luerhmen Sheng Mu to protect the residents. With great reverence, the villagers held a big ceremony to welcome and worship the king ship with offerings and flowers.
In 1914, the elders of the town of Tucheng (in modern-day Annan district), close to Luerhmen proposed rebuilding the temple for Luerhmen Sheng Mu the following year. The local worshippers also began excavating temple relics from the original site. Cooperation between the elders and the locals enabled the construction to be completed in 1916 in its location in the downtown of Tucheng. The statues of Luerhmen Sheng Mu and other deities, including the king ship were finally returned from Hai-An Temple to the newly built one. Religious belief in Sheng Mu then became widespread all over Taiwan and overseas. Sheng Mu became known as the “Mother of Luerhmen.”
Rituals and rites 宗教儀式
Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple is near the seaside and Matsu is also the sea goddess. During the Qing dynasty, three prominent Taiwanese families who dominated international trade were conducting their business in Luerhmen and had taken over the management of the Temple there. These families held the first Lu-Erh Men ghost offering to release the souls of all those who had departed during sea battles and shipwrecks. The ghost offering has since been the centerpiece ceremony held at Luerhmen Sheng Mu Temple right up to the present day.
Failing to fulfill the needs of the increasing number of believers, in 1975, the temple board decided to raise funds for an expansion, and six years later, the third rebuilding project was completed. The majestic temple was built according to the style of the Forbidden City in Beijing and is now known as the “Greatest Sheng Mu Temple in the Far East.” Make sure you plan your itinerary ahead of time and spare plenty of time for a visit to the temple. The ornate decorations of the temple and the folk religious rituals are found nowhere else in the world.
No.160, Cheng’an Rd., Annan Dist., Tainan City 709, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
06 257 7547