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The Belief of Matsu ─Origins of the Belief

The worship of Matsu started in Meizhouyu in Putian, Fujian Province, and was first considered as a kind of witchcraft probably because of the stories about the life of Matsu. According to historical documents, Matsu was a female surnamed Lin from Putian. It is generally believed that she was born into a fisherman’s family. She was smart, sensible and fond of learning. With the ability to communicate with deities, she could tell the fortune of others and predict the weather. Along with a heart to serve others, she was respected by the locals and became a famous local fortuneteller.

When the worship of Matsu gained increasing importance as times went by, her status was also raised in local literature and records, with a myth in her birth.

According to the literature, Monian Mazu’s original name was immortalized at Shangmei Peak on the Double Ninth Day when she was twenty-eight. It is said that she often made her presence to help fishermen at sea after her ascendance. Therefore, people worshipped her to repay her help and made her a local deity. Born a witch that died as a deity, Monian became a belief spreading outside local areas as people began to spread words of her miracles. Gradually, Matsu became an important deity in the coastal areas in southern Fujian.

Traveling Soul Saves Her Father
There are countless legends and miracles about Matsu. From when she was alive until she was died, whether it is praying for rain or sunshine, driving away demons, saving people, removing epidemics, removing pest, fighting robbers, or helping people to put down rebellions, these legends and miracles are many and comprehensive, and cover almost everything.

It is said that Monian was an obedient and filial pious person since she was a chied. One day, her father and brother went fishing at sea, and she was helping out her mother weaving at home. Suddenly, she fell tired and slept on the loom. In her dream, she saw big waves flapping to the sky, and the boat of her father and brother was nearly swallowed by the sea. So she reached out her hands to grasp her father and brother and took them to the shore. When she woke up, she burst into tears, telling her mother that she accidently lost hold of her brother’s hand, and he drowned at sea.

When father returned home, he told Monian and her mother about the accident and the death of Monian’s brother in great sorrow. Although the mother knew that Monian did not lie to her, everything was too late. Monian wept sadly and swore to save all fishermen from danger at sea. There is another version for this story. Instead of her father, Monian saved her brother. Regardless of whom she has saved, this is the archetype explaining how she becomes the guardian goddess of the sea, highlighting the filial piety and virtue of a woman, and setting an example for later generations.

Lord Dadao Vs. Lady Matsu
Lord Dadao (大道公, Lord of Morality) is Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝, the Emperor of Life Protection). He was also called Wu the Immortal, and he was a great physician. Originally called Wu Ben, Lord Dadao and Matsu were both born in the Song Dynasty in Fujian. Probably due to the geographical and chronological proximities, the gods and goddesses in heaven wanted to make Wu and Lin a couple.

These two people came across each othen in ritual and started a romance. They even wanted to marry each other. One day before the wedding, Matsu accidently saw how painful the ewe was when she delivered a lamb. Thinking that she would suffer the same thing, she wanted to break off the engagement. Unable to resign himself to Lin’s breaking off the engagement, Wu called a rain with his magic to wash away Lin’s make-up to embarrass her when she made her tour on her birthday (23rd of the third lunar month) every year. Not resigning to playing the second fiddle, Lin also called a strong gale to blow away Wu’s hat to embarrass him when he made his tour on his birthday (15th of the third lunar month) every year. This is the origin of the Taiwanese idiom “Gale for Lord Dadao, Rain for Lady Matsu”. The fight between them never ended. In fact, this idiom aims to describe the windy and rainy weather in the third lunar month.

Matsu Catches a Bomb
The “Matsu Catches a Bomb”. is a popular Matsu legend found in different places in Taiwan and has become a miracle shared by all Matsu temples. However, the story has different versions.

According to the version of Hexing Temple in Beitou, Changhua, when the US troops bombarded the Japanese army in Hexing Village, a bomb did not explode. Later on, a US pilot claimed that he saw a lady in red clothes catch the bomb with her hands. Locals also discovered that the Matsu statue strangely lost one finger.

Although all versions are slightly different from one another, the subject matter remains unchanged: Matsu catches a bomb to save the people. Apart from reflecting the miraculous act of Matsu, these stories show the anxiety and helplessness of people in the war, and their expectation of salvation from supernatural beings.

Chienliyen and  Shunfenger
There are two generals standing next to Matsu. The one with a green face is called Chienliyen, who is named for his excel lent vision and the one with a red face is called Shunfenger who is named for his excellent heariig . It is said that both generals were monsters, the Peach Wizard and Willow Ghost, impersonating human beings. The Peach Wizard was called Gao Ming, and the Willow Ghost was called Gao Lan. Gao Ming could see things a thousand miles away, and Gao Lan could hear sounds in different directions. When King Zhou of Shang was in a war with King Wu of Zhou, Gao Ming and Gao Lan were helping King Zhou to victimize the commons. However, their tricks were resolved by Jiang Zhiya, the military advisor of King Wu. Finally, they were killed in the war, and their souls escaped to Mt. Taohua near Meizhou. After one thousand years of practice, they became wizards and did all kinds of evil things to make locals suffer.

With a public commission, Monian decided to capture them with her magic powers. Finally they were seized by Monian with her magic power. Later on, they became her generals. From then on, Chienliyen and Shunfenger served under Monian everywhere, helping her to save people with their specialties .
According to another source, Matsu was an embodiment of Avalokitesvara, Chienliyen watched the world for her, and Shunfenger listened to the world for her. The specialty of them is the name in Chinese (Guanyin, 觀音, literally to watch and listen) of Avalokitesvara coming to this world to save people from suffering.


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