Nanyin performance at the Tainan Grand Matsu Temple
The Tainan Grand Matsu Temple is a major religious and tourist site in Tainan. Almost any visitor to Tainan would have heard if not visited the place.
Behind this first class historical monument is a tragic story of shattered ambitions, sacrifice and political resistance.
The Ming Tragedy
After the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644, the surviving Ming princes and loyalists established several resistance fronts in southern China.
These movements are collectively referred to as Southern Ming and the last of these to fall was the Kingdom of Tungning, 东宁王国.
This Kingdom was founded by Ming loyalist, Zheng Cheng Gong, 郑成功 (also known as Coxinga or Koxinga) in Taiwan after he ousted the Dutch. His son invited a Ming King, Zhu Shu Gui, to Taiwan as a symbol of their resistance movement.
Upon his arrival, a palace befitting the Ming royalty was constructed for his family. Despite the loyalist’s best intentions, the third ruler surrendered when General Shi Lang invaded Taiwan in 1683.
The surrender dashed all hopes to restore the Ming dynasty and the Ming King chose suicide rather than surrender to the Manchus.
When his 5 wives knew of his plan, they hung themselves in the palace bedroom. Today, the five ladies are honored in the Five Concubines Temple also in Tainan.
Mazu and the Manchus
General Shi Lang having claimed Taiwan for the Manchus quickly dismantled possible centers of resistance and the Ming King’s palace was converted into a Mazu Temple.
Dedicating the temple to Mazu was propaganda to win hearts and minds as understanding the importance of Mazu worship to the locals, the Manchus claimed the sea goddess helped them to “recover” Taiwan.
When the Manchu Emperor evaluated Mazu a new title as the Empress of the Heaven in 1684, the temple name changed to today’s version.
Under the rule of Manchus (Qing dynasty), discussions of Ming dynasty especially that of the Southern Ming resistance movement was almost impossible, if not dangerous.
Transforming the Ming king’s palace into a Mazu temple incidentally protects an important site of southern Ming history for future generations to remember a tragic chapter in Chinese history.
Center of religion, history and arts
The Tainan Grand Matsu Temple went through various restorations and today, it is a major center of Mazu worship. Many other deities and historical personalities are also worshipped including Mazu's parents and siblings, Ming King Zhu Shu Gui, Qu Yuan, Water Deities, Old Man under the Moon, Guan Yin. Ssee bottom of the page for detailed list.
It is also a center of traditional arts such as the Nanyin. In 1985, Tainan Grand Matsu Temple was listed as first class historical site.
The temple is an important cultural and religious site for Taiwanese and overseas Chinese while attracting busloads of tourists from all over the world.
The convergence of Southern Ming history and Mazu culture make this temple a unique site worth visiting for anyone visiting Taiwan.
Tainan Grand Matsu Temple
No 18, Lane 227, Sec 2, Yongfu Rd,
West Central District, Tainan City 700
Taiwan (R.O.C) www.tainanmazu.org.tw