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Tin Hau Temple, Joss House Bay, Hong Kong - 大廟灣 天后廟



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This Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay - 大廟灣 天后廟 , HK is the fourth of my Powerpoint series on Chinese architecture. The others were the Forbidden City - Beijing , Cheng Hoon Teng – Chinese temple in Malacca and the Nan Lian Garden – Diamond Hill Hong Kong.

This temple is unfamiliar to most who live in Hong Kong. This is because of temple is situated at a very remote location, in Hong Kong. There were no village around. In the past you can only go to the temple by boat but in recent years a new road was built near the temple, linking it to the Clear Water Bay.

The most interesting thing about this temple is that it has a very long history, some 800 year old much longer than the present building. Personally I know the temple very well. I went there every year when I was a kid, on the Tin Hau festival. It was not so much for the religious pilgrimage but as a day in the country having a picnic on the hills with family and friends. The Chinese attitude toward religion is much more pragmatic than dogmatic, at least as far as the general population is concerned. It has more to do with rituals than beliefs. To me the temple is a testament to the developing maritime trade in China during the Song Dynasty some 1000 years ago, when the Silk Road was cut off from China. Many of the maritime trades then were inter-provincial trades rather than the overseas trades.

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Tin Hau Temple, Joss House Bay, Hong Kong - 大廟灣 天后廟

  1. 1. First created 19 Mar 2014. Version 1.0 - 29 Mar 2014. Jerry Tse. London. Tin Hau Temple All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. Joss House Bay (Fat Tong Mum), Hong Kong Architecture
  2. 2. Chinese Religion The meeting of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Temples that worship the three beliefs are called the Three Saints Temple. Chinese religion is made up of three main components :- Buddhism, the Chinese version is called Zen (Chan), which put more emphasis on meditation as the path to enlightenment. Taoist (Daoism), derived from the ancient mythical ethics, philosophy of Laozi, with emphasis in harmony & balance. Folk religion, the worship of folk heroes, ancestors, nature etc.
  3. 3. Tin Hau 天后 (also Mazu 媽祖) Legend Tin Hau 天后 meaning the Queen of Heaven also known as Mazu 媽祖 (also spelt as Matsu) is the Chinese patron of the Sea, who protects seafarers. She is widely worshiped in south-eastern coastal region of China (Zhejiang, Fujain, Guangdong) and Taiwan. Tin Hau temples followed the Chinese immigrants to other countries like Australia, the west coast of USA and all over Southeast Asia. Like many gods and goddesses in the Chinese folk religion, Tin Hau began life as a mortal. She was born in 960 (Song Dynasty), in Mezhou 湄州 in Putian Country 莆田縣, Fujian province, at the time when the Chinese maritime trade took off. Her name was Lin Monlang 林默娘 and she was born into a family of fisherman. According to the legend, she fell into a trance at home one day, while her father and brothers were swamped in a rough sea. She ran to the shore and prayed for the lives, while pointing to the direction of the family boat. The incidence ended with the return of her father and 3 of the 4 brothers, while all other fishing boats were lost. An idol of the goddess in the temple..
  4. 4. Distribution of Tin Hau Temples (in numbers) One third of the world‟s Tin Hau (Mazu) temples are in Taiwan. Most of Tin Hau temples are concentrated in the Southeast coastal region of China. There is no Tin Hau temples in the interior of China. (source – Wikipedia).
  5. 5. The Tin Hau Temple at Joss House Bay (Fat Tong Mum), Hong Kong The Tin Hau Temple at Joss House Bay has a very long history dating back to 1266, during the Song Dynasty. It was built only 279 years after the death of Tin Hau by Lam Tao-yee and his brother. They were salt merchants from Fujian, who gave thanks to Tin Hau after survived through a stormy journey at sea.
  6. 6. The temple overlooks the sea at Joss House Bay, with an unobstructed view to the distant mountains on the east side of Hong Kong island. Most Tin Hau temples were built by the shore to allow the passing seamen easy access. The oldest temple in Hong Kong founded in 1266
  7. 7. On the left is a copy of the stone carving (1274) at the site of the Tin Hau temple. The carving was made by the three officers of the Salt Administration from Quanzhou, which was the main seaport of the Song Dynasty for the southern maritime trade at the time. This is the oldest stele on the Guangdong coast.
  8. 8. On the 23 March on the Lunar calendar, is the festival of Tin Hau, which celebrates her birthday. It is an important day for the Tin Hau temple in Joss House Bay. Fleet of decorated ships converge from different points in Hong Kong to worship Tin Hau at the temple. Convoy of junks sailing to Tin Hau temple. 1968 Ferry 1981. Ships mooring in the bay. 1981. Boat 2012. Historic Tin Hau Festival photos
  9. 9. On the day of the festival upwards of 40000 to 50000 people worship in the temple. Taken in 1981. Historic Tin Hau Festival photos
  10. 10. Pilgrims took to sampans to reach the beach. 1968. Large crowd of pilgrims at the festival. 1981. Pilgrim paying for a face wash, in hot weather. 1981. Pilgrim burning offerings at the temple. 1981. Historic Tin Hau Festival photos
  11. 11. The temple was rebuilt in 1925 and restored 1963.and 1990. It is thought that the first temple on the site was built in 1266, making it one of the oldest Tin Hau temple site in China. The forecourt of the temple with its offering burners and alter. During the festival most of the worships were in the forecourt. There is not enough room inside the temple.
  12. 12. The two-hall architectural plan can be clearly seen from the side of the temple. It is complicated by two rows of five rooms, making up each ‘hall’. Architecture Design
  13. 13. Architecture Design Note how the front hall is integrated with the back hall with a covering roof and a pavilion on top for the smoke to escape.
  14. 14. The Terrace The terrace was built, providing a large forecourt for worships outside the temple.
  15. 15. The Terrace There are two large incinerators in the forecourt for burning paper offerings to the goddess. .
  16. 16. The Roof and the external decorations Two dragons on the main ridge of the roof. Note the roof is covered with green glazed tiles not yellow tiles as in the Forbidden City. Chinese dragon has a pearl in its mouth, here represented by the two red balls.
  17. 17. The Roof and the external decorations A mythical beast on the roof to ward off evil spirits. This one has two large boar-like tusks.
  18. 18. The Roof and the external decorations A mythical beast on the main ridge of the roof with a fish body and a dragon‟s head with its tongue sticking out.
  19. 19. Entrance decorations Four characters above at the entrance, with the words “Let Peace be in the Country and its people” . These 4 words are often found at the entrance of other Chinese temples.
  20. 20. Who are these three persons painted on the porch with „official hats‟. Are they the three officials of the Song Dynasty from Quanzhou? What is in the pot? Could it be salt?. Entrance decorations
  21. 21. A small carved stone lion on the porch to ward off evil spirita. This one is the male with a ball under his paw.. Entrance decorations
  22. 22. Guardians on the door holding their weapons. There are banners of verse under two red lanterns. The banners described Tin Hau as the mother from the Putian County and her blessings. Entrance decorations
  23. 23. External Front As part of the temple there is a small shrine at the corner for Buddhist worshippers.
  24. 24. Floor tiles at the entrance to the temple. The Entrance
  25. 25. A screen at the entrance, the top panels were carved with figures of the 8 Immortals (Taoist gods). Entrance decorations
  26. 26. Beautiful wood carvings on the top of the screen. Entrance decorations
  27. 27. The interior of the main worshiping area. Note the curly incenses directly under the pavilion to allow the smoke to escape. The Interior
  28. 28. Ready-made paper offerings of treasures on sale to the pilgrim for worship . The Interior
  29. 29. The bell was made in 1840 confirming the restoration of an old temple on the same site. The Interior
  30. 30. The main altar in the temple with Tin Hau accompanied by two attendants. Note the registry in the front for worshipers. The Interior
  31. 31. Tin Hau always dressed with modified emperor crown with pearls and an operatic head dress, instead of the Phoenix Crown (for queens). The Interior
  32. 32. The drawing of a dragon with five claws behind to show that the temple was restored by the order of the Qing emperor to restore all Tin Hau temples. The Interior
  33. 33. In the temple there were two wooden models of gunboat, with a shine of Tin Hau and sails. The Interior
  34. 34. In front of the main altar were two sets of figures – Tin Hau‟s demon aids and two female attendants. The Interior
  35. 35. Tin Hau has two aids (or generals). They are always depicted as demons – the “Thousand Miles Eyes” ( 千里眼 ) and “With-the-Wind Ear” (順風耳 ) to help Tin Hau to keep an eye and an ear on the seafarers. The Interior
  36. 36. A female attendant as part of the entourage of Tin Hau, holding a fan. The Interior
  37. 37. Apart from Tin Hau altar, a minor goddess The Fairy of the Golden Flower (金花娘娘) also has an altar here. She is the Patron Saint of Child Birth, worshipped mainly in South of China, Guangdong, Guangxi etc. The Interior
  38. 38. Embroidered silk banners donated to the temple by the faithful. The Interior
  39. 39. A story telling relief panel on the wall, decorated with flower motifs painted just under the ceiling, together with a row of decorating roof tiles. The Interior
  40. 40. The moon gateway to the admin part of the temple. The Interior
  41. 41. This moon gateway leads to other shrines in the temple. The Interior
  42. 42. An altar for the Laughing Buddha or Budai, identified as an incarnation of Maitreya, the future Buddha. He is always depicted as an obese, bald man wearing a robe. He represents contentment in the Chinese culture. The Extensions
  43. 43. The painted top of the Laughing Buddha altar.. The Extensions
  44. 44. An unusual feature of the temple is this roof pavilion which unites the outer and the inner halls to form a single continuous space. The pavilion is also used as a vent for the incense smoke to escape. The Extensions
  45. 45. A story telling plaster relief on the wall. The Extensions
  46. 46. This is the bedroom of Tin Hau, with an altar for the goddess. The faithful believes fumbling lotus seeds under the colourful guilt in the bedroom (also called the Dragon Bed) will bring babies to the family or red envelopes of lucky money (Laisee) will bring them prosperity in the coming year. The Extensions
  47. 47. Finally, by the doorway as we left was the shrine of the Location god, who is the guardian of the locality. Their shrines is always situated near the floor. He is entrusted with the task of carrying messages to other gods.
  48. 48. All rights reserved. Rights belong to their respective owners. Available free for non-commercial and personal use. Music – Ava Maria – Album Guitar Mood The End Painted guardians on the entrance door and the view of the Joss House Bay facing the temple.. Dedicated to my brothers and sisters.