World ? Asia ? China ? Hong Kong

Tin Hau Festival


Seafarers praise Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)

Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB)
18 Apr 2009 (various dates)
Link:
Tin Hau is the Chinese goddess of the sea, making her particularly significant to the sea-dominated city of Hong Kong. The fishing town of Sai Kung is at the heart of the celebrations for the goddess' birthday, although the festivities reverberate around the towns and villages of Hong Kong.
Every year traditional rites are observed at community temples, but more eye-catching are the colourful parades of floats, fireworks and lion dances and the sailing of hundreds of multicoloured junks and sampans in Victoria Bay and beyond. Tin Hau's birthday is celebrated to bring safety, fine weather and full nets to the fishermen, who adorn their boats with colourful ribbons, offerings and other symbols of devotion.

The boats, clad in gaily-coloured decorations and streaming pennants, make their way toward the many Tin Hau temples. Most of the flotilla heads towards the biggest temple, Da Miao (the Great Temple) in Joss House Bay in the New Territories. There they make their offerings, pay their respects and pray for a bountiful and safe year ahead.

The origins of Tin Hau are diffuse but popular belief is that she was born the sixth and youngest daughter of a Sung dynasty (AD 960-1279) mandarin named Mo Niang, lived in a small fishing village called Pu Tien in the Fukien Province on the south-eastern coast of China and is supposed to have endeared herself to sailors from a very young age through an uncanny ability to predict the weather. Born in the the eighth year of Emperor Yuen Yan's reign (1098), it wasn't until early days of the Ch'ng dynasty (1644-1912), about 600 years after her death, that the benevolent Emperor K'ang-hsi (1654-1722) canonised her with the title "Queen of Heaven" and mother of all boat people and sailors.

Tin Hau is supposed to quell the seas, allowing bountiful hauls for fishermen and keeping sickness away from all seafaring types. It is said that Mo Niang could walk on water if supplied with a straw mat, so elaborate mats are woven as offerings for this day.
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