Lying to the north of the estuary of the Meizhou Bay, 42 kilometers from Putian City, Fujian Province, Meizhou Island is known for being the birthplace of Matsu (or Mazu, the indigenous Goddess of the Sea), and considered as the “Oriental Mecca”. Pilgrimage and beach vacation are two good reasons to visit Meizhou Island.
Meizhou Island is the second large island of Putian city, covering an area of 16 square kilometers. The island is 9.6 kilometers long from south to north and 1.3 kilometers wide from east to west, in the shape of eyebrow. Its coastal lines extend 30.4 kilometers, in addition to 13 golden sandy beaches with a total length of 20 kilometers. Jiubaolan beach located in the southwest of Meizhou Island is a must-see. Its soft sand and clean sea have earned the beach the nickname “China’s Hawaii.”
Ewei Stone Park, a cluster of amazing stone landscapes located in the south of the island, is also worth seeing. The stones are of various shapes, such as a frog, turtle, axe and carp, which are all vivid and lifelike.
Temple of Mazu on the island, which was first constructed in 987 during the Northern Song Dynasty, is the ancestral temple of all the Mazu temples in the 26 countries and regions around the world, and it is also the birthplace of Mazu culture. Mazu, born in 960 A.D., was called Mo (silence) because she never cried until one month old. When she was 16, a celestial being gave her a bronze talisman, and from then on she grew in supernatural powers and wisdom. Mo ended her life at age 28 and her spirit began appearing to ships in distress and guided them to safe haven. From then on, grateful fishermen worshipped her as the Goddess of the Sea.
Nearly 200 million people in the world believe in Mazu. Each year on the 23rd day of the third lunar month which is Muzu’s birthday and the 9th day of the ninth lunar month which is anniversary of her death, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, especially from Taiwan, flock to Meizhou Island to visit the temple and worship Mazu. Therefore, Meizhou Island is considered as the “Oriental Mecca”.
Traces of Mazu worship can even be seen in Meizhou Islander’s daily life. Some women still show their respect for Mazu by wearing the Mazu hair style, in which hair is coiled on the back of the head like a ship’s sail. This is to honor Mazu, and to invoke their husbands’ safe return from the sea. Meizhou women also wear half-red, half-blue or half-black trousers. Only half of their trousers are red because they think they are just ordinary people and are unworthy of the Goddess Mazu’s all-red trousers.
Mazu Festival will also be held on the 23rd of the third lunar month (late April) and 9th of the ninth lunar month (early October). During the festival, various kinds of activities are held, such as worshipping Mazu, holding the symposiums on Mazu culture and organizing the exhibitions and sales of arts and crafts. You can also appreciate folk songs and dances and taste delicious Fujian Cuisine.