Baishatun Gong Tian Temple





Baishatun Gong Tian Temple  


   Baishatun, once called “Baishadun”, is a coastal little town located beside the Western Railway Line. In Chinese, “Baishadun” means white sand-dunes. The town has its name because of the annual scenic beauty: every winter, the stiff north-eastern wind carries sand to the coast, leaving numbers of snowy white sand-dunes. That’s why the ancient settlers give the place such a poetic name.

   In addition to the natural scenery, Baishatun also has its historical importance. It is one of the earliest settlements in the region. Records have it that the history of Baishatun can be traced back to the mid-17th century, when some Chinese frontiersmen first reclaimed the area. In the late 18th century, streets were built and the population growing. Furthermore, it has been a major junction point between HsinChu and Dajia since the ancient time.







   Gong Tian Temple, the religion centre of people of Baishatun, was founded in 1863. Before then, there was no sacred place for the Baishatun Matsu (Mazu). The statue of Matsu (Mazu)settled in different families every year. The idea of building a temple flashed into the villagers’ mind. Hence, a straw house was constructed on a vast foundation. In 1930, a brick building replaced the old one. In 1935, an earthquake struck the Central Taiwan, and the structure of the temple was greatly damaged. Once again, devoted believers collected money and reconstructed the temple.

   The buildings what we see now were mostly set up after 1970s. Highly detailed coffers and decorations on them; Glorious golden walls with lanterns shining with maximum lightness; Beautifully decorated roofs with vivid embossments of angels, dragons, phoenixes, flowers and other creatures. All parts of the sacred temple make an tremendously awesome impression on visitors.

   The temple goes on a pilgrimage every year to Beigang . Due to close relationship with each other, Chao Tian Temple donated a welcome gate to Gong Tian Temple. The gate was set up on December 9th, 1995 and became a new landmark of Baishatun standing erect beside the Tai 1st road. The successive executive committees of Gong Tian Temple spared no pain to embrace the responsibility to propose the virtue of Matsu (Mazu)to the public and link up with the local resources to help with the public beneficence. In 2003, “Baishatun Cultural and Arts Festival” was held with the support of the cultural agency of MiaoLi County. The festival combined the local culture, property and religious activities. The festival attracted people from all over the country to go on a pilgrimage and thus helped Gong Tian Temple to blossom into a chief destination of tourism and religion in Taiwan.




The Baishatun Matsu (Mazu)

  The religion of Matsu (Mazu)in Baishatun started in the mid-Qing Dynasty. Just like many other villages near the ocean in Western Taiwan, the people of Baishatun naturally worshiped Matsu (Mazu)as their guardian angel. Their ancestors enshrined a cotton made Mazu in common civilian families before the temple was built. After the setup of Gong Tian Temple, the Matsu (Mazu), which was named Da-Ma by the residents of Baishatun, is also responsible for guarding the temple as well as leading all the believers on the pilgrimage path.

  The Matsu (Mazu)which was placed inside the shrine of the Gong Tian Temple seemed to listen to people’s wishes with her gentleness. It is said that the appearance of Matsu (Mazu)in Baishatun differs with different time, location and the point of view you take. Although the time of manufacture cannot be verified, this cotton made statue is delicate at its modeling, in addition to its joints between body and extremities can stretch freely just like a real human. The statue wears dragon gown, crown of queen and bow-shaped shoes, etc. Before the rite to start, people use chaff water to lave Matsu (Mazu)and then put on newly made clothes which was dedicated by the followers. When the act to dress and make up is over, the women who served Matsu (Mazu)will carry out bathing saint water” from the shrine. When the sacred water was brought out, believers always stampede forward, hoping to get a cup of the sacred water. According to the authentication by the experienced engraver in Lugang, the statue might come from authorities or the maestro from Tangshan (China). With regard to the chair of the statue, it was estimated that the statue has been made over two hundred years.

  When “Da-Ma”, the Baishatun Matsu (Mazu), goes to Beigang for rituals of incense-offering, the duty of guarding Gong Tian Temple falls on “Heimian Erma”(the “Second Matsu (Mazu)” with Black Face) and “Fenmian Sanma”(the “Third Mazu” in Pink Face). The statue of Second and Third Matsu (Mazu)are very amiably made. They are often invited to different families when the believers have some special festivities. Moreover, the Second Matsu (Mazu)also executes the rite of streets marching on the second day after Da-Ma comes back from Beigang. Wherever Matsu (Mazu)goes, crowds of believers try to worship the sacred palanquin fanatically.










The Ritual of Incense-offering

   The annual ritual of incense-offering to Beigang is a culturally important tradition of Gong Tian Temple and the people of Baishatun. Every year, on the 15th of the December of Chinese Calendar, the executive committee of the temple asks Matsu (Mazu)the exact time of every rite with “jiao”, which are two pieces of wood in half-moon shape.



Rite to start

   Three days before Matsu (Mazu)heading on the tour, the leading flag is hanged to proclaim that the ceremony is about to start. Locals, as the usual custom, do a three-day term of fast. Every evening, people come to the temple to give thanks to Matsu (Mazu)and her heavenly army. At the same time, their incense-offering flags are immersed in the smoke from the incense censer. This is said to be a important action in order to accumulate spiritual power, and thus a good protection will cover the pilgrims during the long joinery to Beigang.

   On the day of the rite to start, believers from all directions flock into the temple. They first kneel down to hear the priest reading an announcement, and then the statue of Matsu (Mazu)is placed into the grand palanquin. The palanquin wait at the front gate until “Shanbian Mazu”(the Submontane Mazu) from the nearby Houlong Township come to Gong Tian Temple. The boisterous sounds of gongs and drums are everywhere. At the exact time, a man will rush out the temple with the leading flag in his hand. Then, two Mazus start their long walk to Beigang Township together.



Jing Huo

The ceremony of “Jing huo” is also called “gua hue”, is the most important activity in the whole religious pilgrim. When the troop gets to Bei Gang suburbs, Mazu will stop at the station house of Bei Chang, waiting the followers gathering together, in order to move forward to the Chow Tian Temple. In the shouting sound by followers, “Jing oh, jing oh!”, the traditional palanquin moves forward and backward three times, and rushs into the temple lobby.

After the followers bath and take the rest at three o’clock, they gather to Chow Tian Temple to have the ceremony about thanking God, called “Bai Tian Gaong”. In order to express their gratitude to Mazu or so.

The Jing Huo ceremony is held by the abbot of Chow Tian Temple. Burning the gold paper into the “wan nian xiang huo” stove, and read aloud the scripture of “ji xiang wen shu”, in order to pray for the protection by Mazu. And taking the holly fire into the “huo gung” of baishatun in the “xiang dang”. Abbot will tap a strip of paper to prevent the fire put out. The pass on of the fire mean the xiang huo of Mazu will never stop, and the power of Mazu will also continue forever by this ceremony.



Back to the temple

 At the day of the ceremony of going back to the temple, Mazu go to an open ground at Tong Xiao. And hold the activity of changing palanquin and the ceremony of taking the first xiang. When passing through a place called Nei Dou and the station of baishatun, they stop for the followers as usual. Each and every family cooks and bring the meal to the follwers. When the time is right, the men who helds the flag will rush into the temple under the shouting of followers. And the palanquin will also get into the temple in the sound of “Jing oh, jing oh!”. Finally, they close the doors of the temple and let the Mazu out the palanquin, called “an zuo”.




   At the second day of finishing the religious pilgrim, they held the ceremony called “Roaming”. This ceremony is done with “Er Ma” not Mazu. The palanquin of Er Ma follows the “Bou ma tza”, the leading flag and the other palanquins, roaming the all community. Through this ceremony, all the residents in this community become more and more united. After the roaming, they start another religious ceremony called “Fung Bing”. They put the “En Chang Wu Ing Flag” in order to pray the peace in this community.



Rite to Distribute the Incense ash

   At the 12th day after the tour of incense offering, Mazu is placed in position again. After that all the followers incense Mazu, the staff of Gon Tian Temple will take the vat out of the shrine to distribute the incense ash (which is brought back from Chao Tian Temple, BeiGang) into the censers in the temple. Finally, the vat and the Leading Flag will be put away, and so do the followers’ incense offering flags, until next year’s border tour. In the end of the rite, people are regaled on dumplings (which stand for “perfection”in Chinese) to celebrate the successful tour of incense offering. So far the whole event is said to end.