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Chinese Spirituality on the Sea

[ 8 ] January 16, 2011 |

The sea, a mighty force that equally can bring prosperity and bring danger; and in China there is thought to be one way to make sure the sea brings only prosperity and no danger and that is to pray and leave offering to a deity of the sea.

In sea side towns and cities throughout China, Hong Kong and Taiwan whole temples are dedicated to the praise of the sea, to get luck from the sea, to stay safe on the sea.  These temples known as Tian Hou (Goddess of Seafarers) are extremely important to these seaside communities as it’s thought that praying and leaving offerings will give you luck and keep you safe.

People write messages to hang on the Xu Yuan Shu (wish tree) at Qingdao’s Tianhou temple in hopes of bringing luck to their lives.

Qingdao’s Tian Hou temple built in 1467 is built in the classic Ming Dynasty style of the time and is a great example to Ming architecture that still exists in Qingdao today.

All around the temples courtyard beautiful intricate lanterns hang low from the tree’s, the tassels blowing softly in the sea breeze.

Incense and candles are burnt in offering to the Goddess of Seafarers similarly to the offering of incense in many other beliefs including Buddhism and Taoism.

This praying figure stands at the gate of the main temple beckoning you to come in and seek your own luck on the seas.

Sok Kwu Wan Tian Huo Temple Lama Island

On Lamma Island, Hong Kong this Tian Hou temple is believed to bring luck to the people of the small sea side village of Sok Kwu Wan.

Pak Tai Temple, Stanley, Hong Kong

This cliff side Taoist temple at the seaside town of Stanley on Kong Kong Island much like the Tian Hou temples of Qingdao and Lamma Island is all about worshiping the deities of the sea.  This temple specifically worships Pak Tai the deity of fisherman in the Taoist religion.  The temple was built in order to protect the people of the nearby fishing village from the might of the sea.

Pak Tai temple, Stanley, Hong Kong
People leave offerings of fruit, incense and tea to Pak Tai in hopes of staying lucky.

Like Catholicism is intertwined into the culture of Rome, Tian Hou and Taoism is intertwined into the culture of China’s seaside communities.  In China, spirituality on the sea is what these people believe brings in the boat overflowing with fish, is what calms the weather and is what saves people from the dangers of the mighty sea!

Each week there will be a photographic Glimpse into a new place.  Too make things interesting I’m looking for contributors to share there own Glimpse into a destination.  If you have a Glimpse you want to share send me an email using the contact form with an overview of the Glimpse and a link to your blog or flickr photostream.

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Category: China

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include,, and now View author profile.

Comments (8)

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  1. Adam Axon

    Great Glimpse Sash!

    I’m curious, how do the religious elements of such temples, with goddesses and the likes square with the Communist rule over China?

    From what I’d been lead to believe religion wasn’t too favoured by Communist ideals.

  2. Sasha says:

    Thanks Adam :) .The government doesn’t mess with religions (besides Tibetan Buddhism) these days like they did back in the cultural revolution. Now days many of the temples that were destroyed during the cultural revolution have been restored to their former glory and religions such as Taoism and Buddhism is again very important to Chinese culture. Basically if you can make an offering and pray for money the Chinese like that, most restaurants and shops will have small Statue’s of some money deity to bring them luck, I bet most of the communist leaders have them to!

  3. Andi

    What beautiful places!
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..Happy New Year!!! =-.

  4. Sasha says:

    They truly are stunning! And no matter how many temples I visit I still can’t get enough of them, the atmosphere, the architecture, the culture and everything to take pics of! :)

  5. Adam Axon

    Thanks Sash, great little insight! :D
    .-= Adam Axon´s last blog ..Unplanned Hiatus =-.

  6. Sasha says:

    No problem :) I think that’s a whole post in the making, your question has inspired me!!! :)

  7. Adam Axon

    Awesome, look forward to it! I love to inspire :D

  8. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

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