More than a century and a half ago, Chinese immigrants who had just arrived from Fujian province would make their way to Thian Hock Keng temple’s dimly lit halls to offer incense to sea goddess Mazu, thanking her for their safe voyage to Singapore.
This week, to much fanfare, a 1.5m-tall statue of Mazu from China’s southern Meizhou Island landed on these shores for the first time.
Yesterday, thousands of devotees streamed into the temple in Telok Ayer Street to offer prayers to Mazu, whose statue had been placed there the night before. These days, devotees pray to her for peace, protection and good health.
Earlier this week, photos of the statues of Mazu and her two guardians, Qian Li Yan and Shun Feng Er, being flown on four business-class seats from China to Malaysia went viral.
The statues were accompanied by the Meizhou delegation.
This Mazu statue is significant because Meizhou is thought to be the native home of Mazu.
Mr Tan Aik Hock, chairman of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan’s general affairs committee, said the statue’s arrival in Singapore felt “like a parent visiting her children”.
“This is the first time Meizhou’s Mazu has come to Singapore. It’s a rare opportunity for us to promote a cultural exchange and spread Mazu culture, the Mazu spirit.”
He added that many Singapore temples had temporarily moved their Mazu figurines to the Thian Hock Keng temple so devotees could pray before several Mazu statues at the same time.
On Wednesday, devotees ferried the Mazu statue to several temples and to the Boon San Lian Ngee Association before arriving at the Thian Hock Keng temple.
Devotee Chia Peng Siong, 83, who works as a cleaner, said worshipping Mazu has kept him safe and helped him tide over some rough times. “When we pray to Mazu, we feel at peace,” he added.