Luermen Matsu Temple was built in 1661 (15th year of Yungli, Ming Dynasty) to mark the spot where Koxinga made his landing in Taiwan. The temple houses the very statue of Luermen Matsu that Koxinga prayed to aboard his ship for a successful landing. The temple is now a famous tourist attraction. Records of the temple existed as far back as the early Qing Dynasty – it appeared in a “Map of Ancient Taiwan during the reign of Kangxi Emperor”, and was denoted by the Chinese characters “媽宮 (Ma Gong Temple)”, which was a term commonly used during the Ming Dynasty to refer to temples devoted to the Goddess Matsu. The Matsu Temple Community of Hsiengong Village, Annan District, Tainan City, is named after the Luermen Matsu Temple.
According to evidence and research, the Ming-style carving and regalia worn by Luermen Matsu strongly suggests that the statue was created during the Ming Dynasty, such as the “Shoulder-breadth Phoenix Headdress” worn by imperial consorts during the Ming Dynasty, the through-carved, adjustable and detachable “Mao Chi (two wing-like flaps of thin, oval shaped boards on each side of the headdress)”, “Cloud Shoulders”, “Gold Embroidered Dragon Robes”, “You Ren (where the lapels of the upper garment are overlaid to the right)”, the Ming-style throne, cinnabar paint, the “Ruyi” seating position, the face of a Bodhisattva, and the “Heavenly Consort” hairstyle. The statue is carved from 1000-year rosewood, and the dragon on the dragon robe has emerald inlays for eyes. The throne of the Goddess features branches, leaves, and eight lions – all carved from the same piece of wood, and is a national treasure. In the olden days, the statue had its own precious casing, which attests to the claim that Koxinga built the temple in honor of the Goddess Matsu.
The Ming Official-style statue of the Goddess Matsu originated from the Yongle Period of the Ming Dynasty during the era of Admiral Zheng He; the Qiantang Matsu Temple features text written by Admiral Zheng He himself, detailing how the Goddess helped him to win battles in Southeast Asia. Emperor Yongle commissioned a temple to be built in honor of the Goddess Matsu in southern Longjiang (Zheng He’s hometown), and that Spring and Autumn rituals would be held to honor the Goddess. This explains the origin of the Ming Official-style statue of the Goddess Matsu. Zheng He and Koxinga were relatives, and their respective decisions to embark on Ming Treasure Voyages in the South China Sea and cross the Taiwan Strait were great achievements of their era. This was why Koxinga decided to call upon the help of the Goddess Matsu in Zheng He’s hometown to aid him in his expedition to Taiwan.
The “Temple Notes” section from Volume 9 of Chen Wen-da’s “Taiwan County Chronicle” published in 1720 reads: “Chinese officials donated their salary to build the Matsu Temple in Luermen in 1719. The front hall is devoted to the worship of the Goddess Matsu, the Rear Hall is devoted to the worship of the Goddess Guanyin. Both halls are covered with pavilion roofs, and six rooms are built on either side of the temple to house monks who take care of the temple grounds…”. This is by far the earliest historical record. Subsequent entries include: “The temple was rebuilt by Division Commander Aisintai in 1801 (5th year of the reign of Emperor Jiaqing). The temple was rebuilt in 1856 (5th year of the reign of Emperor Xianfeng) by Taiwan Division Commander Shao Lian-ke and various officials such as Tseng Yuan-fu, together with donations from merchants including the three great merchants (Su Wan-li, Jin Yong-shun, and Li Sheng-xing). The statue of the Goddess Matsu was temporarily relocated to the house of a civilian in 1871 (10th year of the reign of Emperor Tongzhi) when Zengwen River changed its course and destroyed the temple. The temple was rebuilt in 1946, and again in 1977, which is how it appears today. Its full name is the “Luermen Matsu Temple”.”
(Text and Image courtesy of the Orthodox Luermen Matsu Temple)