(File pix) Hainanese clansmen carry a minature deity of Mazu through the streets of chinatown in Kuala Terengganu during the colourful Mazu Festival. Pix by Adrian David

KUALA TERENGGANU: The two-week long religious Mazu Festival, which kicked off here on Friday, has attracted thousands of devotees from across Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, China and Singapore.

Organised by the Terengganu Hainanese Association, led by its president, Heng Fook Suan, the festival honours the heavenly sea-empress, Mazu.

The festival commenced on Pulau Kapas, off Terengganu, in the South China Sea, where 3,000 devotees made offerings and prayers to the sea-empress.

“The entourage then returned to the Shahbandar jetty in town, and proceeded with a colourful procession that carried a giant statue of Mazu through the city centre and Chinatown. It ended at her abode at the Thean Hou Temple in Jalan Balik Bukit,” said Heng.

The temple, built in 1896 by immigrants from Hainan island, is located near the mouth of Sungai Terengganu, on the edge of Chinatown.

“There are nightly programmes like talks, cultural shows and operas on the history of Mazu at the temple, to honour her good deeds and ask for her blessings,” he said.

The Mazu Festival is proving to be a big attraction, especially for the ‘Visit Beautiful Terengganu Year 2017’ campaign, and was even graced by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.

“We are confident that the annual Mazu Festival will be a huge tourism draw and will keep the tradition going for decades to come,” said Heng, adding that the temple is a place for gatherings, reunions and worship of ancestral deities among the Hainanese clan.

“The main deity (here) is Mazu, often referred to as ‘the ancestral mother.’

“History has it that Mazu’s actual name was Lin Moniang. She was born in the year 960 in Meizhou in Putian county, Fujian province, China. She was said to be an excellent swimmer and believed to possess supernatural powers to protect seafarers and fishermen,” said Heng.

Mazu died in the year 987, and has since been remembered as “the lady in a red dress, who roams the seas.”

She is widely worshipped along the coastal regions of China and Southeast Asia, where she is referred to varyingly as mazupo (grandmother), tianhou (empress of heaven), tianfei (heavenly princess) and tianshang shengmu (heavenly holy mother).

Speaking on the Mazu Festival, Razif said that the state government is happy to highlight the event, as well as others which not only promote racial unity and solidarity, but the culture and customs of various ethnic groups in the country as well.

“Events like this will continue to attract visitors here, and will be included in our annual tourism calendar to further boost our revenue.

“The Mazu Festival is testimony to the rich history shared by us all, and will be remembered for generations to come,” said Razif.

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