2016 UniSIM Cultural China Public Lecture
From Mazu Worship to the Procession of the Deities: A Public Lecture on Chinese Folk Beliefs
On 29 October, Business China, SIM University and Lianhe Zaobao jointly organised the 2016 UniSIM Cultural China Public Lecture held at SPH Auditorium, attracting some 450 guests in attendance.
Mr Wang Luxiang, host of Phoenix TV’s Cultural Kaleidoscope programme, was the keynote speaker for the lecture themed ‘From Mazu Worship to the Procession of the Deities: A Public Lecture on Chinese Folk Beliefs’. Sharing the stage with Mr Wang as fellow panellists were Mr Tan Chai Puan, Director of the Chinese Association, Johor Bahru, and local veteran journalist Mr Toh Lam Huat who also moderated the discussion.
Mr Wang Luxiang kicked off the lecture by introducing the origin of Mazu. He elaborated that Mazu was a lady from the Northern Song Dynasty named Lin Mo. With reference to her given name “Mo” (默), which means silent in Chinese, Mr Wang inferred that Lin Mo might be born with mutism. According to the earliest texts on Mazu which first appeared in the Southern Song Dynasty, it could also be implied that Lin Mo used to practice sorcery.
Mr Wang further explained that the widespread of Mazu Worship only began 100 years after the demise of Lin Mo. Once, an official of the Song Dynasty had to make a voyage to Korea. However, during the journey, seven out of the eight ships sunk and the people believed that it was Mazu’s blessings that the only ship could survive. Subsequently, Mazu Worship started to gain recognition and popularity.
On the topic of the procession of the deities, Mr Wang described it as a festivity that allowed people to present their offerings to the deities and had them join in the celebration. He iterated that such activities could only thrive in a "big society but small government" environment. In fact, the seemingly disorderliness and derangement of the procession is the epitome of social vitality, he added.
Mr Wang also remarked that the procession of the deities in the Teochew region during the early 1900s could be seen as a music festival in modern context. However, the large-scale event was put to a halt for 64 years due to various reasons before it resumed two years ago in 2014.
On the characteristics of Chinese folk beliefs, Mr Toh Lam Huat elaborated that the Chinese adhere to the ideas of "respecting heaven and honouring ancestors" (敬天法祖), with “practicability” being the common denominator. He also added that Chinese beliefs have different “schools of thought” and they could be playing the role of passing on moral values, maintaining order, instilling ethnic identity to name a few.
Mr Tan Chai Puan, on the other hand, shared a brief history of Johor Bahru’s procession of the deities. And on the significance of Chinese temples in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Mr Tan regarded them as a shelter for livelihood and an embodiment of history. He also added that the temples have since evolved to become the guardian of Chinese heritage and culture.
The UniSIM Cultural China Public Lecture series is jointly organised by Business China, SIM University and Lianhe Zaobao. The series aim to invite international speakers, experts and professionals to present different facets of Contemporary China, thereby promoting understanding of China’s opportunities, challenges and hopes.
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