Explore Chiwan Tianhou Palace

The scenic fort in South Nanshan

Tianhou MuseumNanshan Museum

Tianhou, formerly known as Lin Mo, was born on the 23rd day of the third lunar month in the first year of the Jianlong period of the Northern Song dynasty (960) in Meizhou, in the city of Putian, in Fujian province.

Tianhou was born into a world full of chaos—the Tang dynasty had just come to an end, the Song dynasty had just been established, and there was a lot of conflict. In particular, Fujian, which is on the coast, was fragmented, and war was raging, so ordinary people were unable to lead peaceful lives.

According to legend, Tianhou was a delightful young woman who was sent from heaven to the chaotic human realm to teach people.A poem in Mazu Chuan testifies to this: "Tianhou was originally up in the heavens sitting in the sky and managing heavenly affairs. The world was thrown into chaos, and the people of the world that she cherished turned to her."

Volume 3 Geography Gazetteer of the Gazetteer of Xin'an County states that "The Chiwan Scenic Fort in South Nanshan is a towering beauty with two wings of lush greenery within the Tianhou Palace.In front of the sea and its waves that stretch as far as the eye can see, Lingdingshu Peak stands like a screen overseeing wonders. The Goddess is very responsive and any ships passing by will pray to her." 

Tianhou MuseumNanshan Museum

According to the Gazetteer of Bao'an, the Tianhou Palace in Chiwan comprised over 20 buildings in its heyday, containing over 120 houses and covering an area of more than 900 mu. The hall was majestic and magnificent with a beautiful temple, and was the largest Tianhou Palace in the coastal Guangdong region of China, with 99 Taoist schools.

There are only a few ruins left of the temple now, and the original site has long been destroyed.With the official sea ban in the Qing dynasty, there were to be no people within 50 li of the coast.In 1662, a large number of people from Xin'an moved to Dongguan and the Tianhou Palace fell into a state of disrepair.It was not until the county was reinstated in 1684 and people returned to the area that the palace was slowly rebuilt.


This is the shanmen at the Chiwan Tianhou Palace. The shanmen is equivalent to a temple gate separating heaven and earth.In front of the shanmen is a bell tower to the left and a drum tower to the right, where the bell and drum are placed.

Shanmen usually have the head of a dragon entering on the left and a tiger exiting on the right. This is taken from the folklore of The Left Dragon and the Right Tiger, which dictate positioning and direction in feng shui.The shanmen in the middle is there for deities and emperors, and is only opened for large annual ceremonies to let ordinary people exit.

In olden times before science had been developed, fishing and cargo boats would worship Mazu, as well as Qianliyan and Shunfeng'er, believing that this would control the fate of the people on board the boat.

The qilin is a symbol of fortune and longevity, so qilins are placed in front of temples and places of worship.

On the left is a qilin and on the right is a phoenix. The phoenix is carved here wearing peonies, which symbolize nobility, while the phoenix symbolizes good luck, so together they suggest wealth, happiness, and peace.

This is the underground dragon well at the palace, which is thought to be from the Ming dynasty due to the Daming bricks that it is made of.

Due to Xin'an's sea ban and the relocation of the borders, the temple was abandoned and a tree fell on it.However, a parasitic tree slowly grew on the old fallen tree, and this new tree is known as the wishing tree.

The three halls are the main hall and two side halls. They all have different architectural styles.The main hall in the middle has the highest hipped roof, and the side halls have East Asian-style hip-and-gable roofs.

Tianhou MuseumNanshan Museum

The mythical beast on the roof of the Chiwan Tianhou Palace is led by an immortal riding a phoenix. According to legend, during the Warring States period, King Min of Qi was chased by the King of Yan and General Leyi to a riverside. Just when he had no means of escape, a phoenix flew by and he turned to the phoenix to save himself. 

It holds the meaning of turning misfortune and desperation into good luck and auspiciousness.Other mythical beasts have similar meanings, and they all represent an auspicious blessing to the building.

The column foundation is a type of Chinese architectural construction, commonly known as a plinth plate or column foundation stone. It is the supporting stone plinth that takes the pressure of the roof column.Looking at the size of these foundation stones, you can get a sense of the scale of the palace.

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