http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00227

Mazu belief and customs

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): China

Identification

Description

As the most influential goddess of the sea in China, Mazu is at the centre of a host of beliefs and customs, including oral traditions, religious ceremonies and folk practices, throughout the country’s coastal areas. Mazu is believed to have lived in the tenth century on Meizhou Island, where she dedicated herself to helping her fellow townspeople, and died attempting to rescue the survivors of a shipwreck. Local residents built a temple in her honour and began to venerate her as a goddess. She is celebrated twice each year in formal temple fairs, when Meizhou residents, farmers and fisherfolk temporarily suspend their work to sacrifice marine animals, venerate statues of Mazu and enjoy a variety of dances and other performances. Smaller worship ceremonies take place throughout the year in the other 5,000 Mazu temples around the world and in private homes; these may involve floral tributes; candles, incense and firecrackers; and evening processions of residents bearing ‘Mazu lanterns’. Followers may implore the god for pregnancy, peace, the solution to a problem or general well-being. Deeply integrated into the lives of coastal Chinese and their descendants, belief in and commemoration of Mazu is an important cultural bond that promotes family harmony, social concord, and the social identity of these communities.

Documents

Decision 4.COM 13.18

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: The Mazu belief and customs have been recognized by the communities concerned as a symbol of their identity and continuity and passed down for centuries from generation to generation;
  • R.2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to ensuring visibility of intangible cultural heritage and raising awareness about it at the international level, thus promoting cultural diversity and human creativity;
  • R.3: The nomination includes various current and intended efforts to ensure the viability of the element such as research, awareness-raising and the establishment of a safeguarding organization, and demonstrates the commitment of the parties concerned to safeguard the element;
  • R.4: The nomination was initiated by community organizations, village committees and Mazu temples that participated in the nomination process by providing relevant literature and cultural relics, reviewing the content of the nomination, accepting interviews and planning safeguarding measures; their free, prior and informed consent is provided;
  • R.5: The element is inscribed on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage administered by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture.

Slideshow

Video


© 2008 First Mazu Temple of Meizhou

These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website