Heavenly Empress Palace (Tianhou Palace)
The Heavenly Empress Palace (Tianhou Palace) is located in beautiful Quanzhou City in Fujian Province. It is the earliest A-Ma (also Mazu) Temple and is known as 'Wenling Sacred Temple'. The temple complex covers a large area and is of the highest architectural standard. It is the first A-Ma Temple to be listed as one of China's National Key Cultural Relics Protection Sites.
The legend has it that A-Ma was the daughter of a kind and helpful local villager living in Putian County of Quanzhou. Her mother had wanted to have another son to continue the family line. However, the baby was a girl, who when she became an adult was determined to remain single and to help other people throughout her life. She concentrated on studying medicine to prevent illness, cure the sick and save lives. So the villagers built this Temple in her memory and a place where a celebration in her honor could be held each year. The emperors in past dynasties worshiped her as Goddess of the Sea or Heavenly Empress (Tianhou in Chinese).
The Heavenly Empress Palace covers an area of nearly 9,000 square meters (about two acres). It was constructed in 1196 during Song Dynasty. As the years passed, many of the buildings in the palace complex such as Mountain Gate, Opera Stage, Bell and Drum Towers, Western and Eastern Gallery fell into disrepair. However, they have been restored in recent years.
Now the wooden construction of the main hall is well preserved. There are fine carvings on the doors and windows, and there are very many decorative features. The carvings and decorations are pictorial symbolizations of the essence of Taoism. The highest point in the main hall is the roof ridge and at both ends there are two dragons playing with a pearl decorated with multicolored porcelain. The design theme for this main ridge is paintings of dragons (Da Long Ji). The four corners of the ridge ends bear a phoenix design. The phoenix and the dragon have an auspicious meaning and celebrate longevity. This kind of design reached a high point in the architectural art of Fujian Province.
The Mountain Gate features an ornamental archway. The carvings with soft and elegant lines are painted and the pillars are decorated with stone dragons. The whole structure is magnificent and spectacular. The Opera Stage has a coping made of wood and the engraved ridge of the coping is small and exquisite. The coping is in the unique artistic style of Quanzhou.
Quanzhou was one of the biggest ports handling foreign trade during Song and Yuan Dynasty. Since Putian, the hometown of A-Ma, is administered from Quanzhou, the A-Ma culture has spread overseas to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao with the development of foreign transactions and very considerable immigration.
|Admission Fee:||CNY 5|
|Best Time to Visit:||April to November|