Continuing on our walk of Los Angeles’ Chinatown, we ecountered a Taoist temple, the Thien Hau Temple, also known as Chùa Bà Thiên Hậu in Vietnamese and as Tiān Hòu Gōng (天后宫) in Chinese. It is a popular tourist attraction as well as a place of worship.
This was, in fact, about three quarters of the way through our walk around the Chinatown area but I wanted to dedicate a blog post just to the temple.
Sadly, I don’t know very much about Taoism. This temple is dedicated to Mazu, the Taoist goddess of the sea and patron saint to sailors, fishermen, and to anybody else associated with the ocean. Also, Guan Yu, the god of wars, brotherhood, and righteousness. And Fu De, the earth god.
I am sure all the images have some significance of which I am not aware. But like any kind of art or architecture, you can enjoy looking without knowing what everything means.
The temple is affiliated with the Camau Association of America, a local benevolent, cultural and religious association primarily serving the local Chinese-Vietnamese refugees from Camau Province, Vietnam. The group also supports Chinese, Vietnamese, Teochew and Thai Chinese communities.
The interior of the temple is pretty amazing. I don’t know what I expected, but certainly not this… something more like the simplicity of the local Buddhist temples I am used to.
The next few photos are interior shots. I was surprised how well my Canon Rebel operated in this low light with my shaky hand and no flash, just ambient light! Just a tiny amount of sharpening in Photoshop but no other adjustments.
Thien Hau Temple is festively decorated on the commemoration days of various deities, especially Mazu. I don’t know if the fruit and flowers were part of such a festival or if it is always decorated like this.
On the eve of Chinese New Year, members from various communities gather to receive blessings and to burn incense in worship of the deities. Lion dancers perform and firecrackers are popped in order to scare away evil spirits. Representatives from over 25 family associations headquartered in Chinatown and other communities are present to light the firecrackers at the stroke of midnight.
Many people come to the temple during the first week after New Year to receive a blessing for the year. On the concluding day of the New Year celebrations, people come to the temple to pray and beckon Mazu for blessings and protection for the rest of the year.
Even though my camera did pretty well, because of the low light, my unsteady hand and my lack of understanding of my equipment, some of the photos are not as sharp as they should be. My apologies. Even the sharpen tools in Photoshop can only do so much!
The original building was an Italian Christian church located within what was formerly Little Italy. The building was purchased in the 1980s. Under a strong faith-based community in and outside of Chinatown, the temple was able to raise enough money to build a larger temple hall. Construction of the new temple was completed and dedicated on September 2005.
I couldn’t find a website for the temple so most of my information came from a Wikipedia article.
Please click on all the photos for a larger view.
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