Photos of a statue of Chinese sea goddess Mazu making its way to Malaysia were shared widely on social media this week.
Seated in business class on a Xiamen China Airlines flight to Kuala Lumpur, the Mazu statue, together with her two accompanying deities, Qian Li Yan (eyes that see thousand miles) and Shun Feng Er (ears that hear from far), baffled fellow passengers.
Standing at 1.8 metres in height, Mazu was too big to go unnoticed.
Chinese and English media picked up the story:
This visit of Mazu is a significant event.
Since July 1, 2017, the statue has been travelling from the birthplace of Mazu — Meizhou, Putian, Fujian province of China — to various areas in Southeast Asia for the tour.
This is the first time in more than a 1,000 years the gods have made such a trip since the birth of the religion in Meizhou. The religion is said to date back to the Song Dynasty.
Making the rounds in Southeast Asia, the statues eventually found their way to Singapore.
In Singapore, Mazu followers celebrated her arrival on Wednesday night, July 5, and continued the rituals on Thursday.
Throughout the 100km tour around Singapore, she was escorted by 200 temple representatives and greeted with what looked like hundreds of devotees and possibly onlookers.
Her tour started from the western part of Singapore and made its way to the central and eastern parts.
After making eight stops at eight temples, Mazu finally ended her tour at the Thian Hock Keng temple at Telok Ayer Street, which is the oldest and most important temple to local Hokkiens in Singapore.
As this was also the first time the Mazu statue came to Singapore, the event was an important one.
According to Tan Aik Hock, chairman of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan’s general affairs committee, he told The Straits Times it felt “like a parent visiting her children”.
In Singapore, many of Mazu’s devotees are local Hokkien and Teochew people.
Although there are no official statistics for the number of devotees here in Singapore, it is estimated that Mazu has gathered more than 100,000 followers here.
Globally, there are more than 300 million Mazu followers, with most of them residing in mainland China and Taiwan.
Mazuism, which is the name of this religion, is currently most practised in Taiwan.
Top photo via here