According to the English portion of the visitors' brochure, Mazu was a real person. The brochure says that she was a doctor who saved the lives of people "suffering from disasters on the sea." Upon her death people began to seek her assistance and ask for her protection and eventually she became to be regarded as a deity. Her affiliation with sailors and fishermen made the Taiwanese quite fond of her - a wise move for a small island nation.
Liang made me be in this picture, as "proof" I had actually visited Taiwan.
After you light the incense and make the proper reverences, you can stick the long ends of the incense into the sandy cauldron bottom of this large censer.
A long-established port city, Mazu has been important to the city of Lugang for centuries. The central solid gold statue of Mazu was brought to Lugang in 1684. The temple was founded in, as the brochure says, "the past 321 years of the Republic of China, the 19th year of the Wan-Li Emperor." The temple was rebuilt/restored several times between now and then.
These are the equivalent of votive candles. Each little figure has a light over top of it: put your name on it, pay a fee, and the light is lit. These are more economical that votive candles, as the Catholic Church will charge you for a new candle every time. Presumably these little electric lights stay on longer.
There are massive hives of them.
There are so many gems from the visitors' brochure. This is the introduction:
After the human having the civilization, there are mythical legends. When the time changing, it forms the various religious culture. More, there is a lot of religious belief in the world do to the various nationalities. Chinese worship many nationality gods, and the mankind worship in order to worship naturally respectively. The mankind has benefaction before death because of their with great men of sages and men of virtue while worshipping, there are great works marks that leave virtue and justice and travel in human world and is respected regard as gods, respected and admire by people the most.