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Name: Tian Hou Temple, Chiwan, Shekou, Nanshan, Shenzhen, Guangdong, PRC
Main figures:  Tian Hou (also commonly called Mazu)
Other figures:   Chien Li Yen and Shun Feng Er, four more attendants, Guan Yin, Cai Shen, Eighteen Arhats
"History": The first temple was completed on this site in 1410.  It is said that the famous admiral-eunuch Zheng He was commissioned by emperor Zhu Di to "sail west."  Reaching the Pearl River Delta near Chiwan, the fleet encountered a storm and was enabled to carry on.  Tian Hou appeared to the emperor, saying it was she that saved the fleet, and that the emperor was to built a temple near the site to show his thanks.  Thus the temple was built, and the Wish-Giving Tree in the courtyard (or perhaps its ancestor?) was planted by Zhang He and his staff.

The temple has since been destroyed and rebuilt several times, most recently by the Shenzhen Municipal Government in the 1990's.


Please note: This page is still in development.  The notes are therefore sketchy, and not all picture links have been completed.  Please scroll to the bottom of the page to enjoy the pictures.

Chiwan Six Road runs along the north side of the temple.  As you get off the bus here, you are facing the back of the temple.  On the right is a gate that leads to a circular drive.

Pay the 15RMB entrance fee at the ticket office and continue all the way into the grounds, passing the side gate to the temple compound and reaching the large statue of Tian Hou standing between two ponds.  (The office/classroom on the right as you pass includes a small museum; be sure to visit this later.)

The wall behind the large statue was formerly the sea wall; it now blocks one's view of a shipyard.  The ponds on her right and left are unusual in shape: they are the Sun and the Moon, representing yin and yang, with the Goddess standing at the balance point.

Away to the left as you face the statue are an aviary and a second museum; visit these later.

Turning around to face the Main Gate, you will see two towers, a Drum Tower on the left and a Bell Tower on the right. (Unfortunately, you may also see a lot of parked cars!)

The Main Gate has several interesting features:  The attractive dragon-bedecked pillars, the two Men Shen, the large model boats (representing Tian Hou's role as a patron of sailors and fishermen), and the rooms inside that are home to Donated Deities.

Stepping inside the gate, immediately in front of you is a well.  Legend says that the well is inhabited by the spirit of a young boy who drowned in it.  On either side of the well are the incinerators for ghost money, decorated with beautiful images of the Eight Immortals on the two lateral front panels, and a dragon and a phoenix on the back panels.

To the left, you will see an enclosure for turtles, and the incense pavilion where 14- and 28-day coils of incense are burned for the ancestors.

To the right, a small Tu Di Shrine rests under the Wish-Giving Tree mentioned above.

Straight ahead is the Main Hall, with censers and offering tables in front of it, and offices and classrooms on either side.

The Main Hall has three bays and three constellations of figures, the largest by far being that of Tian Hou herself.  She is guarded by the two great generals Chien Li Yen and Shun Feng Er, whose postures indicate their abilities to see and hear far.  She is flanked by rather unusual representations of the two figures of the "Golden Boy" and "Jade Girl" often associated with Chinese gods, and especially with Guan Yin; the girl holds gold, and the boy a sword.  She also has two "serving girls" (holding fans?) whom I haven't been able to identify.

On the left Side Altar is Cai Shen; on the right is Guan YinTo the right of her, in the corner, is Tian Hou's bed and bedroom furniture, used in the yearly celebration of her birthday.

Along the walls of the Hall are paintings of the Eighteen Arhats of Buddhism; chim for telling fortunes, and moon blocks for divining "yes" or "no," are found on the table in front of the main image; a fortune teller is often on hand, and purchases of offerings (incense, oil, paper goods for burning, etc.) can be made at the side counters.  

This is the first non-Buddhist temple I visited in China, and the one I have visited most frequently.  I have learned a great deal from visiting here.  For example, although this is a "folk" temple, the music played is usually a chant dedicated to "Amitofo," the popular Amitabha Buddha.  That Buddha's name is used in greeting, as it is in Buddhist temples; and the fine paintings of the Eighteen Arhats add to the "Buddhistic" presence in this place.


Details to be added soon! 
Getting there:   The temple is located in the port area of Chiwan in Nanshan District.  Many buses in Shenzhen go along Shennan Road; take one of these buses (for example, #204) to Nantou.  There, transfer to #225.  Tell the attendant: "Tyen ho myow."  (Rhymes with "Men throw cow.")  After 20-40 minutes (depending on traffic) this bus will go past the "Sea World" (Hai Shang Shi Jie) area on Taizi Road; you can recognize this by the large cruise ship anchored there.  Leaving the commercial district, the bus will enter an industrial area.  Just as it begins to enter another more commercial district, about 10-15 minutes after leaving the Sea World area, you will see the gate to the temple on your left.  Shout "yo sha!" and get off there.

Also in the area:

Song Shao Di Mu, the Tomb of Song Shao, Last Emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty.  (Also mentioned on the A Day in Chiwan page)

Zou Pao Tai, or the "Left Old Fort," seen on the A Day in Chiwan page.

About the photos:   All photos on this page are copyright 2005 by James Baquet

See also the following associated pages:

Picture Panels at Tian Hou Miao:
Dragon, Phoenix, and the Eight Immortals

The Main Hall: Interior Figures

The Main Hall: The Eighteen Arhats

The Bell and Drum Towers (Details)

Discarded Statues: Sixteen Arhats


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The Approach

The Outer Gate The Driveway The Side Gate


The Outer Courtyard

The Outer Courtyard The Outdoor Tian Hou The Sun-and-Moon Ponds


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The Aviary The Drum Tower The Bell Tower
See this page for details of towers

The Main Gate

Men Shen (left) The Main Gate Men Shen (right)


A Model Boat Pillar (Detail) Discarded Statues

The Inner Courtyard

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The Left Incinerator The Well The Right Incinerator

Around the Courtyard

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The Turtle Pond The Incense Pavilion


The Wish-Giving Tree The Tu Di Shrine

The Main Hall

See this page for details of the interior


The Exterior The Interior




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