Friday, May 24, 2013

月下老人, the Taiwanese god of romance

A few months ago in Chinese class we learned a little bit about 月下老人, or "the old man of the moonlight." He is worshipped in many temples in Taiwan and I first got to meet him in Tainan I believe.

His legend is as follows:
In the Tang Dynasty a man named Wei Gu found an old man sitting under a tree during a full moon. This man was holding a thick book and a bag full of red strings. Wei Gu asked this man who he was and why he had those objects. Yue Lao (月下老人) said that in his book is the list of all the marriages that have been/are/will be, and the red strings are used to bind soulmates together. Wei Gu didn't believe in Yue Lao's power so Yue Lao pointed out a nanny caring a baby. He said that the baby will be Wei Gu's future wife. Wei Gu didn't like that idea so he ordered his servant to stab the baby to death. Years later Wei Gu ends up marrying the baby, because she wasn't fatally wounded in the attack.

Now people pay respects to 月下老人 in order to ask him to help find their soulmates, or to help improve their current relationships. In Taipei there is one famous temple near DiHuaJie called 霞海城隍廟. This particular temple is famous for a faster working 月下老人. So I went to check it out!

This is the temple!
The first thing to do when you want to pay respects to 月下老人 is to go buy supplies at the temple. You get fake golden money that will be burned in an offering, some coins with a romantic inscription on them (also to be offered) and two sticks of incense.

Offerings
Special money for the god
You go to the main incense holder and bow a couple times towards the outside (in respect to God in heaven), then turn and bow twice towards the temple. Then you buy more supplies, this time you get a red string and a sugar concoction. The red string is the only thing you'll keep- everything else is given back to the temple for offerings. You take the fake money, coins, sugar and thread to where the statue of 月下老人 is placed and you stand for a few minutes silently introducing yourself and saying what you wish for. If you're looking for a romantic partner you say what you want them to look/be like; if you already have a relationship you voice your wishes towards that relationship. Then you bow twice and pay respects in the  same manner to the other gods in the temple.

This is where 月下老人is! Can you see him? He's on the lower left hand side.

At the very end you put your incense in the holder at the entrance to the temple and drink specially brewed tea and cookies. Then don't forget to take the red thread and holding it in your hand make a circle three times clockwise over the holder of incense. You have to keep this thread on you at all times after this, and once you get married you have to send special marriage cakes to the temple to thank 月下老人。
This is the incense burner at the entrance of the temple

This is the special Blessed Tea
My red thread is in this nice pouch and I keep it in my cellphone pouch all the time. ;)
So I found the temple a long walk from the nearest MRT station, no taxis were in sight that day. A lot of people were there and it was a really interesting thing to experience. I payed my respects to 月下老人 but I'm afraid he must not have understood my Chinese, because as soon as I left a local approached me and tried to ask for my phone number... Uh oh...

So what did I wish for and has my wish come true yet???? You'll see in the next entry! ;)

Here are some more pictures of the temple!
Even men came to pay respects! It's usually stereotyped that only women come here to worship.
 

2 comments:

  1. Hi did praying to yue lao work for u? :)

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  2. Well... I didn't really pray TO him. I prayed to my God when I was in that temple, but it did seem to bring me luck, so to speak. I got engaged just a few days later after visiting the temple!

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