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Reconsidering the Role of Mazu under the Early Hongwu Reign

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The Case of Guangzhou in 1368

image of Ming Qing Yanjiu

The worship of Mazu, the Chinese Goddess of Sailors, began in Fujian, under the early Song. Migrants from that province gradually spread this cult to other coastal regions and among the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. The present article investigates one particular episode in the history of the Mazu cult. Its stage is Guangzhou and the period dealt with is the beginning of the Hongwu reign. In 1368, Liao Yongzhong’s troops moved to that city, putting it under control of Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming emperor. Local chronicles pertaining to Guangdong and certain other sources briefly refer to this event. They report that Liao promoted the worship of Mazu in that region and they indicate that Mazu received an official title in 1368, by imperial order. The Tianfei xiansheng lu, one of the key texts for the Mazu cult, provides different details: It associates the title granted by the imperial court with the year 1372, and not with the context of Central Guangdong. Furthermore, the attributes which form part of the title vary from one text to the next. The paper discusses these and other points, arguing there could be two different narrative traditions surrounding Mazu’s role in 1368/72: the Guangdong version and the “conventional” view, similar to the one found in Tianfei xiansheng lu. Although there is no definite solution for this dilemma, the article tries to expose the general background into which one may embed these observations.

10.1163/24684791-12340001
/content/journals/10.1163/24684791-12340001
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2016-03-01
2018-01-22

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