As cross-strait travel was not allowed at the time, the five Matsu statues from Matsu’s hometown became a pilgrimage destination and through massive donations from pilgrims, the temple decided to build a three-story building recounting the story of Matsu’s life, Chen said.
On the building’s first floor, visitors can see a statue of Matsu with a human face, which represents Matsu before she became a goddess, Chen said. The second floor houses a black-faced Matsu statue which was made from 4.5 tonnes of black jade from Canada, he added, which represents the spirit of Matsu when she leaves her body to save people. On the third floor sits a golden Matsu statue made from 198kg of gold, which represents Matsu at the time of her ascension.
Chen said the golden Matsu is also nicknamed “the smiling Mazu,” because legend has it that it looks as if the goddess is smiling when looking at the statue from a particular angle, “and people believe that Matsu will answer your prayers if you see her smiling.”
After visiting the Matsu temples, a seafood meal can be enjoyed along the main street dotted with seafood restaurants right in front of Nantien Temple.
Nanfangao is also the most important mackerel port in Taiwan.
“The major season for mackerel is from September to about February, and the quality of the catch is very good in Nanfangao,” said Chen Chun-chieh (陳俊傑), owner of a local seafood processing plant.
“Nanfangao supplies more than 90 percent of the mackerel in the Taiwanese market,” he added.
Also on the main street is a former iron works factory, San Gang Iron Works Co, which has been turned into a museum for local history and culture, and is worth a visit to learn more about Nanfangao, Chen Chun-chieh said.