Studies of Tianhou-Mazu cult have been focused on three themes: studies in Taiwan emphasize hegemonic order; studies in Hong Kong reveal a relationship of “sisterhood” alliances; and studies in Singapore highlight the important role of ethnic groups. The rebuilding of the goddess’s ancestral temple in early 1980s and her acquiring a world intangible cultural heritage status in the early twenty-first century facilitate the redefinition of overseas Chinese’s religious affiliation. The purpose of this paper is to discuss this global development of the cult from the 1980s and its ritual implication in overseas Chinese communities.Design/methodology/approachThis paper, by comparing the Tianhou-Mazu cult in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asian Chinese settlements, argues that from sisters to descended replicas, or from local alliances to global hegemony, the cult of Tianhou-Mazu since the 1980s has not only replaced local culture with an emphasis on “high culture,” but also represents a religious strategy regarding local people’s interpretation of correctness and authority.FindingsThis paper argues that despite the imposition of hegemonic power from various authorities, popular religion is a matter of choice. This reflects how local religious practice is construed according to the interpretation of global cultural languages by the elite Chinese; their decision of when and how to reconnect with the goddess’s ancestral temple or the “imperial state,” or to form alliances with other local communities; and the implementation of the local government’s cultural policy.Originality/valueThis paper is one of the few attempts comparing development of a folk cult in various communities.
Asian Education and Development Studies – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 6, 2020
Keywords: Hegemony; Sisterhood; Tianhou-Mazu cult; Globalization