Northwest Asia Weekly
Earlier this year, Felicity Wang prayed to Mazu, the Chinese sea goddess, while undergoing chemotherapy. Standing in front of 110 people at China Harbour Restaurant on August 30, she announced a step toward creating a park for the Living Goddess in King County.
“She’s like Jesus,” she said.
In 2015, Mr. Wang started the journey of establishing Mazu Park, but still faces many challenges.
But Wang Qingqing celebrated Sept. 9 as Jin County Mazu Day, and Jin County signed a proposed agreement with the North American Mazu Cultural Exchange Association, and both sides unfolded at the event.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said the agreement will “explore the feasibility of creating parks in King County.”
Describing Mazu as the “image of a loving mother” in traditional Chinese culture, he said: “As new immigrants come to the New World, they erect buildings to commemorate Mazu’s safe crossing of the sea.”
Turning to Wang, he added: “Many people now ask Mazu for other blessings.” He mentioned “world peace.”
The celebrations included many groups linked to China and some from Taiwan, apparently those in favor of stronger ties with China.
“The Mazu belief is a cultural bond that connects people of Chinese descent around the world,” Constantine said.
King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci echoed the theme, saying that Mazu “is a symbol of going beyond the boundaries of the world, protecting and helping people of different cultures.”
On top of the crowd noise and eating that is common in this environment, she said, she added, “We’re taking a big step toward our Chinese and Taiwanese communities — and truly Pan-Asian communities.”
In her opening remarks, Ms. Wang said the establishment of the park “is not political, it does not belong to mainland China, Taiwan or Japan, it serves the international community, and everyone who believes in her will be there.”
Ms Wang said in an interview that since she first proposed building the park, she has faced challenges along the way, including accusations by local park officials of trying to build a place of worship.
“But I found a document from the United Nations, in 2009, the organization declared that Mazu is not a religion, but a cultural tradition,” she said.
According to the regulations of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mazu culture belongs to the representative list of human intangible cultural heritage.
Described as a folk tradition rather than a religion, “belief in and commemoration of Mazu is an important cultural bond that promotes family harmony, social harmony and social identity for coastal Chinese and their descendants”.
Funding for the park will come from the World Mazu Association, which has members from as far away as Australia, Wang said.
Funds will also be raised at a temple on the island off the coast of China’s Fujian province where the woman later known as Mazu was born.
Zhao Qiliang, President of Shandong Mazu Cultural Exchange Association, delivered a speech in Chinese.
He called Mazu culture “excellent Chinese culture” and tradition as “our spirit” shared by overseas Chinese communities.
He said the association’s goal was to “promote culture, tourism and other activities”.
Construction of the park began in 2015, when Andy Kim, a former director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office of Taiwan’s unofficial representative office, began discussing Taiwan’s parks with King County, Wang said.
In 2016, Chin completed his term and was transferred. Wang continued to drive. She came to believe that dedicating the park to Mazu, an international cultural figure, would make it more likely.
When the pandemic hit, she was forced to stop her efforts. In 2021, she serves as the leader of the Seattle Mazu Association.
To her protest to local park officials about Mazu’s unbelief, one official responded: “If I approve this for you because it’s the first cultural park, then India will want one and Thailand will want one,” he said. .
Other arguments against the park include that parking would be a problem. One official, she said, was unhappy with local politicians supporting her plan.
“‘Are you using these politicians to pressure us?’ he said,” Wang recalled.
Originally, the park was intended to be built on a space in Bellevue’s Marymoor Park. But if it fails, Wang says another place will be found.
The park will contain a statue of the goddess 29 to 32 feet tall. One pavilion will contain cultural information. The complex will be called the Mazu Center of Compassion and Wisdom.
“We are willing to follow her spirit and take care of everyone like a mother takes care of her children, which can lead to a better and more peaceful life for everyone,” Wang wrote to Balducci.
As part of future events related to the park, Wang plans to visit Taiwan’s important Mazu temple, visit the birthplace of the goddess, and travel to India and beyond.
According to Wang, Mazu was originally a girl who rescued fishermen. In her later years, she died of rescue and ascended to heaven as a bodhisattva.
According to UNESCO, “Mazu is believed to have lived on the 10th century Meizhou Island, where she dedicated herself to helping her fellow citizens and died while saving shipwreck survivors”, according to UNESCO, there are 5,000 Temples all over the world and in private homes. “Followers may pray to God for pregnancy, peace, resolution of problems, or general happiness.”
That’s a theme raised by State Senator Bob Hasegawa.
“America is in a very difficult situation right now, and we are losing our way. Peace takes a back seat to fighting and heated debate,” he said in remarks at the event. “So I think Mazu’s attention and blessing to America is really timely. We really need to find a way to peace.”
Mahlon can reach [email protected].