When it comes to love and relationship, the image of Cupid emerges in our mind. Besides, in some western countries fountains are regarded a magical place to wish for love. Moreover, the former residence of Juliet has also been one of the most popular “pilgrimage sites” of love thanks to the masterpiece “Romeo and Juliet”.
In Taiwan, people believe in the existence of “red thread” (紅線 hóngxiàn), which is an invisible marriage thread tying two people destined to be together by 月下老人 Yuè xià lǎorén (the Matchmaker God, literal translation is “the elderly man beneath moonlight”).
Legend of Matchmaker God
This belief can be traced back to Tang Dynasty (唐朝 Táng cháo, 618AD-907AD). Legend has it that one evening a young student named Wéi Gù (韋固) saw an old man leaning against a big cloth bag and reading a book by the moonlight. However, he found that the book was blank. He was curious and thus asked the old man what he was reviewing.
Marriage book and red threads
The old man answered that it was the marriage book, which annotated the marriage of all the people in the world with details. Wéi Gù didn’t believe him and continued to ask about the cloth bag. The old man said the bag was filled with red threads. He used them to tie two destined people together, via their feet. No matter how far they were, how significant the difference between their economic situation, social status was, or if they hated each other, they would get married in the end.
Wéi Gù laughed and said, “If you really know everything about marriage, why not tell me where my future wife is?” The old man searched for a while in the book and told him, “That little girl will be your wife.” Wéi Gù looked over the direction that indicated the old man. He saw a lady holding a little girl with ragged clothes. “That girl?” Wéi Gù felt offended, thinking that the old man was teasing him. Out of rage, he sent someone to murder that poor girl.
The truth came to light
Many years later, Wéi Gù married the daughter of a local official. His wife was very beautiful but there was always one thing that bothered him. He noticed that she always used a piece of sequin to cover her forehead and never took it off. After asking many times, his wife finally told him the whole story. “When I was little,” she said, “a robber intended to kill me by knife when I was with my nanny. However, he only slashed my forehead and ran away. I was saved but there has been a scar since then. That’s why I always use a decoration to cover it.” Wéi Gù was astonished because it dawned on him that his wife was actually the little girl that he wanted to murder many years ago.
Since the mysterious old man didn’t leave his name to anyone, people therefore call him 月下老人 Yuè xià lǎorén or simply 月老 Yuè lǎo. He is believed to be the god of love and marriage, or the Matchmaker God.
Belief of the Matchmaker God
The Matchmaker God is always portrayed as a kind elderly man with white hair, a long beard and a scepter. Sometimes, the scepter can be replaced by a blank book or a bunch of red threads. Believers sculpt his idol and worship him in a Taoism temple.
Can the Matchmaker God help me, if so how?
As he is the Matchmaker God, you can ask him anything about your relationship or marriage. If you are not in a relationship, you can first describe to him what kind of person you are looking for, and then ask him to help you meet him or her as soon as possible.
If you are already dating someone or going steady with someone, you can ask him to verify for you if this person is your very own “meant-to-be”. Congratulations if the answer is a “Yes”, then you can ask him to help you two become husband and wife. But don’t worry if the answer is a “No” because he can also help you “finish” the current relationship and send your Mr. or Miss Right to your life. If you are married, you can pray for his protection and blessing for your marriage as well.
Where can I find the Matchmaker God?
The truth is, there’re plenty of temples of the Matchmaker God around Taiwan. Of course some of them are particularly famous and efficacious. For example, if you live in northern Taiwan, 萬華龍山寺 Wàn huá lóngshānsì and 霞海城隍廟 Xiá hǎi chénghuángmiào in Taipei are highly recommended. In mid-Taiwan, 樂成宮 Lèchénggōng in Taichung and 鹿港天后宮 Lù gǎng tiānhòugōng in Changhua would be your best choice. As for southern Taiwan, you definitely can’t miss 大天后宮 Dà tiānhòugōng and 土城正統鹿耳門聖母廟 Tǔ chéng zhèngtǒng lùěrmén shèngmǔ miào in Tainan.
What should I do when meeting Matchmaker God?
Normally you have to prepare incense sticks (線香 xiànxiāng), god money (金紙 jīn zhǐ) and sweets, because Matchmaker God is fond of sweet food. However, the sweets shouldn’t be too hard to eat since he is elderly. If there are other gods in the temple, out of respect, you are supposed to worship them, too. Or just following the worship route indicated by the temple also suffices.
When you are at the shrine of Matchmaker God, the first step is telling him your full name, birth date and current address to let him know who you are. Second, you should also tell him what your visit motivation is. After completing the worship route, you can return to the shrine to ask him questions.
Remember, in order to communicate with the God by casting moon blocks (擲茭杯 zhí jiǎo bēi, Taiwanese: bwa bwei), you can only ask Yes or No questions. Due to this there are only three possible results: yes, no, or laughing (means the God would rather not to answer, feels confused or is still thinking). Finally, before leaving the temple, don’t forget to burn the paper money for god.
Does it really work?
This may be the question on everyone’s lips. Despite the fact that many people share their incredibly successful experience online, let’s let the numbers do the talking.
According to 霞海城隍廟 Xiá hǎi chénghuángmiào, there’re around 6,500 couples returning to the temple to thank Matchmaker God per year. Among them, 95% are Taiwanese while the rest 5% are believers from other countries. If we take 2016 for instance, there were about 147,000 couples married in Taiwan. Approximately 4.5% of them were helped by the God in 霞海城隍廟 Xiá hǎi chénghuángmiào.
Not too bad, right? No consider all the other temples around Taiwan? Surely the percentage would be far greater if we consider the hard work of all the Matchmaker Gods in different temples around the island.
Apart from asking for love, those temples are all worth visiting since most of them are nationally recognized historical buildings. Moreover, it’s also a good way to learn about Taiwanese temple culture. So, why not pay a visit to Matchmaker God? Perhaps he can help you…
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