Taiwan boasts great diversity and tolerance in its religious environment. Temples and small shrines, in addition to churches and mosques, are seen all over the island-nation.

But what gods are commonly worshiped among locals? And what do people pray to them for?


Photo Credit: The News Lens/Nelly Wu

Matsu (媽祖)

Matsu (or Mazu) is a sea goddess worshiped by many Taiwanese seafarers. The festival for the goddess is a major event in the country, with the largest celebrations held at her temples at Dajia and Beigang, in central Taiwan.

The “Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage” is the highlight of these festivals. The annual 300-kilometer, nine-day walk has been recognized by UNESCO as a world intangible or living heritage, and millions participate in the event each year.


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Guangong (關公)

Guangong, or Guan Yu, was a general under the warlord Liu Bei during the Eastern Han dynasty. As a prominent historical figure, he is respected for his loyalty and righteousness. Guangong’s features include his red face and iconic blade, and the deity is worshiped in both large temples and small shrines in Taiwan.


Photo Credit: The News Lens/Nelly Wu

Tudigong (土地公)

Tudigong is also known as The Village Deity or The God of the Soil. The deity is portrayed as an elderly man with a long white beard in a black or gold hat and a red or yellow robe. He carries a wooden staff in his right hand and a golden ingot in the left.

The god is worshiped as the deity of wealth and fortune. People also honor him in their homes to ward off evil spirits.


Photo Credit: The News Lens/Nelly Wu

Guanyin (觀世音菩薩)

Guanyin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy, represents compassion and kindness. The goddess is regarded as the protector of women and children. She is also seen as a fertility goddess and one who relieves suffering.


Photo Credit: The News Lens/Nelly Wu

Chenghuang (城隍)

Chenghuang, or The City God, is a deity who protects cities and manages all the affairs of the underworld. Chenghuang temples are usually dark and in contrast to other temples that are often spacious and bright. People pray to Chenghuang for justice and safety, and one of the most popular Chenghuang temples in Taiwan is located in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan.

Editor: Edward White