媽祖搭台,經濟唱戲

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1995 / 4月

文‧蔡文婷 圖‧薛繼光


人口只有三萬五千人的湄洲島,因為朝拜媽祖的熱潮,每年平均要湧進一百萬左右的外地遊客。這不僅促使湄洲島的開發,也帶動了整個莆田地區的旅遊事業。


對於觀光資源十分缺乏的莆田市而言,最引人的景點、也是世界上獨一無二的特色,就是媽祖信仰的人文旅遊了。

一九八八年開放赴大陸探親,也同時展開了媽祖朝聖的熱潮,湄洲島因而在同年被福建省闢為「地外開放旅遊經濟區」。三年前,更為中共國務院批准為全國第十一個「國家旅遊度假區」,媽祖的神威可見一斑。

你講台語也會通

在每年百萬人次的旅遊人數中,十分之一為台灣的朝聖團,是莆田市旅遊業者的最大客源。為了使遠地而來、尤其是以朝聖為主的老年團客人可以聽懂導遊的介紹,莆田市湄洲島旅遊公司特別培訓了三分之二的導遊小姐,讓「你講台語也會通」。

說是旅行團,實際上是進香團。團員除了在遊覽車上聽講媽祖生平、傳說及廟群建築沿革,下了渡船上了岸也就只顧著拜拜了。不過對當地的旅行業者而言,帶這類純拜拜的旅行團反而得應付更多突發狀況。

「進香團來進香的日子是擲筊杯決定,上湄洲島的吉時分分秒秒都不能差,很緊張的」,導遊吳曉珊說。上了祖廟朝拜後,眼看回程的飛機時間已近,有時乩童卻說還不是媽祖起駕的時間,那可是說有多急人就多急人。

媽祖菜宴媽祖頭

除了上湄洲祖廟去拜媽祖,回到莆田市區,香客也常會要求去品嘗「媽祖宴」。媽祖宴是由當地師傅王文基根據媽祖的傳說為題,以當地的材料做出來的菜。像是以花生、紫菜、蛋鬆在麵線上排出太極圖案的「媽祖壽麵」,還有以莆田海產做出的「一帆風順」、「萬靈朝拜」等十二道菜。王師傅說這十二道菜都是經過湄洲媽祖「首肯」才定案的。

要吃這麼一套媽祖菜宴得花人民幣一千元左右,並非一般當地人的消費水準。然而台灣香客不但不嫌貴,有的還付以雙倍價錢,要求王師傅將做菜的材料先在媽祖神前供過再下廚。為此,媽祖飯店裡,不但做媽祖菜,還供有媽祖像。王師傅說,「這叫一條龍式的經營方式。」

改造湄洲島

這兩年,媽祖熱潮慢慢退燒,進香團人數已不像剛開放探親時那麼高。為了持續吸引更多遊客,湄洲島旅遊公司總經理蔡宛晞打算推出一套媽祖的專項旅遊,除了參觀祖廟拜拜外,還將讓團員穿媽祖裝,梳媽祖頭。並打算和祖廟合作,讓團員聽誦媽祖經、參加媽祖祭儀。晚上則在「夢堂圓夢」,就是讓大家一起和衣在大廳睡覺,感應媽祖托夢,第二天一早起來搶插媽祖「頭柱香」。

七年前,湄洲島開放為旅遊經濟區之後,島上就開始大興土木,當時居民看到電動的拖拉機還以為是神靈怪物,可知湄洲島原本的單純封閉。那時島上沒有任何公路、沒水、沒電,更遑論三星級飯店或公共廁所。輪渡的木船上,漁獲、牲畜共處。許多早年來進香的台灣香客都說湄洲是「不能不來,也不能再來」,蔡宛晞形容。

十年不到,這島上平地起了二十多家旅館,連卡拉OK、舞廳也都有了。而島上可開發的大部分土地,也已經賣給印尼的「力寶集團」,未來將興建大型商場、度假別墅區、高爾夫球場等海上休閒度假區。主要吸引福建、廣東一帶雲集的外資企業員工來休閒度假。此外,湄洲離台灣最近的距離不到八十海浬,對於未來兩岸是否相通直航,也是投資企業的一項押寶。

海峽經濟使者

將湄洲的特色,由朝拜觀光擴大到休閒旅遊,是湄洲國家度假區的理想。對於地方政府而言,持續在做的是推出一連串的媽祖活動。

這活動的第一聲響砲,從五年前「媽祖升天千年祭」大大成功,便開始放起。當時的大甲鎮瀾宮已經繞道日本,一行人浩浩盪盪前來進香。接著推出媽祖畫展、媽祖研討會、媽祖紀念郵票……。去年的媽祖文化節,更推出一套大型的媽祖祭典,廣發請帖給台灣兩百多座媽祖廟。

「這叫文化搭台,經濟唱戲」,莆田市文史會副主任蔣維錟指出。近年來在大陸,地方文化大行其道。每個地方政府都想打響地方名氣,以招攬觀光客及外資前來。這也就毋怪莆田市政府、觀光局、工業管理處都對湄洲島如此看重。

近年來,因為媽祖有利兩岸交流,媽祖在歷代數十個封號外,又多了一個「海峽和平女神」的稱呼。在今天,媽祖的任務似乎又從一個和平使者,變成一個嘉惠人民團體的「招財使者」了。

〔圖片說明〕

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上湄洲島「朝聖」,是眾多台灣信徒的畢生心願。而這些進香團也成了當地旅行社的最大客源。

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從湄洲祖廟遠眺,這個因媽祖而揚名的小島,處處土木大興。

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豐富多采的民間遊藝隊,除了給神明助陣,也可打響地方名氣,吸引觀光人潮,真是「人神共歡」的好方式。

P.99

梳這種形似船帆的媽祖頭,是為了替家中討海的人祈求平安。除了這媽祖頭,還有媽祖裝、媽祖宴都是湄洲特有的觀光資源。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Matsu Raises the Stage, Money Sings the Opera

Ventine Tsai /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Brent Heinrich

With a population of only 35,000 people, Meizhou Island welcomes about one million visitors a year, all due to the rising popularity of Matsu worship. This not only spurs on the development of Meizhou Island, but has also engendered a tourist industry for the entire Putian area.


In Putian City, completely lacking in recreational resources for tourists, the most compelling sight is the special feature which makes it unique throughout the world--the flow of humanity traveling there because of their faith in Matsu. In 1988 reforms in Taiwan were extended to allow visits to the mainland, which simultaneously made pilgrimages to Matsu temples all the rage. In the same year Meizhou Island was consequently designated by Fujian Province as a "Foreign Tourism Economic Zone." Three years ago, it was officially upgraded by the PRC's State Council as the eleventh National Tourism and Recreation Area. The potency of Matsu's magnetism is undeniable.

Talking Taiwanese

Of the million travelers that visit each year, one tenth arrive in pilgrimage groups from Taiwan, the single largest source of guests for Putian's tourist industry. In order to facilitate communication with guests, especially the predominantly elderly group tourists that take part in pilgrimages, Meizhou Island Travel Company of Putian City specially trained two-thirds of its guide ladies, so that visitors "can talk in Taiwanese."

Though commonly referred to as tourist groups, they are in fact companies of religious pilgrims. When the group members ride in their tour buses, they listen to biographical sketches and legends of Matsu or descriptions of the architectural evolution of the temple complex. And worship is their only motivation for climbing aboard ferries and crossing to the island's shores. But from the perspective of the locals involved in the travel business, guiding this sort of tourist group that is purely interested in religious rites entails coping with more than the usual amount of unexpected dilemmas.

"The dates when pilgrimage groups come to worship is determined by the casting of lots. The time they arrive on Meizhou Island must be correct down to the minute and second. It's very nerve-wracking," says tour guide Wu Xiaoshan. As soon as they have finished making their offerings at the Mother Temple, the departure time for their return flights is already imminent. But sometimes the psychic medium conveys that it is still not Matsu's time to depart. That means that everyone who is anxious will simply have to remain anxious.

Matsu feast, Matsu do

When they have returned to Putian City after worshipping on Meizhou Island, pilgrims often ask to savor the delights of a "Matsu Banquet." This feast, based on the legends of Matsu and using local ingredients, was the brainchild of local chef Wang Wenji. One exemplary dish is "Matsu birthday noodles," in which peanuts, seaweed and egg bits are arranged over noodles in the shape of the Yin and Yang symbol. Other dishes include "Smooth Sailing," made from Putian seafood, and "Worshipping the Myriad Spirits." Mr. Wang reveals that the 12 course menu was first approved by Matsu herself on Meizhou Island before being formalized.

To eat the full Matsu banquet costs around RMB 1000, far beyond the means of the local consumer. Nevertheless, Taiwan's pilgrims not only fail to balk at the price, some are willing to pay double, requesting Mr. Wang to first offer the ingredients in front of a Matsu altar before cooking them. Toward this end, the Matsu Restaurant not only serves Matsu meals, but also provides a sacred Matsu statue to worship on the premises. Chef Wang avers, "This is what you might call assembly-line management."

Reinventing Meizhou Island

In the last two years the Matsu craze has slowly died down. The number of religious pilgrims is not as high as when travel to the mainland was first opened up. In order to keep attracting more tourists, Meizhou Island Travel Company General Manager Cai Wanxi plans to promote a specialized travel agenda. Not only will tour group members be able to worship at the Mother Temple; they will be able to don Matsu costumes and have their hair done up in "Matsu dos." He further plans to cooperate with the Mother Temple to let guests listen to the chanting of Matsu scriptures and participate in Matsu rituals. In the evening will be held the "Chamber of Dreams." Everyone will sleep together fully clothed in the main court, absorbing the dreams conveyed by Matsu. The following dawn they will rush to have the auspicious privilege of placing the first joss stick in the day's fresh incense vessel.

Seven years ago, after Meizhou Island opened up as a "Foreign Tourism Economic Zone," large-scale construction began on the island. At the time when local residents espied a motorized tractor, they took it to be a monster from the spirit world. Such was the complete insularity that originally possessed Meizhou Island. In those days, the island had no public roads, running water or electricity. Three-star hotels and public toilets were simply unimagined. Aboard the wooden ferryboats, all that could be seen were fish and livestock. Cai Wanxi recalls that many of the Taiwan pilgrims who came in the early days described Meizhou Island as a place they "wouldn't have missed for the world, but would never come back to."

In less than a decade, more than 20 hotels have appeared on previously undeveloped land around the island. There are even karaokes and discos. And most of the land on the island that can be developed has already been sold to the Lippo Group of Indonesia, to be developed as a vacation recreation area, which will include a large-scale shopping center, a subdivision of holiday villas and a golf course. It is principally designed to attract vacationing employees of the many foreign-invested concerns that are clustered throughout Fujian and Guangdong. Besides this, Meizhou Island and Taiwan are separated by only 80 nautical miles at the closest point, and many investors are betting that Taiwan and mainland China will open up direct transport links.

Emissary of the cross-strait economy

By making the most of the special features of Meizhou, the National Tourism and Recreation Area's major intent is to expand the island's focus from religious pilgrimages to recreational tourism. The local government continues to promote a series of Matsu-oriented events.

The first reverberating shots of this campaign were heard five years ago with the tremendous success of the "Millennial Celebration of Matsu's Ascension to Heaven." At the time a pilgrimage group from the Chenlan Temple in Taiwan's Tachia attended the event, making a detour through Japan to circumvent travel prohibitions. All along their journey, the group progressed in a great crowd, making sacrificial bows with incense. The hosts put on a Matsu art exhibition, a Matsu conference, a commemorative Matsu postage stamp. . . . Last year's Matsu Cultural Festival sponsored a string of massive sacrificial services in honor of Matsu, sending out printed invitations to more than 200 Matsu temples in Taiwan.

"Culture raises the stage; economics sings the opera," Putian City Literary and Historical Society assistant supervisor Jiang Weitan observes. In recent years regional culture has been given a great deal of attention in mainland China. Every local government desires to stoke up the reputation of their own locale, in order to solicit tourists and foreign investment. It is hardly out of the ordinary, then, that the Putian municipal government, the ministry of tourism, and office of industry consider Meizhou Island to be very important.

In recent years, because Matsu has helped facilitate the flow across the Taiwan Strait, a new sobriquet has been added to the 64 titles she has received throughout history: "Goddess of Cross-Strait Peace." Today it appears that Matsu's role is changing from an envoy of peace to an "emissary of fortune" for the benefit of civic organizations.

[Picture Caption]

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To visit and worship on Meizhou Island is a lifelong aspiration of many Matsu believers from Taiwan. These pilgrimage groups have become the largest clientele for the local tourist agencies.

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From the expansive vantage point of Meizhou's Mother Temple, large-scale construction seems omnipresent on this little island made famous by Matsu.

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Dazzling and colorful folk entertainment groups not only champion the deities but also stimulate hometown fame, which can attract a wave of tourists. Their performances are truly a great method to "please both the gods and mankind."

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Having one's hair set in the sail-shaped "Matsu do" is a way of asking for protection for the fishermen in one's family. Matsu dos, Matsu costumes and Matsu banquets all count among the special tourist resources of Meizhou Island.

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