Updated: 2015-03-11 08:13
By Ding Wanjing and Zhang Xiaomin(China Daily)
A man pushes a model boat (sea lamp)into the sea. [Photo by Ding Wangjing/China Daily]
A centuries-old veneration of a sea goddess has evolved from worship to folk entertainment, as fishing communities launch a glowing tribute to their patron and protector. Ding Wanjing and Zhang Xiaomin report in Dalian.
In the rays of the setting sun on March 3, two days before the Lantern Festival, 55-year-old Lyu Yongle and his son went to pray at the beach near their house.
They lit candles on two simple model boats, and pushed them into the water.
Carrying their best wishes for good fortune, the models－generally called "sea lamps"－sailed toward the expanse of the Yellow Sea.
Other residents of Wangjia Island came on their own, in pairs and by the dozen to the beach at Zhuanghe in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning province.
Like Lyu, they were launching sea lamps and praying to Haishen Niangniang, a goddess of the sea. According to legend, the 13th day of the Chinese New Year is the sea deity's birthday. People burned incense and "ghost money". They kowtowed and set off firecrackers.
Soon, all kinds of sea lamps glittered like stars on the sea, while colorful fireworks lit up the night sky.
On that day, it is the custom for seafaring fishermen to visit the temple of the goddess in the morning. In the evening, they send sea lamps and pray for peace and wealth.
On Wangjia Island, this day is even more important than the Spring Festival. Many people who moved from the island return to take part in the ceremonies.
"My sister now lives in downtown Dalian. Since she could not come back, she asked me to make a sea lamp for her family. Just now, I sent it out to the sea together with mine," says Lyu.