Matsu is one of Taiwan’s most popular folk deities. Known also as the Heavenly Mother, she is the indigenous goddess of the sea, widely worshipped in Taiwan, the coastal provinces of China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries.
The Chinese have been migrating from the mainland across the Strait to Taiwan since the 16th century. With a strong seafaring tradition, Taiwanese sailors turned to Matsu for comfort and shelter. There are over 500 Matsu temples on the island.
The Matsu Temple of San Francisco was established by Taiwanese immigrant Kao Ke-ta in 1986. On August 19 of that year, he received permission to set up the temple as a house of worship. In order to set up the American temple, the Chaotian Temple conducted a spiritual ceremony blessing the Matsu goddess for the San Francisco temple. The Chaotian Temple is one of Taiwan’s oldest temples. Built around 1700, it is located in Beigang, Yunlin County.
The Matsu Temple in San Francisco was originally located at 554 Vienna Street but moved to 30 Bechett Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1996. Kao said the temple is a place for ethnic Chinese to worship, offering psychological comfort to those seeking solace from life’s difficulties and their fortune. In the last thirty years, the temple has become a well-known San Francisco attraction, drawing many visitors from around the US.