Chinese Heritage

Yesterday I went to Port Louis and I had to spend the day waiting for my car to finish servicing. Unfortunately I wasn’t very lucky with the weather: it kept raining on and off the whole day – so all the things I had planned well I couldn’t really do them. Well never mind: I spend the day with my in-laws. As you might know they are of Chinese descent. 3rd and 4th generation immigrants from China.

I really fancied eating a Briani – the Mauritian version of Biriani. The best place – and one of the oldest ones in Port Louis in Ravenale. Well this is actually New Ravanale because they used to be located in a tiny place down an even smaller alley.

Chicken Briani
Chicken Briani – Best in town!

I’ll post about that place another time, when I find the pictures from the old place.

So, as we were walking  to the restaurant, I noticed a little gate open on the main street of Chinatown. That gate is always closed – even my mum in law said it was first time she saw it open. So I had to peak.

At the end of the alley there was a small pagoda – a Chinese temple. My father in law told me that it belongs to 3 different clans. All clans apparently have a small pagoda like this. I need to get my father in law to take me to theirs – a little mission for another day. I read today that there are 11 pagodas in Mauritius and they are all located in Port Louis. Most (all?) of the pagodas in Mauritius are built facing North and the divinities facing the ocean.

After lunch my parents-in-law decided to drive me to a pagoda. I have visited a few in Singapore, but never in Mauritius.

The first we went to, for unfortunately closed. It is the biggest one of Port Louis, nicknamed ‘Les Salines’, because the temple can be found in the area where one could find the first saltworks of the island. As far as I know they have all, unfortunately,  disappeared.

The Kwan Tee Pagoda, also known as Guan Di Pagoda is the oldest in Mauritius, but apparently also in the Southern Hemisphere. It faces the sea on one side and have the the mountains behind it (North). The ground on which the pagoda lays was chosen according to Feng Shui, as the soil is considered prosper (still moving, so still providing). It celebrates its 175 anniversary this year.

Kwan Tee Pagoda, Port Louis
The Kwan Tee Pagoda

The cult of Kwan Tee is associated with the God of wealth. Kwan Tee is also the God of war and of righteousness, as well as the benefactor.

Back entrance to Kwan Tee Pagoda, Port Louis
The back entrance

The road behind the back entrance didn’t exist before as the ocean used to come all the way up to the gardens of the pagoda. It is a lovely and quiet place, I think quite propitious to meditation. I have to find out when they open so I can take the kiddos to visit.

I don’t know about my mum-in-law, but my father-in-law used to come here as child.

As this one was closed, we drove to another one. The Nam Shun Fooy Koon Pagodas are located next to the champs de Mars. This is where my in-laws ancestors are buried. There are actually two Pagodas here: the Kwan Tee Pagoda and the Tin Hao Pagoda.

Nam Shun Fooy Koon Pagodas
Kwan Tee Pagoda

The Kwan Tee Pagoda was first built in 1895, and renovation were started in 1970 and a new temple inaugurated in 1980. They kept the original walls and all the original statues and decorations were restored and put back as well.

Kwan Tee was a great warrior and at the same time, a man of honour known for his righteousness and benevolence. At his death, he became a hero and is deeply revered by the Chinese people.  Besides Kwan Tee, the first Pagoda also houses an altar in the honour of Choy Sun, the God of Good Fortune. There is also a Shrine for the deceased, that is where my children’s ancestors are. There used to be a cemetery  at the back of the pagoda, but the building burned some years back and the altar was moved to the main pagoda.

Shrine in Kwan Tee Pagoda
the small shrine

On the left of the Kwan Tee pagoda there is a little shrine where my father in law told me they used to make their first prayer when they arrived at the temple. This was to pay respect, announce themselves and ask for permission to enter the pagoda.

The other Pagoda, located a bit behind the first one, houses a shrine to Tin Hao, the Goddess of the sea. She is one of the most worshipped goddesses with over 1’500 temples in her name. She is the protector of the fishermen and sailors and by extend those who travel. People who have family abroad (studying or travelling) pray to the Goddess to protect their relatives while they are away and for safe and good return back home.

Visitors are most welcome in the Pagoda, second one had opening times (if am right till 3:30pm). The gate is closed but you can just enter, the keeper will come to meet you and turn on the lights.

I really enjoyed visiting the pagoda, so more with my in laws. They were telling me about when they were kids and used to play in the gardens while the grand parents would pray. I told them they should take the kiddos and tell them about how the grew up.

View of Champs de Mars, Port Louis
Champs de Mars (horse racing track, Le Pouce (yes, the mountain), My rainbow

As I was leaving I took the picture from outside the pagodas, and it literally started to rain. I look up towards the mountain (because the sky was mostly blue over the pagodas) and I saw the rain moving in on me and the cute little rainbow formed. A sign from the gods?


sources:
my story about rainbows in Mauritius: Friday morning coffee
http://www.lemauricien.com/article/pagodes-port-louis-les-merveilles-la-diaspora-chinoise
http://www.namshunfooykoon.com/pagoda-and-cemetery.htm
http://www.kwantee-mauritius.com

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24 thoughts on “Chinese Heritage

  1. travelsewhere

    Mauritius continues to fascinate me! I knew it had influences from all over, but would never have expected there to be multiple Chinese pagodas there. It’s also nice that you got to learn a little more about your in-laws, sounds like a nice experience all round. #theWeeklyPostcard

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  2. Skyring

    I generally find churches and mosques and temples to be full of “sattwa” – the Sanskrit word for light and truth – as opposed to feelings of activity or decay. These spaces uplift me, and yes, they are great for meditation or contemplation.

    One’s eyes are more open than usual, and things like rainbows appear.

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