Goddess of Heaven Temple in Virginia
By Jackie Bong-Wright
History of Ma Gou, Mother of the Ancestors
Six hundred ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese, including grandchildren and grandparents crowded China Garden’s restaurant in Rosslyn to celebrate the Goddess of Heaven in the Year of the Horse on February 16. Dewey La, Chairman of the Board, thanked his organizing committee members for their hard work on this event meant to honor the Goddess.
According to legend, Ma Gou, mother of the ancestors, was born in the 1800s in Fu Kien province, China. She blessed the Chinese who traveled overseas so they would have a safe and peaceful journey. She was made a deity after her death, becoming known as the Goddess of Heaven. They erected a Ma Gou temple to worship her, but it was destroyed under the Communist cultural revolution. Ma Gou temple was later rebuilt and hundreds of similar temples were also established overseas by Chinese who believed that she had blessed them as immigrants.
Ma Gou in Virginia
In 1993, a group of ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos formed the Indo-Chinese Benevolent Association in Northern Virginia to help people in need. Their objectives were to provide interpreting, immigration, citizenship, and social services. David Quang, one of the founding members and a former president, said that these immigrants wanted to thank the Goddess of Heaven for helping them become well established in their businesses and professional endeavors in the U.S. They are furthermore grateful, he said, that many of their children have also succeeded in school. For that, they ordered a large statue of Ma Gou from China and invited people to come and seek her benediction at the temple. Among them was Hoon Park, 23, a junior at George Mason University, and hundreds of his companions.
The young worshippers
Since 1995, Hoon had volunteered to help at different functions at the temple. His mother, Diep, a Vietnamese married to a Korean, believed that the goddess had special power and would inspire him and his younger sister to divine the true meaning of life.
At 15, Hoon was an avid reader of religious books. He found that Buddhism was a part of a culture, a learning circle allowing him to accept other faiths, and that promoted love, equality and peace. As a high school senior, he interned for six months with Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia. He learned that a career in politics would be a life-long dedication to public service. His second job was with the World Affairs Council at the University of North Carolina.
Today, despite his interests in politics, Hoon’s passion are history, anthropology and philosophy. He writes poetry, listens to reggae music and jazz. He is still struggling against negativism, he says, and still searching for a universal understanding of existence.
Like many other young worshippers, Hoon believes that the Goddess of Heaven blessed and protected his family.