Mazu Goddess of the Empty Sea Returns with Theme Camp and Mutant Vehicle

This year, why leave your playa transport in the lap of the gods when you could travel in the hand of Buddha by hopping on board Zulai, the new art car by the Mazu art crew?

The Mazu crew are a group of Taiwanese volunteers from a culture and art foundation in Taiwan called the Dream Community.

The foundation’s mission is to bring arts, culture, innovation and sustainability to smaller villages in Taiwan, which have less access to art and culture. It promotes participation and creativity through innovative, culturally enriching art.

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An artist’s impression of the Zulai art car

In 2015, they collaborated with a US art crew, the Department of Public Arts, to build the Mazu Goddess of the Empty Sea Temple at Burning Man.

To observers, the temple was a stunning work framed by the sea of Black Rock City. But for the crew, the Mazu project was more than just a piece of art; it was a cultural exchange.

It brought together artists, craftspeople, designers, builders, engineers (and at least one poet) from around the world, and it brought a taste of Taiwan to the playa.

You may recall the power of the art they created: whether you heard the Mazu story from the volunteers as they finished this incredible temple; or witnessed the beautiful burn; or glimpsed the remaining steel structure holding a perfect, naked lotus to the sky.

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The Buddha fingers are made from bamboo (Photo by Bing Hsuan Wu)

In 2016, Mazu is focusing on the Zulai art car and a Theme Camp called MAZU. The art car is a giant hand woven from bamboo strips with a big Buddha sculpture at one end. It is intended to give a feeling of calmness and security, and it will be lit at night.

The MAZU camp, which is at 8:00 and Guild, will have installations, games, souvenirs, and a dome in which guests can sit and relax.

I recently stopped by the crew’s Open House at Artech, a new makerspace in Reno. Everyone was working hard, making incredible music that was a mix of new age, dub and Buddha flow, and working on technical issues.

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The crew work on Zulai in Artech, a Reno makerspace, (Photo by Bing Hsuan Wu)

What is lovelier? The art? Or the enthusiasm of the crew as they once again bring some Eastern culture to the playa, and then return to Taiwan with their impressions of art and the influence of Burning Man?

During my visit, I met Dream Community US director Inch Ho and crew members, Artor and Peggy Su. Inch works with the Dream Community’s Taiwan Director, Gordon Tsai, who is based in Shijr City, Taiwan. International artists are invited to participate in residencies there several times a year.

Inch helps to bring their vision to life in Taiwan by coordinating resources for art, parades and other culturally enriching events.

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Peggy Su with Mazu (Photo by AngelBe)

Artor explained how Mazu is protected by nine dragons. The ninth dragon is the most beautiful one and is situated in the Dream Community in Taipei, Taiwan. The nine dragons are the sons of the Dragon King of the East Sea, and each of the nine dragons has a different character and super power. They work closely with Mazu to protect the seafarers.

Peggy Su was the first volunteer that the Dream Community recruited to work full-time on its art car. She left her home in New York six months ago to dedicate herself to the project.


Want to celebrate and honor Mazu? Come by Mazu’s Theme Camp at 8:00 and Guild around 3pm on Wednesday August 31 or Friday September 2. Mazu Camp will have costumes and props for you to borrow. Join Mazu, a DJ and Samba band for a celebratory parade. (Subject to change without notice.)

Top photo by Wobsarazzi