| The Chinese have been active in the South China Sea for more than 2,000
years. Since the Ming and Qing dynasties, Chinese fishermen often fished the
three archipelagoes of Dongsha Practas, Xisha Paracel, and Nansha Spratly.
Consistent with their religious beliefs, these Chinese fisherment built shrines
and temples on these islands. The shrines are used to making offerings to the
ghosts of people who perished at sea, while the temples are used for making
offerings to the gods. Thirty-one shrines and temples on 22 islands were
identified either through documentation in the literature or first hand
fieldwork. Of the 31 shrines and temples, only 26 make clear the spirit
worshipped. The largest number of structures for any one spirit is ten, for the
Earth diety tudigong. Secondly, nine sites are for the worship of ghosts of
"brothers" (hsiung-ti-so). A few others worship Mazu, Guangong, the thousand-arm
Guanyin, and other sea gods. The disparity in numbers between the different
spirits is probably because fishing vessels often have small altars or niches
for the worship of the sea god with no need for another place of worship on
land. With one exception, all temples and shrines in the South China Sea are
Chinese and there are no temples or shrines from other Southeast Asian nations.
The exepction is a French Huangsha Si(Huangsha Temple on Yongxing Island in the
Xisha isles). However, the Chinese are still the most active group in the south
China Sea islands.