Mazu is a Goddess of the sea predominantly worshipped by Chinese people who live in the southeastern coastal areas of China like Fujian, Taiwan, Guangdong and Zhejiang, as well as neighboring areas in southeast Asia. The Mazu belief and custom takes virtue, benevolence and love as its core and has been passed down generation by generation through sacrificial ceremonies, folk stories, dance and music.
With over 5,000 Mazu temples dotted around the world and 200 million believers, the Mazu belief has spread to more than 20 countries and regions across the globe, making Mazu a symbol of cultural identity for all Chinese worldwide.
The Mazu Legend
The legend of Mazu is about a girl named Lin Mo who was born into an official family from Meizhou Island, a small piece of land in the Taiwan Straits off the coast of southeast China. When Lin was very young, her extremely good memory and learning comprehension talent was revealed. She was meek and warm-hearted and was always willing to help people in need. Thanks to her vast knowledge of Chinese medicine, she was able to cure the sick and teach people how to prevent illness and injury.
Growing up in a coastal area, Lin became familiar with astronomic and meteorological knowledge and was able to predict the weather, helping fishermen avoid sea disasters and salvage shipwrecks.
After her death at the age of 28 on a mountaintop, she became a goddess. Legend has it that as a colored cloud rose from the mountain and wonderful music was heard in the sky, Lin was carried into heaven in a golden pillar of light.
From then on, Mazu’s figure was enshrined in boats to pray for safe voyages.
Owing to her benevolence, Mazu has been given 36 titles such as “Madam”, “the Queen of Heaven” and “Holy Mother” from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
There are a lot of folktales about Mazu, including the following interesting stories:
It is said that one day Mazu wanted to sail across the sea by ship without paddles or sails. The captain dared not sail the ship; Mazu told him to suspend a straw mat onto the mast as a sail. The ship then rode over the waves and carried on swiftly across the sea.
Once, a commercial vessel struck a rock, causing seawater to flood the cabin. When the ship started to sink, Mazu got some grass and threw it into the sea, which miraculously transformed into a raft, attaching itself to the vessel to stop it from sinking.
Another tale tells of Mazu making an iron horse come to life and carry her across the sea. After she landed on solid ground, the horse vanished in an instant. People who witnessed this were all astonished at her magic powers.