"The Grace of Mer" by Autumn Skye Morrison

“A-Ma’s themes are water, providence, protection, magic, and weather.  Her symbols are fish and red cloth.  This Goddess is the patroness of all fishermen and sailors in the region of Macau, where today is Her festival day and Her birthday. Also sometimes called Matsu, this divine figure offers safety in any of life’s literal or figurative storms, often by teaching magical weather charms.

Legend says that A-ma achieved enlightenment and a mastery of magic at the young age of twenty-eight, after which She went to nirvāna and became a Goddess.

In Portugal, the day is spent enjoying parades for the Goddess, eating lots of seafood, adorning altars with food and incense, and setting off firecrackers in A-ma’s honor. So by all means, have some type of fish today (if you’re allergic, eat fish-shaped candy instead).

Before eating it, thank the founder of your feast with this prayer:

 ‘A-ma, thank you for your providence and protection
Let the seas of my soul find solace in you
Let the waters of my spirit be refreshed in you
So be it.’

Wear any red-colored clothing today to commemorate A-ma’s birthday and inspire Her magical assistance. Ties or scarves are especially nice for this, as you can bind one of A-ma’s attributes within the knot for the day. Anything bearing a fish motif is also suitable.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Statue of A-Ma on Coloane Island measuring 65.6 feet high made of striking white marble. The statue is erected on the highest point of Coloane and its construction was financed by Taiwanese Taoists and also those from Fujian.

“A-Ma is a Taoist Goddess and is particularly revered in Macau. Also known as Tin Hau, She is the deity of fisher folk and other seafarers. Legend told of the story where a junk, while sailing across the South China Sea, was caught in a tremendous storm and was about to sink. All aboard were terrified but at the last-minute, a beautiful young woman stood up and ordered the elements to calm down. It did and the junk reached land safely. This mysterious woman is none other than the Goddess A-Ma. A temple was built on the spot where She landed and it is still there to this day, on the Inner Harbor. The name Macau came to be when many centuries later, when Portuguese soldiers asked for the name of the place, the locals replied “A-Ma-Gao” (Bay of A-Ma). It was eventually shortened to Macau. In recent times, a statue of A-Ma was erected on the highest point of Coloane Island. During the A-Ma Festival, offerings are made. There are also performances of Chinese opera.” [1]

“Tianhou, meaning heavenly mother in Chinese or “Empress of the Sky”, is a Goddess with many names. She is also known as Tianfei, Matsu-po (meaning Elder Lady Matsu), and A-Ma (Grandmother). Historically, She was given official titles by the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties in China. In 1839 Chinese Emperor Dao Guang bestowed upon Her the last title of Holy Mother in Heaven.” [2]

“According to legend the Goddess was at one time mortal. According to legend, Lín Mòniáng was born on March 23, 960 AD (during the early Northern Song Dynasty) as the seventh daughter of Lin Yuan on Meizhou Island, Fujian. She did not cry when she was born, and thus her given name means “Silent Girl.”  Although she started swimming relatively late at the age of 15, she soon became an excellent swimmer.  She wore red garments while standing on the shore to guide fishing boats home, even in the most dangerous and harsh weather.” [3]


“Many miracles are attributed to Lín Mòniáng. It is said she saved her brother, caught in a terrible typhoon, while fishing. As the stormed raged her family feared her father and brother drown. Lín Mòniáng fell into a trace while praying for the pair. While praying she reached out to the drowning pair, holding her brother out of the water with her hands, and her father with her mouth, to keep them out of harm’s way.

Lín Mòniáng’s mother found her, and in her deep trance thought her dead. Her mother broke down, thinking her daughter was dead, as were her husband and son. Lín Mòniáng, listening to her mother’s cries, made a small noise to reassure her she was still among the living. Because she opened her mouth, she dropped her father, whom drowned in the storm. Her brother returned from the ordeal and told the villagers how he was miraculously held out of the water during the savage typhoon.”  [4]



There are two stories concerning Lín Mòniáng’s death. In one, she dies at 16-years-old, drowning while searching for her father’s body. In another, she dies at 28-years-old after climbing a mountain. In one account, “Lín Mòniáng’s death, at the age of 28, was as remarkable as her birth.  One day, she simply told her family it was time for her to leave and that she must go alone.  Her neighbors and family watched as she walked to the top of a mountain near her home.

Reaching the top, Lín Mòniáng was encircled by clouds of dense fog, and to the accompaniment of enchanting celestial music, was carried into the heavens in a golden glow of light.  Where she had been last seen, a great rainbow appeared.

"Mazhu and the Dragons" by BlackUniGryphon

In Chinese mythology, the rainbow signifies the presence of a dragon, a symbol of great blessing and good fortune.  The dragon is a serpent that quenches its thirst in the sea and, as a sky dragon, unites heaven and earth.

The rainbow also has a significance in Taoism – the colors representing the five Buddha families, with the color orange associated with the bodhisattva, those who have achieved enlightenment but choose to remain on earth to be of service to their fellow humans.

Honoring her humility and compassion, her devotion and spiritual enlightenment, following her death Lín Mòniáng was elevated to the list of Buddhist deities and declared a Goddess by the Chinese government as well. During the millenium after her death, the Imperial Courts of several different dynasties, raised her status with new and grander titles (twenty-two promotions in all) and the construction of new temples and extensive repairs to the ancient ones. Yet the true power of the Goddess Matsu, who was once the female shaman Lín Mòniáng, is the great and abiding love of Her people.” [5]

“Fishers and sailors started to worship the compassionate and protective Goddess after Her death. Her fame spread. There are 1500 temples to Her in 26 countries around the world.

The Tian Hou Temple in Shekou is now surrounded by shipyards, and is a little piece of tranquility in a city of approximately 10 million.” [6]

“As Mazu, She is widely worshipped in the south-eastern coastal areas of China and neighbouring areas in Southeast Asia, especially ZhejiangFujianTaiwanGuangdongHainan and Vietnam, all of which have strong sea-faring traditions, as well as migrant communities elsewhere with sizeable populations from these areas. She also has a significant influence on East Asian sea culture, especially in China and Taiwan.” [7]

Her many names include but are not limited to:

Tian Hou
Tin Hau
Thiên Hâu
Tianhou Shengmu (Heavenly Holy Mother)
Tianshang Shengmu
Thiên Hâu Thánh Mâu
Tian Fei (Heavenly Princess Consort)
Huguo Mingzhu Tianfei (Protector of the Empire and the Brilliantly Outstanding Heavenly Princess)
Mazu (Mother-Ancestor)
Mazu-po (Elder Lady Mazu)
A-Ma or A-Po (Grandmother)
Holy Mother of Heaven Above
Holy Mother in Heaven   [8]

“Secondarily, She is also a Goddess of procreation to whom prayers are addressed for conception. In this She shares definite associations with both Guanyin and Xiwangmu.” [9]

“Like Kuan Yin, Matsu decided not to marry in spite of immense social pressure to do so.  Two warriors of great fame became inflamed with lust when they saw the beautiful young girl and wanted to “marry” her. She challenged the pair to fight her for the privilege, insisting that they would have to do her bidding forever if she won.

General Chien-li-yen (Eyes that See a Thousand Miles) and General Shun Feng Erh (Ears that Can Hear the Wind) died that day during the fight that took place on Mount Peach Blossom.  To this day, the pair of defeated subordinates are seen by Her side in statuary and images and as puppets in the annual processional that celebrate Matsu’s birth.  The entourage traditionally includes guards costumed as ancient soldiers, and thirty-six martial artists carrying special weapons.  Tens of thousands make the eight-day pilgrimage to the oldest temple of Matsu in Taiwan each year. Countless other treks and festivals are held on Her birthday throughout the coastal regions where the Goddess Mazu is still revered.” [10]


The Art of War: Physical, Social, Mental and Spiritual Success, “Chinese Goddess: Tianhou“.

GoddessGift.com, “Mazu, Chinese Goddess of the Sea“.

Peer, S. Yahoo! Voices, “The Legend of Tianhou: The History of the Asian Sea Goddess“.

Sabrina. Goddess A Day, “Tien-Hou“.

Wikipedia, “Events and festival in Macau“.

Suggested Links:

Camau Association of America – Thien Hau Temple, Los Angeles, “Shrines – Mazu: the Indigenous Goddess of the Sea“.

ChinaCulture.org, “The Goddess of the Sea – Mazu“.

Chinese Folktales, “Two Legends About the Sea Goddess Mazu (Fujian & Taiwan)“.

DameBoudicca. Pride & Sensibility, “Goddess of the Week: Mazu“.

Opentopia, “Who is Matsu?“.

Shenjiaqing. Pengerang Sea Shore, “The Parade of Goddess Mazhu“.

TravelChinaGuide.com, “A-Ma Temple“.

Wikipedia, “Matsu Islands”.

Wikipedia, “Thean Hou Temple“.