Lin Mo or Ma Zhou

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Lin Mo Niang (silent girl) is also known as Ma Zhou (or, Mazu, or Matsu,) Tian Hou Niang Niang or Tin Hau (Heavenly Empress) and also, Ma Hou. She is a sea goddess, with both Buddhist and Taoist connections, of south China (esp. Foukien province and since ca. 1950, Taiwan).  She is portrayed standing, sometimes wearing a mala, her face obscured by a fringe of pearls.

Lin Lu, an ancestor of Mazu's, was the Prefect, in 325 CE (Chin Dynasty) of what is now the city of Fuzhou, China.  His descendant, the remarkable girl Lin Mo, was born on a small island in Meizhou Bay off Putian in Futien in 960, but she lived a mere 28 years.  

At her birth, people reported a brilliant light in the northwestern sky, and the scent of perfume filled the lying-in chamber.  She was given the name Mo (silence) because as a newborn she never cried.  It is said that she demonstrated great intelligence early on and soon began to display a photographic memory, so that her parents sent her to school when she was eight years old.  She took Refuge in Buddhism when she was ten years old.  Later, she began to demonstrate her gift for healing, and taught local people how to prevent disease. 

When Lin Mo Niang (known as Mazu) was 16, she had a vision of her father and elder brother caught in a storm while out at sea. One version of her legend says that she cried out in desperation and through the intercession of Kwan Yin, her family was saved.  A variation says that she herself was the one to save her father and brother from the sinking ship while she was in a dream state.  Some say she acquired supernatural abilities after having swallowed a flower offered by the Compassionate Bodhisattva [Guan Yin.]

A more mundane version has her bravely setting out on the ocean by herself but, though she managed to save their father, her brother was lost at sea. 

A-ma

Macau, which reverted to China in 1999 along with Hong Kong, has the A-Ma Gau or Place of A-Ma which is a shrine dedicated to the seafarers' goddess that dates from the early 16th century.  The legend there goes:  A-Ma, a poor girl looking for passage to Canton was refused passage by a wealthy junk owner but a fisherman took her a board.  When a storm came up, only the boat carrying the girl arrived safely.  Once in Macau, she vanished only to reappear as a goddess on the spot where later, fishermen built the A-Ma Gau.  The temple is also dedicated to Kwan Yin.

Festivals 

Whether to honour her generosity and compassion, or her scorn of those lacking in humility;  for her courageous act of filial duty, or her religious devotion and spiritual abilities, she is remembered today by millions of people.  Her anniversary is celebrated on the 23rd day of the 3rd month in all places with a Chinese sea-faring tradition.  

When Matsu passed away on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month in 987, people said that she was taken up bodily into the clouds a top Mount Meifeng on Meizhou.  Others say that at the moment of her death a remarkable rainbow appeared accompanied by celestial music.  

By the Qing (or, Ching) dynasty, she came to be equated with Tian Fei (Queen of Heaven) or Tian Hou (Heavenly Empress,) and was called Tian Shang Sheng Mu (Divine Heavenly Mother.) Taiwan's earliest Matsu temple is The Tien Hou (Great Queen of Heaven) Temple.  The building stems from 1664 -- the Ming dynasty. 

However in 1683, Ching forces subjugated Taiwan aided it was believed, by Matsu.  In gratitude, the official residence of Prince Ning Ching was converted into a Matsu temple, and following her new status as Queen of Heaven, the building was named accordingly.  In 1720, that temple became the official site of the Spring and Autumn Ritual which rendered it a site of major importance so that now it is a Taiwanese Class I monument. 

Sailors from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and San Francisco continue to believe Lin Mo/Mazu will protect all those who pray to her before setting out, and that she will save the lives of anyone on the open sea who cries to her in their hour of distress.  Many claim to see Lin Mo Niang dressed all in red whenever there is a storm brewing.  

It is said that when she was 13, an old Taoist priest confirmed that Lin Mo (a.k.a. Mazu) had a profoundly spiritual disposition, and he passed his knowledge down to her.  From that time on, she dedicated herself to religion. 

A more mysterious version says that when Lin Mo was 16, she went with other girls to the well to use it as a mirror in order to admire their new clothes.  Suddenly a mysterious being emerged from the water offering them a bronze disc.  All the others were frightened, but Lin Mo calmly took the metal piece from the hand of the deity, and from that very moment she was enlightened.  She began to display unusual powers that increased day by day. 

Proficient in medicine and the use of medicinal herbs, she not only helped prevent disease but also was able to ward off other calamities.

She could make astronomical observations and predict changes in the weather.  People began to say that she could ride the clouds across the ocean, and even use her powers to turn the tide in order to save people out in merchant ships and fishing boats.  People began calling her "Goddess," or "Daughter of the Dragon" and her temples are called Lu-Kang -- Lu can mean naga if derived from Tibetan, though the usual translation is given as "deer port." 

 

  • Statue of Mazu with two helpers, black Chien-li-yen (Thousand-li Eyes) with what looks like a long-handled kriss with a cleat [for attaching a line or "sheet"] at its tip, and red Hsun-feng-erh (Hearing Wind Ears) with  his pike.

 

These two attendants, Hsun Feng Erh and Chien Li Yen, were once the two Kao brothers who lived during the Shang dynasty.  The elder was named Kao Ming and the younger, Kao Chuch.  Sadly, they both died in a combat that took place on Mount Peach Blossom.  It seems that when they saw the beautiful Matzu passing by, they wanted "to marry" her.   But the situation was not as you might think.    

As she had no desire for either of them far less both, she challenged the pair to fight her.  If she lost, then she would have to "marry" them.  If she won, then they would have to accompany her to do her bidding forever.   I guess you know how that combat ended. 

 

Did you know that Toyota Mahime is the name of a Japanese sea goddess?

  • Lynne Cox, in her mid-40s, recently swam 1.2 miles from Argentina to Antarctica in about a half hour, in "slushy" water that was about 30 degrees Farenheit.  The penguins swam out to welcome her ashore.  She explained (60 Minutes, Feb. 12, 2003) that she uses her mind to accomplish her goals; it is not that she does not feel the cold.

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