The Birthday of the Chinese Sea Goddess, Mazu

(Image Source:摄于吉隆坡天后宫)

According to legend, Mazu, originally known as Lin Mo, nicknamed "Mo Niang", was born in Putian, Fujian Province, and was sacrificed at the age of 28 to save fishermen at sea. After her death, a temple was built in her honour, and her miracles have been frequent ever since. It is said that Mazu often appears in the middle of rough seas to keep ships safe. Mazu became the patron saint of sailors, fishermen and coastal areas. The imperial court later bestowed many posthumous titles on Mazu, earning her the sacred titles of “Heavenly Mother” and “Tianhou”.

The Mazu culture originated in Meizhou, Fujian Province, and has a history of more than 1,000 years, spreading throughout the coastal areas of China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Japan and the United States.

As early as the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese migrated to Malaysia and put down roots. When they travelled by sea to make a living in a foreign land and faced the unpredictable and rough sea, they regarded Mazu as their spiritual support and enshrined the god of their homeland on board to pray for a safe journey across the sea.

In addition to making offerings on board, they will also build temples to worship Mazu when they arrive in a foreign land. Hainanese people generally refer to Mazu as "Pozu", and it is easy to see that many Malaysian Hainanese Association Halls and Tianhou Temples have merged into one, which is due to the fact that when merchants and people came across the sea, they used the Hainanese Association Halls as a meeting place for their fellow townspeople, and they worshipped Mazu in the Association Halls.

On the 23rd day of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar, Mazu is celebrated with a large crowd of devotees flocking to Tian Hou Temple to light the lanterns and pray for blessings. Kuala Lumpur's iconic Thean Hou Temple, dedicated to Tianhou Mazu, is packed with people on this day.

Internationally, Mazu beliefs and folklore were included on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009. The belief in the worship of Mazu, which dates back more than a thousand years, has been recognised in modern times for its multifaceted value and transgressive significance.

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