Born in 960 AD on the small island of MeiZhou off the coast of China, Lin Mo Niang grew up in a family of fishermen. As a girl, she would wait by the sea, wearing distinctive red robes to help guide fishermen safely home. Legends of her life vary, but the central one is this - that one day her brothers and father were out on a rough sea, and she, back on land, had a vision of them in distress. Within her vision, she was able to help them, lifting them out of the sea to safety, until her mother woke her. This broke her concentration, and caused one of her brothers to drown. This power would lead her to become the powerful goddess Mazu.
Initially worshipped as a goddess of the sea, Mazu is believed to have the power to protect those who face danger on the water and so became an important deity, particularly in coastal regions and islands of Southeast Asia, Taiwan among them. As probably Taiwan's most widely worshipped deity, she is now considered important in all aspects of life, not only those dependent on the sea. There are many temples dedicated wholly or in part to her in Taiwan, and every year from around March until April, many festivals and ceremonies take place to mark her birthday.
Mazu is most recognisable for the headdress in which she is usually depicted, featuring beads hanging down over her face, and for her two companions, Qian Li Yan and Shun Feng Er.