Southeast Asia, in the search for Mazu

The image of the Goddess Mazu as seen on Ma Ge Temple in Macau

Since the time I loved documenting my travels around Southeast Asia and including my home base, The Philippines, I came across many temples, churches and ruins of which, I observe how people of beliefs and traditions, continue to practice their faith. One of these key observations I have had over the years was my inclination to the search for the temple of Tin Hau or those temples associated with the Goddess Mazu.

The Goddess Mazu, though a minor deity in the Chinese religious order, laid her influence on coastal cities and communities of China and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. Believed to be the protector of seafarers and fisherfolks, many temples were erected over a thousand of years to acknowledge her guidance and constant patronage. To this date, I have visited 3 temples already in 3 different countries in Southeast Asia and will continue to search for the next one in the future.


Getting to where the Thien Hau Temple in Vietnam, one must rent a motorcycle and ask the driver to bring you to the old Chinatown district. It is prominently along the road and surprisingly, it has a well decorated roof deoramas made of fine figurines. The temple is made of bungalow design and a gate to protect its interiors. Once you are inside the courtyard, prayer requests in pink were all pasted on the walls.

The hanging coil incense at Thien Hau Temple in Saigon

What I love about the Thien Hau temple in Vietnam is its intricate design for its Chinese religious and cultural influences. Peking opera scenes can also be seen on wooden columns and religious figures are best on its carved wooden planks and at the altar.

Hong Kong

The temple made famous for her own MTR station and a street is what you can see in the Tin Hau Temple in Hong Kong. In going there, one must take the subway train from Central and go direct to the Tin Hau exit and walk across towards Starbucks and at the back of it, is where Tin Hau road which runs parallel to the temple itself.

The Chinese lucky animals carved inside the Tin Hau Temple in Hong Kong

By far, the quaintest of the temples I saw in Southeast Asia, Tin Hau Temple in Hong Kong has a mesmerizing array of deoramas too, on its roof and at the covered wall before you enter into the main entrance of the temple.

Not so many people converging at noon-time, it is best to reflect and take photos on the temple. Tin Hau temple is by far the best for its Chinese influences of animals like the tigers and dragons.


The Goddess Mazu takes many names and forms. While we see them in both Vietnam and Hong Kong, the one in Macau takes on a special name of A-ma. The Ma Ge temple is where the cradle of modern Macau is believed to have been derived, even its own name.

The Ma Ge temple nestled at the top of the embankment off the Macau Island and facing the seas, it is located near the Maritime Museum. Prominent among arriving tourists, it boasts of a wide array of religious artifacts and stones as well as centuries-old boulders with carved images of seafares and Chinese boats on to seas.

carved voyage off to sea found in the Ma Ge Temple in Macau

The one you will find here are intricately linked to all those previously we have visited in Vietnam and in Hong Kong, that is, the Goddess Mazuโ€™s image and form. She is enshrined in an altar protected by so many spiraling candles hung from the ceiling. It is bliss.

Visiting the temples of the Goddess Mazu is an adventure in religious significance. You will smell the fresh incense and the flowers as well as the prayer requests come in dizzying manner and practices. It has the same bungalow architectural designs and as old as the ones built. In the course of my travels, I wished I can go visit the ones erected in her honor in the coastal cities in China. Even perhaps in the Philippines, I will still have to visit any temple dedicated for her as we are best known for our seafaring men and our coastal-rich communities thrive on the hardworking Filipino fishermen. It is one which will keep me going in my travels and let us see that as I wander, the temples will forever hold me in awe and wonder!

Categories: Backpacker's Tip, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Southeast Asia, in the search for Mazu

  1. Hey Doc! I love visiting the temples in Thailand. ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoy learning about different religions and the history behind the meanings of the effigies, paintings, and carvings you discover as you wander through these types of sites. China, Hong Kong and Vietnam are three places I would love to explore and are on my travels list as is most of Southeast Asia.

    Asian cultures are very interesting to me now and I love their traditions and lifestyles. Before I originally went to Thailand, Southeast Asia seemed so mysterious and I didn’t really know much about it other than what I was taught in school. Now, having traveled to Thailand many times, I am hooked and love the way I feel when I am there. Your essay has given me a peak at more of what’s out there in the world and new places to look forward to seeing.

    I enjoyed reading this very much! Great photo’s as well especially of Tin Hau Temple. Good to know there is a Starbuck’s nearby this one as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Tim, thanks for dropping by and leaving your great comments. Yes, like you are, I am fascinated at how temples are places not only of worship but of culture and I have learned this when I went to check other countries surrounding my own.

      I have come across the Goddess Mazzu and her influence in mostly naval-base countries and in the past, even today, she wields her influence the most. I am forever enthralled at how it was made as a revered icon of those plying the seas ๐Ÿ™‚

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