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Chinese women in history - soldiers, pirates, scholars, sages and rulers

Lin Mo - philanthropist and sea rescue volunteer

Lin Mo was born in 960 in Fujian province, the youngest in a family of 7 children. For a month after birth, the infant Lin Mo did not cry, so her family gave her the name 'mo' meaning 'silence.1 Lin Mo was gifted with popularity and intelligence at an early age. It was said she could memorize classical texts by the age of five. When she was seven, her parents sent her to a private school. Within three years, she was a highly literate scholar.2

Lin Mo's father Lin Yuan was a Coast Guard officer. By age 15, Lin Mo was familiar with sea rescue operations. She often went to the rescue of merchant ships and fishing boats wrecked on the rocks between Meizhou Island and the mainland.3 Lin Mo was also skilled at reading weather signs. She predicted the weather for ships leaving port.4 When Lin Mo was 16, her father and brother were out at sea when a storm suddenly arose. As soon as the wind and waves died down a little, Lin Mo went out to sea to find them. She located and rescued her father, but Lin Mo's brother remained missing. Lin Mo went back out to sea alone, seeking tirelessly until she returned with her brother's body. In the light of this selfless action, the people of her village praised her more than ever.5

Lin Mo decided that she would remain single for life and devoted her time on earth to philanthrophy, healing the sick and rescuing ships. She was a skilled doctor who did not just heal the sick but also taught preventative practices.6 In 987, Lin Mo perished at sea while on a rescue mission. Unable to accept the untimely demise of their much loved hero, the locals created the myth of Lin Mo gaining immortality and ascending to the heavens.7 A cult arose around Lin Mo, turning her into the patron deity for mariners. She became known as the Mazhu Goddess ('mazhu' is a term of respect for unmarried women in the Fujian area).8 The local people built her temples and attributed signs and wonders to her. Lin Mo's excellent swimming and sailing skills became immortalized as the goddess' ability to "cross the sea on a woven mat". Her aptitude for reading the weather was attributed to psychic powers.9 The cult of Mazhu had so much influence that the emperors of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties all found it appropriate to bestow official honors on Mazhu. The worship of this maritime goddess remains popular to this day.10

X.T.


Notes
  1. Life of Mazhu (Chinese article)
  2. Who is Mazhu?
  3. Who is Mazhu?
    Life of Mazhu (Chinese article)
  4. Life of Mazhu (Chinese article)
  5. Life of Mazhu (Chinese article)
  6. Who is Mazhu?
  7. Who is Mazhu?
    Mazhu - Guardian Goddess of the Sea (Chinese article)
  8. Who is Mazhu?
    Mazhu - Guardian Goddess of the Sea (Chinese article)
  9. Life of Mazhu (Chinese article)
  10. Mazhu - Guardian Goddess of the Sea (Chinese article)