Faith and fortune
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Faith and fortune

Mazu Shrine is a revered site where people wish for love, health and wealth

SOCIAL & LIFESTYLE
Faith and fortune
The Mazu statue.

Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, is believed to grant wishes. Hence, people visit the Mazu Shrine (Chao Mae Tubtim Shrine) in Lhong 1919, the historic Bangkok riverfront area, to pray.

Aemaorn Prathedkoeranee-angkaew, better known as Pa Aorn, the 78-year-old caretaker of the Mazu Shrine, recently spoke with Life and was delighted to share anecdotes of people who had their wishes fulfilled through prayer.

"A young lady bought expensive fruits to pay respect to Mazu. She told me she would like to give them to me and when I told her she should take them back home as lucky items, she said her mother intended to give the fruits to other people since she was ecstatic she eventually got a job as a flight attendant. The young woman said she prayed at many shrines, but was unsuccessful until she made a wish to Mazu," said Aemaorn.

Not only local people visit the Mazu Shrine, many foreigners come to pray here as well. Pa Aorn said she recently met a Japanese businessman who visited the shrine with his Thai wife. After that, he revisited with his partner to pay respect to Mazu because their business was so successful they were able to open another factory abroad.

People pray at Mazu Shrine. (Photos: Jetjaras na Ranong)

May is the birth month of Mazu. To celebrate, Asset World, a real estate group, recently organised an event which included an open-air cinema, a night market and a live band.

The open-air cinema, which plays Chinese and Hollywood movies, runs on the last Friday of each month from 5-10pm. Meanwhile, a night market and live band feature every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. AWC created the night market to support people selling their products including local sweets and snacks.

In an era where streaming services are easily accessible, people may wonder why AWC decided to organise an open-air cinema to celebrate Mazu's birthday. A projectionist explained that the purpose of the cinema is primarily for the goddess, so they do not mind if there is not a large turnout. The first movie to be screened was about eight immortals blessing Mazu. The other movies selected are suitable for people of all ages.

Aemaorn Prathedkoeranee-angkaew, the caretaker of Mazu Shrine at Lhong 1919. 

Lhong 1919 is a historical area built in 1850. Lhong was a port for steam powered vessels next to the Chao Phraya River. In 1919, the Wanglee family took over the place from the Bisalputra family and changed the port into an office space, a warehouse and residential rental units. In 2022, AWC signed a lease to rent Lhong 1919 from the Wang Lee Company for more than 64 years with plans of investing of over 3.4 billion baht to build a luxury wellness resort. Last year, AWC announced the establishment of a new subsidiary, Mazu Shrine Co Ltd, as a social enterprise to manage the site. Profits from the subsidiary will be used for the maintenance of the Mazu Shrine.

At Lhong 1919, there are three different statues of Mazu to represent different stages of her manifestation, including Young Girl to pray for education and love related matters; Adulthood to pray for business and wealth; and Goddess to pray for children, health and prosperity.

Mazu is also a Chinese Goddess of Navigation Protection worshipped by seafarers who believe she helps them have a safe voyage and successful trades. At the shrine, people can pray to Mazu for blessings without promising anything in return.

Pa Aorn suggested that people use 28 incense sticks to pray to the goddess, her bodyguards and other deities at the shrine. If any wish is fulfilled, people can express their appreciation to the goddess with offerings of oranges, water, steamed shoutao buns (longevity peach buns) and a paper dress. Pa Aorn also said it known that Mazu appreciates garlands, so when people's wishes are granted, they offer garlands to the goddess.

The Mazu Adulthood statue.

Pa Aorn was born and grew up in Lhong 1919. She witnessed her family members pay respect to Mazu since she was young, but at that time, she did not have a strong belief in the goddess. As the fourth daughter of a poor Chinese family, Pa Aorn is illiterate and has to work hard to support herself and her family.

She worked in factories and later turned to dressmaking for a living. When the Tom Yum Kung crisis occurred in 1997, her clients decreased, so to earn more she made Chinese sweets. Today, Pa Aorn believes her success comes from the assistance of Mazu.

"When I was a dressmaker, I usually had clients who showed up out of the blue. One of the clients, Khun Su, hired me to produce wholesale clothes at a higher price than other dressmakers because my handiwork was neat. I asked her how she knew of me. She told me that people in my neighbourhood recommended me to her, but when I asked around, no one knew her. I believe that the goddess guided her to me," Pa Aorn said.

"When I was selling homemade sweets, a female client visited my place to order desserts for her grandma. She said someone bought the desserts for her grandma from me and was impressed with the taste. When I helped carry the desserts to her car, she suddenly asked me if I realised Mazu helped me sell the desserts. I was surprised, but happy to hear that since I also believed it. I actually prayed to the goddess to help me sell desserts since I had invested a lot of money in it. And the desserts always sold well."

Offerings at the Mazu Shrine.

In addition to the night market and shrine at Lhong 1919, there are antique Chinese murals restored by a master painter. In 2017, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited and left her signature on a mural. On that day, Pa Aorn was one of the people in the welcoming committee that received the Princess.

"I could see the princess up close. It was a great honour for someone illiterate like me," she said with smile.

People can visit this historical site daily. The Mazu Shrine is open every day from 9am to 6pm. When asked if Mazu grants wishes for lottery draws, Pa Aorn's answer may disappoint.

"The goddess usually grants wishes to people who aim to do business or are committed to their work, but not for lottery prizes."

Food trucks.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's signature on a mural painting.

Chinese mural paintings.

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