Couplet Stories‎ > ‎

A Chinese Couplet in the Tian Hou Temple of Macau

Tian Hou has various names. She is also known as Tian Hou Niang niang (天后娘娘); Ma
Zu (妈祖); and A-Ma (亚妈). She was the spiritual representation of a living maiden, called Lin Mo (林默)(960-987), who was born into a seafarer's family in Putian (莆田).

The Temple of Tian Hou is situated at A-Ma-Gau, or the Bay of A-Ma. It was first built in the Ming Dynasty in 1488. The Temple pre-dated the arrival of the Portuguese navigators. When they landed for the first time, they used A-Ma-Gau as a reference point to rename the city as 'Amacao' or 'Amagao', which evolved to an abbreviated version of 'Macau'.

Facing the entrance is the first subordinate temple dedicated to Tian Hou.There is a Chinese couplet carved on two round pillars in praise of her:


Translated into English as:

The holy heavenly virtue bountifully flows to the 'Mirror of the Sea'
The motherly Empress' beneficence pours over 'Lotus Hill'

The couplet is mellifluous and elegant in the vernacular, but one misses the rhythm and skilful syntax in the English translation. Contrary to the Chinese inscriptions on the Façade, this couplet was composed with a more sophisticated literary language and with a careful selection of the poetic names of Macau.

-- Macau: a cultural Janus By Christina Miu Bing Cheng