There are at least two versions of Lin Muoniang's death. In one version, she died in 987 at the age of 28, when she climbed a mountain alone and flew to heaven and became a goddess. Another version of the legend says that she died at age 16 of exhaustion after swimming far into the ocean trying to find her lost father and that her corpse later washed ashore in Nankan Island of the Matsu Islands.
Lin Muoniang (2000), a minor Fujianese TV series, is a dramatization of the life of Matsu as a mortal.
After her death, the families of many fishermen and sailors began to pray to her in honor of her acts of courage in trying to save those at sea. Her worship spread quickly. Much of her popularity in comparison to other sea deities resulted from her role as a compassionate motherly protector, completely different from authoritarian father figures like the Dragon Kings. She is usually depicted with black skin, wearing a red robe, and sitting on a grass mat.
There are about 800 to 1000 Taiwanese temples dedicated wholly, or usually, partly, to Matsu. Chaotian Temple of Peikang Township in Yunlin is the most popular temple of Matsu in Taiwan. Heavenly Empress Palace-Meizhou Ancestral Temple is on her native Meizhou Island. There is also a temple on the Pescadores Islands.
In Hong Kong, around 60 temples are dedicated, at least partially to Tin Hau. The temple in the Tin Hau area, east of Victoria Park, in Eastern district, on Hong Kong Island, has given its name to the area and to the MTR station serving it (Island line). See Places of worship in Hong Kong for a more detailed listing.
Macau has three Tin Hau temples (one per Coloane, Macau Peninsula, and Taipa). In total, there are around 1,500 Matsu temples in 26 countries of the world.
Her birthday-festival is on March 23 of the lunar calendar.