An­nual Mazu pro­ces­sion be­gins in Taichung

The China Post - - LOCAL -

An an­nual pro­ces­sion to honor Mazu ( ), the Chi­nese god­dess of the sea, kicked off late Fri­day night at the Da­jia Jenn Lann Tem­ple ( ) in the cen­tral city of Taichung.

Believ­ers will tra­verse the neigh­bor­ing coun­ties of Changhua, Yun­lin and Chi­ayi on a 330-kilo­me­ter jour­ney that is sched­uled to end April 26, when they re­turn to the Taichung tem­ple.

The an­nual event has been listed by the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel as one of the big­gest re­li­gious fes­ti­vals in the world, along with the hajj — the Mus­lim pil­grim­age to Mecca — and the Catholic pil­grim­age to the Vat­i­can.

Each year, mil­lions of wor­ship­pers flock to join the pro­ces­sion to cel­e­brate the birth­day of Mazu, be­lieved to fall on the 23rd day of the third month on the lu­nar cal­en­dar.

Some believ­ers set ta­bles with of­fer­ings along the route of the pro­ces­sion, while oth­ers sup­ply the pil­grims with food and wa­ter along the way.

De­vout wor­ship­pers pros­trate them­selves on some parts of the jour­ney, while oth­ers scram­ble to crawl un­der­neath the palan­quin car­ry­ing a statue of the sea god­dess to pray for her bless­ings.

In re­cent years, the an­nual tra­di­tion has spread be­yond mid­dleaged and el­derly peo­ple to reach younger believ­ers.

Lin Mao- hsien, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of Tai­wanese lan­guages and lit­er­a­ture at Na­tional Taichung Uni­ver­sity, has taken his stu­dents on the pil­grim­age years.

The an­nual fes­ti­val has even at­tracted stu­dents from the other side of the Tai­wan Strait, with some 100 Chi­nese stu­dents tak­ing part in re­cent years.

Lin said his stu­dents have learned through the pro­ces­sion that the most beau­ti­ful part of Tai­wan is its peo­ple, as they see believ­ers ea­ger to of­fer food and ac­com­mo­da­tion or other forms of as­sis­tance to the pil­grims.

More­over, most of the pil­grims em­bark on the nine-day jour­ney not for them­selves, but for the well­be­ing of their fam­i­lies and friends, Lin added.

The beauty of hu­man­ity shines through, which is touch­ing, he said.

for nearly 20

Tech­nol­ogy now also has a role in the time-hon­ored tra­di­tion.

A smart­phone app has been de­vel­oped to al­low users to track the pro­ces­sion through a global po­si­tion­ing net­work set up by Feng Chia Uni­ver­sity in Taichung.

Chou Tien-ying, a pro­fes­sor of ur­ban plan­ning and spa­tial in­for­ma­tion at the Taichung uni­ver­sity, said the app has been down­loaded over 100,000 times.

Chou said his uni­ver­sity has up­graded it this year to al­low believ­ers around the world to track the pro­ces­sion.

The Da­jia Jenn Lann Tem­ple has also in re­cent years been or­ga­niz­ing one-day pil­grim­ages for peo­ple too busy to em­bark on the whole trip, with more than 20,000 peo­ple sign­ing up last year.

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