TAIPEI–The annual procession to honor the sea goddess Mazu in central Taiwan’s Taichung City not only attracts millions of worshippers each year, but has spawned interesting technology offerings and creative cultural products.
This year, Mazu devotees will set off from Taichung’s famed Dajia Jenn Lann Temple on April 5 and traverse the counties of Changhua, Yunlin and Chiayi, covering a distance of over 340 kilometers before returning to the Taichung temple nine days later.
The worship of Mazu has generated various technology services to help believers keep track of the procession and make their trips easier.
A website has been launched to allow people to watch the procession online live, made possible by the use of global positioning technology and cameras fixed to the palanquin.
A smartphone application is also available to mark for devotees on a map the dining places, convenience stores, gas stations and parking lots close to where the Mazu palanquin will be parked. Local manufacturers, meanwhile, have been rolling out a variety of merchandise, including hats, T-shirts and talismans bearing the image of the sea goddess.
The procession travels past more than 100 temples along the way, attracting believers who kneel down and wait their turn to have the palanquin carrying a statue of the sea goddess pass over them, an act believed to bring luck.
During one stop at the Hsinkang Fengtain Temple in Chiayi County, thousands of devotees swarm streets around the temple, with the most devout of them getting down on their knees and touching their foreheads to the ground in worship.
The annual event draws over 3 million participants and extensive media attention at home and abroad.
In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added the Mazu belief and customs to its list of intangible cultural heritage.
This year, free screenings on cervical and breast cancers for women will be offered during the procession, marking the first time cancer screenings have been included as part of the annual pilgrimage.