TAIPEI (The China Post) – The nine-day Mazu Pilgrimage in Taiwan is an annual religious festival celebrating the birthday of Mazu. Hailed by Discovery Channel as one of the world’s three largest religious activities, the festival is also included on UNESCO’s world intangible cultural heritage list.
Mazu, the Chinese sea goddess, who came to Taiwan during the Qing dynasty with migrants from China’s southwest coast, has gradually become very popular among Taiwan believers as she provides guidance and protection for sailors.
The Baishatun Mazu Pilgrimage is one of the most popular pilgrimage routes, in addition to the Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage, featuring special rituals featuring the statue of Baishatun Mazu sitting in the palanquin and going from Gongtian Temple (拱天宮) in Miaoli County to Chaotian Temple (朝天宮) in Yunlin County.
The important ritual, during which Mazu goes back and forth three times in a sedan chair in front of local buildings, is the way Mazu extends greetings and pays tribute to house gods and local gods. By conducting the ritual, organizers also hope Mazu will bring peace and regards to local people.
During the pilgrimage, you will see how the Baishatun Mazu sometimes takes a short break at arcades, open spaces, or verandas facing the front of buildings and main doors. Sometimes, she will also decide to stay for the night and enter the building by carrying out the ritual.
However, where or when Mazu will stop is always uncertain. Sometimes the sea goddess already decided to stay overnight at one place as early as 2 p.m., other times she won’t decide until as late as midnight.
When the goddess decides to stay, accompanied staff from the temple will make the announcement and wait for the direction again by throwing the divination blocks for the departure time the next day.