Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage to be postponed

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA)—Organizers of the Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage, the largest annual religious procession in Taiwan, said Thursday that the event will be postponed due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, a reversal from an announcement they made the previous day.

Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), chairman of the Jenn Lann Temple, which organizes the pilgrimage, said in a press conference that the temple’s board of directors came to the decision to postpone the event, originally slated for March 19-28, after considering advice from health professionals.

He also discussed the issue with Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), he said, before reaching the decision to fully support the government’s disease prevention efforts and wait for the coronavirus situation to improve before setting a new date for the pilgrimage.

The event, which lasts nine days, is held annually to celebrate the birthday of the sea goddess Matsu and features the Matsu statue of Taichung’s Jenn Lann Temple being carried on the shoulders of worshipers throughout central Taiwan.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather along the more than 340-kilometer route that travels through Taichung, Changhua County, Yunlin County, and Chiayi County to celebrate the occasion and receive blessings from the goddess.

As the novel coronavirus epidemic shows no signs of abating, however, there have been concerns that a religious gathering of this scale could trigger an outbreak, especially as cluster infections linked to churches have popped up in South Korea and Singapore.

Several other prominent events that are part of the celebration have also been postponed and NT$30 million (US$982,500) originally budgeted for these events have been donated to the Central Epidemic Command Center, Yen said.