TAIPEI (The China Post) — The Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage, the largest annual religious procession in Taiwan, will depart on Thursday evening from the coastal suburban district in Taichung, central Taiwan, and return on June 20, organizers announced on Monday.
The 9-day procession, which celebrates the birthday of the sea goddess Matsu, will take the Matsu statue of Taichung’s Jenn Lann Temple on a journey throughout central Taiwan on a sedan chair.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are expected to 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.
In response to the announcement, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心), said there won’t be any restrictions on the procession even though the epidemic prevention measures are still in place.
Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic this year, temples announced in February the cancellations of the annual procession, originally slated for March 19-28, after considering advice from health professionals. As the pandemic has continued to subside, the CECC allowed gatherings limited to around 1,000 people.
Several prominent events that are part of the celebration, however, will be canceled, the organizer said, including an outdoor banquet that more than 10,000 people attended last year, a concert and a ceremony held at Fengtien Temple in Chiayi.
Some of the money budgeted for these events will be used to set up inspection stations along the procession route for disease prevention purposes, while another NT$30 million (US$980,700) from the budget will be donated to the Central Epidemic Command Center, Jenn Lann Temple Chairman Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) said in February.
One of the main rituals featured in the Matsu Pilgrimage — people weaving under Matsu’s sedan chair or lying down on the ground as it passes over them for good luck — will not be allowed this year, nor will pilgrims be allowed to touch the sedan chair, Yen said.
He suggested that followers of Matsu set up altars in the goddess’ name in their own homes and watch the live stream of the procession to show their gratitude and respect.