Taiwan Fun Magazine, March 2004

Alt Feature:


International Dajia Festival Celebrate Matsu's birthday

By Cheryl Robbins Translated by Blankie Hsu

     Each spring, Taichung county's Dajia (Tachia) town becomes a busy hive of religious and tourist activity as the goddess Matsu's birthday celebrations take place. Matsu, who came to Taiwan with 17th-century Fujian province immigrants, is the most worshipped deity in Taiwan with hundreds of temples devoted to her.

    There are many stories about Matsu's origins. One of the most popular is that she was born into a Sung Dynasty fishing family in Fujian and was given special powers by the gods to communicate with them, drive off evil spirits, avert disasters, cure the sick and rescue ships from disaster. After ascending to heaven, her spirit frequently appeared to save shipwreck victims, making her the guardian deity of sailors and fishermen.

     Matsu's birthday falls on the 23rd day of the third lunar month, but is usually celebrated earlier with a pilgrimage to sister Matsu temples. The pilgrimage procession starts from the Chenlan Temple in Dajia and goes hundreds of kilometers through Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin and Chiayi counties before returning to Dajia eight days later.

   Matsu's statue is carried in a sedan chair and accompanied by large puppet "bodyguards" in a colorful parade. The procession start is the highlight of a month-long international festival. This year, it starts in early March and continues until April 24. The procession will begin at about 10 p.m. on April 17 with thousands of well wishers crowding the streets of Dajia to see Matsu off, and a parade featuring lion dances, floats, performing artists, firecrackers, gongs and drums. Preparation festivities begin around 3 p.m. There are also Matsu exhibitions and folk performances around the temple—itself worth visiting--and, this year, musical groups from around the world.

    For more information about the 2004 Dajia Matsu International Culture Festival, go online to http://mazu.taichung.gov.tw or call the Taichung County Cultural Bureau at (04) 2526-0136.