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.
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.
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.
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.
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)