Mazu Pilgrimage

2014年5月4日 星期日

       Mazu pilgrimage is the most magnificent religious activity in Taiwan. It lasts about 10 days over 400 km. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims escort the divine palanquin with the statue of Mazu inside. Local people and shops along the pilgrimage route will also provide drinking and food for pilgrims. 
Baisatun Mazu Pilgrimage


        Taiwan folk beliefs have their roots in polytheism. It is a combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Folks build temples in memory of a hero or a man/woman with beneficence. There are over 5,000 temples in Taiwan. Some temples may as small as a few square feet and some may as big as a few square miles.
       Pilgrimage is an unique and popular religious ritual. Some pilgrimages may takes a few hours and most of these pilgrimages are fore inspecting the area the divines protect.  Some pilgrimages are for visiting another temple and  may take a few days in order

Historical Background
        Mazu was born in 960 AD in Meizhou, Fujian. There were some legends about her. One legend about her was that she brought a lantern and stood at cape to guide fishermen in the dark night. After she died, the people in Meizhou began to worship her and she became the Goddess of the Sea. Since Fujian was a major emigrant province at that age, Mazu worship spread out to southeast Asia. Nowadays, the Mazu has became a world intangible heritage recognized  by UNESCO.
        The oldest Mazu temples in Taiwan can date back to 16 century and Mazu has became the most popular deity in Taiwan. There are over 500 temples worship Mazu. Mazu pilgrimage also becomes the most important religion activity in Taiwan. In fact, there are 2 important Mazu pilgrimages each year.
         Most Mazu pilgrimages, with the nickname of Mazu March Mania", are held about one month before the birthday of Mazu, with is 23th March in lunar calendar(around the end of April in solar calendar). The exact time may differ temples from temples.The pilgrimages of Dajia Mazu, Baisatun Mazu and Jinquashi Mazu are much better for a foreigner to experience. The pilgrimage of Baisatun Bazu is in the end of March (solar calendar) and the Pilgrimage of Chenlan Temple is is around 10th March (solar calendar). The exact schedule will not be decided until Lantern Festival, 15 days after Chinese New Year. The pilgrimage of Jinquashi Mazu will be held on 23th March in lunar calendar. In 2014, 23th March in lunar calendar is on 22th April in solar calendar.

       
Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage
        The pilgrimage of Dajia Mazu is the biggest pilgrimage in Taiwan. The pilgrimage starts from Jenn Lann Temple(Dajia, Taichung), arrives Fengtien Temple(Shingan, Chiayi) at the 3rd day and return to Jenn Lann Temple at 9th day. Lots pilgrims follow Mazu for the full days and lots pilgrims join the pilgrimage every year. Since the first 2 days and last 2 days of the pilgrimage is almost along railway between Taichung and Chunghua,  it is much easier to follow the pilgrimage for a foreign traveler by public transportation. In additional to the transportation, the itinerary could be more flexible for there are lots places of interest and gourmet in Taichung and Changhua, including . the fan-shaped train, garage, Changhua meat ball, Jiji branch line.



        The Baisatun(Tonshao, Maoli) Mazu Pilgrimage, which has lasted for more than 170 years,is the longest pilgrimage in Taiwan. The  destination of Baisatun Mazu pilgrimage is Chao-Tien Temple (Baigan,Yunlin), the mother temple of Baisatun Mazu. The pilgrimage also takes 9 days with total length about the pilgrimage is about 400KM.
        The most distinctive feature of the pilgrimage is that the pilgrimage route is determined according to decree of  Mazu. The porter of the divine palanquin can feel the decree and move together. Therefore, the pilgrimage route is different from year to year and no one know where Baisatun Mazn will go. But that's the most interesting thing as Mazu will walk across a river, go through a field, take a rest at the house of a local devotee, or go into a government building. The only thing for sure is that Baisutun Mazu will arrive Chao-Tien Temp in the noon in the 3rd day. In additional to the uncertainty of the pilgrimage route, another feature of Baisatun Mazu pilgrimage is the she always gives blessing to those critically ill patients if they wait in front of the line. Baisatun Mazn will give blessing by touching them with the divine palanquin.
A father hold his son and wished to get the blessing from Baisatun Mazu 
Transportation
  • Jinquashi Mazu
        In additional to Dajia Mazu and Baisatun Mazu, there are also other Mazu pilgrimage around the birthday of Mazu. The pilgrimage of Jiaquashi Mazu  is hold on March 23 in lunar calendar, the birthday of Mazu. Jinquashi Mazu Pilgrimage is tiny but characteristics. Jinquashi is next to Jiufen and has similar hill environment. The pilgrimage will go along hill path and narrow pathway. Since Jinquashi is one of the must-visit places for a foreign traveler, you can stay one night at Jinquashi or Jiufen and join the pilgrimage in the next morning.
Pilgrimage of Jinquashi Mazu goes along a hill path
Pilgrimage of Jinquashi Mazu in Jiuquashi.




Taboos 
        Before join the pilgrimage, there are some taboos you should keep in mind. Fortunately, there is no weird taboo, but there are only a few easy items that you can easily to understand and remember.
There are some rituals in the pilgrimage.
  • Don't Touch Anything
        Since you don't know you are allowed to t
ouch somethings or not, the best rule is don't touch anything in the pilgrimage or ask before act.

  • Don't Stand Above The Divine Palanquin
      That's the taboo that most people forget, including myself. The reason is clear. There are some pedestrian overpasses along the journey and that are good place to take pictures. You can stay on the pedestrian overpass before or after the divine palanquin goes through. However, you should leave on the pedestrian overpasses for a while when the divine palanquin is passing through.


Rituals, Customs and Facilities 
  There are some interesting rituals you should never miss. There are also some customs and facilities you can use in the pilgrimage.

  • Crawl Beneath the Divine Palanquin

 Crawl beneath the divine palanquin
        Crawl beneath the divine palanquin is an unique ritual in Mazu Pilgrimage. Devotees get down with legs and hands touching the ground and head facing down in order to get the blessing from Mazu when her divine palanquin passing over. If you walk before the divine palanquin, you can see there are always devotees kneeing down on the pilgrimage route and waiting for the divine palanquin. More and more devotees will join the waiting line. Please take off your hat if you want to try the ritual. For safety reason, you should take off your backpack and keep your body low. The staff will touch your shoulder when the divine palanquin has passed over.

  • Food, Drinking & Toilet
Free Food & Drinking Supply
        In the 9 days pilgrimage, there are lots free food and drinking supply from local devotees. Don't be afraid. you can take the food & drinking. That is the another kind of contribution from the local devotees. All foods are made of vegetable. Lots temples on the pilgrimage route also provide free food and drinking. Be noted that food and drinking shops charge. But you can identify the free food and drinking service easily.
        On the pilgrimage route, there are also lots devotees will provide their toilets for the pilgrims. You can also use the toilets in the convenient stores.

  • Hitchhike
Free Hitchhike 
        Since it is a long way to go, not all devotees can walk the whole pilgrimage. Many devotees will carry tired pilgrims for a short distance. The driving devotees will drive slowly and ask actively if you need the hitchhike service. Just raise your hand and take the free hitchhike with thankful attitude.

  • GPS
        There is no precise schedule for the pilgrimage and it is not easily to control moving speed because there are too many devotees in the crowded streets. The pilgrimage route of Baisatun Mazu is even not fixed. In order to provide the location information of the divine palanquin for devotees, the organizers develop web and app that provide real-time GPS of the divine palanquin. For Dajia Mazu, you can visit http://mazu.gis.tw/ to check the location of Dajia Mazu or downloand app. For Baisatun Mazu, you can link to http://www.baishatun.com.tw/ to get the information.


Marching Band of Marzu Pilgrimage 

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