This sensational nine-day pilgrimage in March or April celebrates the birthday of Mazu. Covering four counties, 60 temples, and a distance of 400 km, it is the country’s largest religious and folk activity. A palanquin carrying a statue of the goddess travels from Zhenlan Temple (Taichung) to Fengtian Temple (Chiayi) and back, escorted by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and spectators from Taiwan and abroad. Some believers make the full journey, though most do not. Everywhere the goddess goes, people throng to touch her sedan chair for luck or prostrate themselves so she can pass over them. Participating temples and volunteers provide water, meals, and lodging along the way.
Mazu is also known as Tianhou or Empress of Heaven. She is the patron goddess of sailors and seafarers, worshipped by fishing communities all over southern China and Asia. Mazu is believed to have been a young girl from Fujian named Lin Mo-niang (ca A.D. 960), who used divine powers to save her brothers (or her father, according to some versions,) from drowning. She died shortly afterwards.
See www.dajiamazu.org.tw for details of each year’s event.