Taiwan Visitors Worship Goddess on Mainland

Taiwan Visitors Worship Goddess on Mainland
In what Fujian provincial officials said was the largest cross-Straits cultural exchange in the last 10 years, more than 2,000 pilgrims from Taiwan flocked to Mazu Temple on Meizhou Island yesterday to worship Mazu, the goddess of the sea.

Although Meizhou is only 70 nautical miles from Taichung, Taiwan, pilgrims had to fly via Hong Kong or Macao to reach the mainland because there are no direct flights.

"More than 6,000 Taiwan pilgrims would come if direct flights were available,'' said Yan Qingbiao, board chairman of the Taiwan Dajia Zhenlan Temple, the biggest Mazu temple in Taiwan.

Rain fell early Tuesday morning, but when the ceremony began at 9:30 am, the skies were clear.

"Mazu is blessing and protecting us from risks,'' said Yan, who makes the annual pilgrimage to worship Mazu. "I hope the relationship between Taiwan and the mainland will become clear again like the weather.''

Mazu, who lived during Song Dynasty (960-1279), was known for her ability to forecast the weather.

Approximately 300 musicians and dancers wearing Song Dynasty-style costumes played traditional music and performed traditional dances during the ceremony.

Statistics from the Meizhou tourist bureau show that more than 100,000 Taiwanese pilgrims travel each year to Meizhou Island, Mazu's birthplace.

There are more than 4,000 Mazu temples around the world, including more than 1,000 in Taiwan. More than 200 million people worldwide worship Mazu. An estimated 75 per cent of Taiwan's population are said to believe in Mazu.

People's Daily Online --- http://www.peopledaily.com.cn/english/