Matsu procession inspires more than just religious belief

Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Apr 02, 2013 - Page 5

The annual procession to honor the sea goddess Matsu (媽祖) is known for inspiring millions of worshipers to come to Taichung each year, but it is also serving to inspire technological innovations and creative products.

This year, Matsu devotees will set off from Greater Taichung’s Dajia Jenn Lann Temple (大甲鎮瀾宮) on Friday and traverse Changhua, Yunlin and Chiayi counties, covering a distance of more than 340km before returning to the temple nine days later.

Various technological services have been set up to help believers keep track of the procession and make the pilgrimage easier.

A Web site has been launched that allows people to watch the procession live online through the use of global positioning technology and cameras fixed to the palanquin carrying a statue of the goddess.

A smartphone application has also been designed that shows devotees the restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations and parking lots in the area where the Matsu palanquin is parked.

Meanwhile, manufacturers have been rolling out a variety of merchandise to commemorate the event, including hats, T-shirts and talismans bearing the image of the sea goddess.

The procession passes more than 100 temples, attracting believers who kneel down and wait to have the palanquin carrying a statue of the sea goddess passed over them — an act believed to bring luck.

The event draws more than 3 million participants and extensive media attention both at home and abroad.

Another new feature that has been added to the procession this year is free cervical and breast cancer screening that will be offered to women in the procession.

In 2009, UNESCO added the Matsu worship procession to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.