Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Matsu Festival, March 25

One of Taiwan's biggest and most interest festivals is the annual Matsu festival. The Taipei Times reports on this year's incarnation:

Matsu (媽祖) is everywhere, or she will be later this month when the annual eight-day pilgrimage in honor of the sea goddess' birthday takes place, starting in Dajia (大甲) Township, Taichung County, on March 25.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to join the 280km procession that will pass through four counties -- Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin and Chiayi -- and visit around 80 temples. Matsu is the goddess of the sea and one of Taiwan's most venerated deities.

At a press conference yesterday in Taipei's Red Playhouse, Taichung County Commissioner Huang Chung-sheng (黃仲生) said the festival would be bigger and better than ever.

Such festivals highlight the way temple activities help broker local power arrangements between local politicians, "local factions" (a common euphemism for gang organizations) and local businessmen and leaders, giving them a chance to mingle and display their wealth, organizational skills, connections, and influence.

Outside the Red Playhouse yesterday, the Taipei Times met up with independent legislator Yen Chin-piao (顏清標), who was convicted in 2002 on charges of corruption, attempted murder, possession of illegal firearms and obstruction of justice.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was quoted in 2001 as saying the legislator would never be free from trouble even if he "prayed for help from Matsu."

But Yen was clearly enjoying the spotlight as one of the principal organizers of the festival and said the event would continue to grow in importance.

I blogged on the confluence of "local factions" and KMT politicians at the wedding of Yen's son a couple of months ago, where the police video'ed the participants.....

...in any case, the festival is a blast to watch and participate in. Take a moment if you can to experience this important local religious event.

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