Taichung city's tourist bureau is out to build the world's largest statue of Matsu, a sea goddess much reverenced in Taiwan and China. Taipei Times says:
Among the NT$1.2 billion (US$39.8 million) to be spent building the proposed Daan Matsu cultural park in Greater Taichung, around NT$600 million of the funds will go toward constructing a nearly 70m tall statue of Matsu, including the foundation and a path of reverence for the sea goddess. Greater Taichung’s Tourism and Travel Bureau Director General Chang Da-chun says, “This will definitely be the tallest Matsu statue in Southeast Asia.” There are already many official and private tour groups from China making queries, Chang says, adding that he is confident that, along with Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia, “It will create a huge tourist attraction.”The Taichung city government has long complained that those busloads of Chinese tourist dollars leave Taichung port and head directly to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou without dropping a cent in the city. Determined to change that, the city government proposed a few years ago to build a penguin exhibit in the city, to which tourist flows would be diverted, presumably because everyone knows you go to Taiwan to see the native penguins. That idea was greeted with general derision, but this one is more interesting.
Interesting because Matsu worship has long been an important vector of pro-China, pro-annexation propaganda and activities on both sides of the Strait. Remember when the emerald Matsu statue landed at Taichung harbor, there to be received by Taichung Mayor Jason Hu and the head of the Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia, pro-annexation politician/businessman/but not gangster, no siree Yen Ching-piao? Several years ago BBC noted this connection between Matsu and China's drive to annex Taiwan, in the context of visits by Chinese religious representatives to the famous Matsu procession:
But for China, sending its temple representatives here to join in the celebrations is not without its political motivations.In 2009 Yen Ching-piao's right hand man Cheng Ming-kun, whose formal position is deputy Chair of the Jenn Lann Matsu Temple in Dajia, the center of Taiwan's Matsu worship, was in China discussing with Beijing how to use Matsu to help China annex Taiwan. In May of 2009 a boat carrying Cheng Ming-kun and a load of Mazu pilgrims was the first passenger ferry to cross the strait. Of course Ma Ying-jeou appointed Yen Ching-piao, who says he is not a gangster at all but merely a misunderstood businessman, his "local spokesman" for ECFA.
The Chinese government has placed great emphasis on reviving Mazu in China – seeing it as an important way to underscore its insistence that Taiwanese people and culture came from China – and that Taiwan is a part of China.
Beijing hopes to reunify with the island one day and has not renounced the use of force to do so.
"They’re doing this to show both sides believe in Mazu and have a similar heritage," said Tsai Ming-hsien, a volunteer Mazu celebrations organiser who has had many dealings with Chinese temple officials.
It may seem like a silly religious stunt, but building a giant Matsu statue in Taichung where it will face China across the Strait, is a stunt with serious pro-annexation political overtones.
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