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Matchmaking deity to travel to Japan and spread the love

TAIPEI -- Taiwanese matchmaking deity Yue Lao (月老) is ready to travel to Okinawa on its first overseas trip to bring joy to Japanese seeking love on Valentine's Day, a Taipei temple devoted to the god said Wednesday.

The Taipei Xia-Hai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟), famous for its powers in facilitating love and marriage, said a secondary Yue Lao statue will travel to Okinawa on Feb. 14 to take part in a music festival being held there.

“It will also be the first time Yue Lao has traveled for a cultural exchange rather than for religious reasons,” said campaigner Titan Wu.

There are occasions when the deity, also known as the “old man of the moonlight,” leaves the temple to visit other gods, Wu explained.

The Japanese staff of the Okinawa International Asia Music Festival visited Yue Lao on Feb. 8 to get his approval to reside in Japan temporarily, and they received a positive answer, Wu said.

With the temple's main Yue Lao statue remaining in Taiwan, it will send another statue, described by Wu as being as big as a “2-liter Coca-Cola bottle,” to the Okinawa festival and pack it in a suitcase.

It will be the main attraction when the Feb. 14-16 festival showcases Taiwan's culture in a special event on Feb. 15 that will also highlight the country's traditional cuisine and music.

Visitors will be able to have their fortunes told by throwing divination blocks before the deity, Wu said.

Also as part of the event, 300 bowls of minced pork rice will be handed out for free to event goers, and a chorus will sing Taiwanese folk songs, he said.

The temple hopes that the promotion of Yue Lao's powers and other cultural exchanges can enhance understanding between the two sides, according to Wu.

He assured Taiwan residents searching for true love that they can still be blessed at the Taipei temple on Valentine's Day because the original Yue Lao statue and the deity's inherent spirit will remain there.

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