Mazu worship binds Taiwanese people
By Alan Fong, The China Post
April 15, 2010, 9:56 am TWN
Then the pilgrims usually stay at Fengtian Temple (奉天宮) in Hsingang and return to Fuhsing Temple on the fifth day. After that, Mazu stays at Tianan Temple (奠安宮) and then goes to Mazu Temple (天后宮) in Changhua City before returning to Jenn Lann Temple.
For people unavailable to join the whole nine-day event, the organizer provides one-day free-of-charge "experience" visit of the procession.
In this year the temple will also hold the Cross Strait Mazu Belief and Culture Forum (海峽兩岸媽祖信仰文化論壇) before the celebrations from April 15 to 16.
"In 2008 the Jenn Lann Temple held the Mazu International Forum in which we teamed up with believers in China to propose the listing Mazu culture as an UNESCO intangible cultural heritage," Yen said.
"In 2009 our effort paid off. The listing of Mazu culture as an intangible heritage marked the globalization of the belief. Since then, the dialogue between the global and the local became the basis of research for scholars in Mazu culture. To enhance the academic research and dialogue in the area, we organize the 2010 Cross Strait Mazu Belief and Culture Forum to enrich the public and the academic knowledge on the goddess," he added.
The forum will be based on five themes: Mazu belief and cultural heritage, Mazu temple and rituals, the cultural transmission of Mazu belief, regional research on Mazu belief and the cultural phenomenon related to Mazu belief. Scholars from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences will engage in academic discourse with Mazu experts from Taiwan in the two-day Web-cast forum.
An important figure in the Taichung area, the former president of Taichung county legislative body and a former legislator, Yen has been one of the most recognizable person in Taiwan. However, his role as the president of Jenn Lann Temple confers to Yen something more profound then mere fame and influence.
"I spent my childhood on the seashore in central Taiwan. You can say that I grew up alongside Mazu temples. Mazu has been the one I turn to for answers since I was a kid. She is the teacher of my life," he explained, "a while back ago, I had been not only discouraged but even dispirited when I was at the low point of my life. However, Mazu belief helped me rebuild my life and told me to take positive actions. It also guided me through my anger and remade me a more tolerant person."
"Until this day, whenever I am unhappy I go to the Mazu temple. I like looking at Mazu's face. It permeates a force of peace and tranquility that can dispense all my troubles," he concluded.