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Devotees celebrate birth of sea goddess

By ZHANG YI in Beijing and HU MEIDONG in Fuzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-15

Thousands of devotees from both sides of the Taiwan Strait gathered on Friday in Meizhou, a seaside resort in Putian of Fujian province, to celebrate the 1,063rd anniversary of the birth of Mazu — a revered goddess of the sea — and pray for peace.

The goddess, who safeguards fishermen's lives and is widely respected in both Fujian and Taiwan, lies at the heart of numerous beliefs and customs, including oral traditions, religious ceremonies and folk practices.

The event brought over 800 Taiwan people, among a large number of worshippers from all over the world, to pay homage to the goddess on the island of Meizhou, which is believed to be the birthplace of Mazu.

On Thursday night, worshippers counted down to the arrival of Mazu's birthday. When midnight came, fireworks exploded and thousands of people sang happy birthday to memorialize the moment.

Friday morning began with drumming and cannon fire as devotees, dressed in traditional clothing and carrying incense, made their way to the altar to pray for peace and prosperity.

Traditional music filled the air as young men and women danced, while seven 25-meter-long, colorful silk banners symbolizing a common bond were presented.

Many Taiwan attendees were impressed by the ceremony, as the Mazu faith originated in Fujian and was brought to Taiwan, where it has been widely embraced.

Wu Cheng-tien, chairman of Taiwan's New Party, who attended the event, said, "Taiwan is one of the most devout areas of Mazu worship, and the faith is deeply rooted in the spiritual life of Taiwan people."

He said that it is the enduring cultural ties between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait that have enabled them to travel long distances and cross the Strait to worship in Mazu's hometown.

Last year, Wu visited his ancestral home in Huangshi township of Putian to deepen ties between the mainland and Taiwan, and promote exchanges and cooperation in economy and culture.

As a Mazu devotee, Wu said he will continue to promote exchange programs that will encourage the younger generation in Taiwan to trace the footsteps of their ancestors on the mainland.

Lin Jinzan, chairman of the Mazu Temple's board of directors in Meizhou that organized the event, said that various means will be explored to promote and spread Mazu culture, so as to nurture grassroots friendship between people on both sides of the Strait.

Also present at the event were Mazu devotees from around the world, including Southeast Asia, where many overseas Chinese communities are concentrated and the Mazu faith continues to thrive.

Cai Shangxin, honorary chairman of the Federation of Quanzhou Jinjiang Associations in Thailand, said, "Hundreds of years ago, Mazu protected our ancestors in their travels to Southeast Asia and settle down in this place."

The culture of peace and harmony has transcended the boundaries of its origin and is recognized by different ethnic groups, regions and countries, he said.

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