Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) The Baishatun Mazu pilgrimage, one of the largest annual religious processions in Taiwan, will be held May 20-27 this year, organizers said Monday.
Hung Wen-hua (洪文華), head of the management committee at the Baishatun Gong Tian Temple in Miaoli County, said the date was chosen by the sea goddess Mazu using divination blocks, a popular local religious practice adopted to seek guidance from deities.
The annual pilgrimage, held for more than 200 years, is one of the two most important Mazu pilgrimages in Taiwan, the other being the Dajia Mazu pilgrimage.
Every year, the statue of the widely-worshipped deity and protector of seafarers, is placed in a palanquin and carried on the shoulders of worshipers over 400 kilometers from the Baishatun temple in Tongxiao Township to Baigan Chaotian Temple in Yunlin County and back.
A ceremony was held at 1 p.m. Monday to seek Mazu's decision about the departure date and also dates pertaining to activities surrounding the pilgrimage, Hung said.
According to the Miaoli temple, a pre-procession ritual that involves raising a banner to announce the start of this year's event will be held on May 16.
Baishatun Mazu is scheduled to arrive in Beigang on May 22, after which the "Divine Spirit Renewal" ceremony will begin at Chaotian Temple in Yunlin at midnight on May 23. This is an event where a fire will be lit for worshipers to take back to the Miaoli temple.
The sea goddess will return to Baishatun on May 27, with the entire journey to last eight days and seven nights, it said.
Hung said worshippers will have to apply 30 days in advance in order to participate in this year's event. He warned, however, that the annual procession could be canceled or postponed depending on the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan.
The Baishatun Mazu pilgrimage was designated as a national intangible cultural asset in 2010, and it was chosen by the Ministry of the Interior in 2013 as among the top 100 religious scenes in Taiwan.