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Religious Activities

Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage Procession

Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea, migrated to Taiwan with the people of Fujian Province in the 17th century to become one of the most revered deities on the island, where today about 870 temples are dedicated to her worship. Mazu's birthday falls in the third lunar month of the Chinese calendar; during this time, temples around the nation, including Taichung County Dajia Zhenlan(Jenn Lann) Temple, Changhua County Lugang Tianhou Temple, Yunlin County's Chaotian Temple, Tainan City's Datianhou Temple, and Chiayi County's Fengtian Temple, hold ceremonies, with incense burning, tours by the deities around their domains and other festivities. Among these temples, Zhenlan(Jenn Lann) Temple in Dajia, Taichung County has the largest celebration and also has the longest history.

The pilgrimage from Dajia's Zhenlan (Jenn Lann) Temple takes place during the third lunar month of the Chinese calendar. All sorts of festive activities are arranged at this time, including puppets and theater performances, displays of embroidered banners, float parades, dragon and lion dances, and other events as the procession passes through Changhua and Yunlin counties, and proceeds to Fengtian Temple in Xingang , Chiayi County. Many devotees walk the whole trip, which lasts eight days and seven nights.

The Mazu image which the pilgrims carry along with them is warmly welcomed at Fengtian Temple. The devotees prepare meat, fruits, and vegetables as offerings; firecrackers are discharged and incense is burned. Another climax of the activities occurs when Mazu returns home to Dajia in her palanquin; along the route, one can see hundreds of thousands of devotees holding parties for friends, relatives, and the returning pilgrims.

Neimen Songjiang Battle Array

Origins of the Songjiang Battle Array

Some people trace the origins of the battle array to Songjiang, a fictional bandit in the Song novel the Water Margin. According to this view, Songjiang developed this type of martial with a focus on formation and lesser emphasis on individual fighting to train his followers for combat. The battle array is said to be formed of 36 Tiangang star gods and 72 Disha star gods.

Another version is that the battle array is a boxing branch of the Shaolin school of martial arts handed down from the period of the Shaolin Shantao boxing, lion formation, and sword lion formation.

Some people believe that the Songjiang Battle Array in Taiwan was a type of training used by Cheng Chung-kung to prepare his troops to defend the coastal areas of Taiwan during the late Ming period. At that time, Song Jiang had a deep influence on popular respect for morally courageous revolutionaries. In their campaign to overthrown the Qing government and restore the Ming dynasty, Cheng Cheng-kung and his army from Fujian were compared to the heroes of the Liangshan(Liang Mountain) Marsh. The martial arts used by the army therefore became the prototype of the Songjiang Battle Array.

Composition of the Songjiang Battle Array: The original Songjiang Battle Array was composed of 108 heroes said to be transformed from the 36 Tiangang star gods and 72 Disha star gods. Today, most Songjiang Battle Arrays are composed of 36 members. The reduced size is due both to social changes in Taiwan and the belief among the array martial arts masters that l08 is an inauspicious number. In Taiwan, the tradition of the Songjiang Battle Array is most active in Kaohsiung City in the south. There are an especially large number of battle array groups in the city's Dashu District and Neimen District, but in terms of related temple activities Neimen District occupies a central place in Taiwan's Songjiang Battle Array world. Originally known as "Luohanmen," Neimen has a population of less than 30,000, yet the township is home to no fewer than 15 Songjiang Battle Array groups. This owes largely to the dedication of the temple committees of Neimen Zizhu Temple and Nanhai Zizhu Temple in Neimen to keep this colorful tradition alive and bring it to the international stage.

Donggang King Boat Ritual

The burning of the King Boat is one of the folk rituals of the seafaring people in the southwestern Taiwan. The original purpose of this ritual was to send the Plague God of out to the sea, and diseases along with him; today it is an activity held to pray for peace and good fortune. The festival is held once every three years, around the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, at Donglong Temple in Donggang. The boats are burned in the middle of the fourth month at Qing-an Temple in Xigang , Tainan County. Generally, the Donggang event is larger. These celebrations include large-scale temple activities, which climax with the burning of the plague god boat on the last day.

The Donggang boat-burning celebrations run for eight days and seven nights. According to the custom, first the boat is set fire by devotees and other participants prepare goods for the symbolic trip. Then a big fire is made (this is to force any bad spirits and the Plague God to go aboard), and the boat is burned while the people pray for peace.

Kunshen Wangye's Salt for Peace Festival

The salt industry along the southwest coast of Taiwan enjoys a long history dating back to the Ming and early Qing periods. The industry was based on solar evaporation of seawater using complex and highly skilled techniques. The salt industry was one of Taiwan's biggest industries for nearly 340 years. It contributed greatly to country's economic development and provided an essential product in the people's daily life. Although Taiwan has not been a major salt producer since 2002, the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area Administration maintains a traditional working salt field to preserve the history of this important industry in Taiwan

Druing the late fall to early winter is the best traveling season for sea salt production thanks to the strong coastal winds and scarce rainfall. Several salt-themed activities are held at this time, including the Kunshen Wangye's Salt for Peace Festival at Nankunshen Daitian Temple and Beimen, a center of Taiwan's traditional salt industry. These events invite visitors back to an earlier time when salt was the spice of life on the southwest coast of Taiwan.

* Data Source by Tourism BUREAU, 更多旅遊訊息在http://taiwan.net.tw *
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