Walking Behind a Palanquin: What’s This Tradition All About?

The palanquin or litter is carried on two horizontal poles by several bearers. (Image: Weibo.com)
The palanquin or litter is carried on two horizontal poles by several bearers. (Image: Weibo.com)

Matsu or Lin Moniang is the Chinese patron goddess who is traditionally said to protect seafarers like fishermen and sailors.

The worship of Matsu began in the Song Dynasty. Matsu is widely worshiped in the coastal regions of China, as well as in Taiwan, and other places in East and Southeast Asia.

The Matsu Pilgrimage of Baishatun Gong Tian Temple in Tongxiao, Taiwan, has a history of nearly 200 years. Every year, activities are held during which people go on a pilgrimage and offer incense while walking.

Followers of Matsu believe that the pilgrimage brings blessings and protection. And it has been a tradition for both locals and tourists, and for believers and non-believers to enjoy.

This year, the events started on May 22. Believers and tourists followed the palanquin of Matsu, completing a 124-mile journey and finally arrived at Beigang Heavenly Temple in Yunlin County after a 36-hour walk. The total distance is a return journey of about 248 miles.

What’s special about it is that there’s no fixed route. People just follow the palanquin of Matsu, which sometimes goes along beaches or the Zhuoshui River, sometimes enters schools or residential areas, and sometimes even crosses the river. The journey is always full of challenges and surprises.

On the sixth day of the events, the palanquin suddenly turned into a supermarket. The store manager said he had been praying for Matsu to come in, and surprisingly his wish had come true.

Bloggers joked that Matsu also cares about the food safety issues that emerge so frequently these days.

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