In many ways, Beigang is a typical Taiwanese town. It functions as a marketplace and religious center for the surrounding countryside; there are factories, auto-repair businesses and clinics. However, in terms of jobs and excitement, there is not enough here to stop young people from relocating to Taiwan's major cities. As a result the town's population (currently 42,000) has been shrinking and aging since the early 1980s.
If the prospect of living in Beigang excites few people, spending
half a day in the town is a popular thing to do, especially around the
time of Mazu's birthday (the 23rd day of the third lunar month; in 2014
it falls on April 22).
Beigang's best-known place of worship is Chaotian Temple.
This folk shrine, founded in 1694, is one of the five most important in
Taiwan devoted to the worship of Mazu, the sea goddess who has long been
the island's most popular deity. Until the 1980s, Chaotian Temple was a
stopover on the annual nine-day, 300-kilometer pilgrimage that honors
Mazu before her birthday. But since a dispute between Chaotian Temple
and Dajia Jenn Lann Temple - the starting point and organizer of
the pilgrimage - the former has played no role in what is now
officially called the Taichung International Mazu Festival. Chaotian Temple is sacred in the eyes of its supporters, but no
place for quiet contemplation. The faithful burn so much incense inside,
and let off so many firecrackers in the grounds, that you may well cut
your visit short without seeing the temple's oddest curiosity: An old
iron nail embedded in a granite step...
The entire article can be read here. The photo shows Shunfenger (one of Mazu's retainers) inside Chaotian Temple.
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