Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage

Every third lunar month, Dajia Jenn Lann Temple organizes its largest and most important event, the Mazu Pilgrimage, or Deity of Holy Mother Pilgrimage.  This pilgrimage originated during the Qing dynasty, when it was held every 12 years and traveled directly from Da-an Harbor, or Wenliao Harbor, to Meizhou. This tradition continued until Taiwan’s Japanese colonial era, when Da-an Harbor declined and cross-strait interactions were prohibited. The pilgrimage to Meizhou eventually ended during the early Republic of China period. Today’s Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage to Beigang Chao Tian Temple, however, arose out of thanksgiving religious ceremonies by livestock merchants traveling and trading between Dajia and Beigang.

Introduction of Folklore Parade

Bao Ma Zai
Bao Ma Zai, also known as the Scout Horse, is the flagship of the Jin Xiang (“incense-offering”) Group which scouts to see if roads are free of danger and reports this information to Mazu.  A gong is then sounded to remind citizens to take clothing inside and prepare to welcome Mazu.

First Flag, The Lantern, San-Xian Flag
Representative of Mazu, the First Flag is an almond-yellow square flag embroidered with “Dajia Jenn Lann Temple Deity of Holy Mother, First Flag, Pilgrimage” characters. The flag, topped by a wooden red gourd, is carried by the flag bearer with both hands during pilgrimage. The Lantern, upon which eight gods are painted and “Dajia Jenn Lann Temple Deity of Holy Mother, Pilgrimage, Safety” are written, symbolizes the light as well as the eye of the incense-offering groups. The latern bearers stand on two sides of the First Flag and San-Xian Flag bearers serve as its deputy flag bearers, while the middle yellow flag represents Mazu with “Dajia Jenn Lann Temple Deity of Holy Mother” written on it. The other two blue flags serve as guardians and are inscribed with “Dajia Jenn Lann Temple Pilgrimage”. San-Xian Flags, placed on the shoulders of flag bearers during the journey, are decorated with red gourds but no incense.

Way-Open Drum
The “way-open drum”, positioned in front of incense-offering groups, will blow trumpets during the entire pilgrimage route to inform devotees of the groups’ arrival.

Specially-Organized Cycling Team
As the strictly-disciplined “Model Incense-Offering Group”, these cyclists all wear caps, white shirts, same-colored ties, khaki pants and white gloves, regardless of their gender.

Xiu Qi Group
Founded in 1963, Jenn Lann Temple ‘s Xiu Qi Group is the largest incense-offering group in Taiwan and has the goal of increasing the number of such teams. It once reached a record-breaking achievement of over 360 joint incense-offering teams.

Fu De Mi Le Procession
Fu De Mi Le Procession consists of Tudigong (“Earth God”), Yunu (“Goddess of Jade”) and three Buddhist arhats, with the ingot-bearing Tudigong leading the way to distribute wealth.

Three adorable, big-bellied Maitreyas drink wine and enjoy uninhibited fun along the entire pilgrimage route.

Procession of the Prince
Featured as the main god in this procession, the Third Prince Nuo Zha is a mischievous urchin in need of Master Ji Gong’s education, providing a comedic ambiance during the journey. Under a pacifier change custom, devotees with newborn babies will prepare and exchange pacifiers with Nuo Zha, or implore him for a new pacifier for their child, in the hope that it will grow up safe and healthy.

The Prodigies
Guided by flags, the two Prodigies jump and dance jubilantly to request for routes.

Shaojiao Team and Horsehead Gong
In early times, there were only two Shaojiao (a wind instrument) but this number has expanded to 60 now. The horsehead gong determines the way that the Shaojiao is played: The Shaojiao is normally blown as the horsehead gong sounds 13 times.  However, when passing by bridges, tombs or funerals, the gong will be banged irregularly to drive away unfriendly spirits.

Thirty-Six Zhishi
The Zhishi team holds a pair of dragon-and-phoenix flags, 12 colorful cards and 18 weapons, with a dragonhead-shaped crutch in the front and phoenix tail in the back of the team. If confronted with a funeral during the journey, the Zhishi will surround and protect Mazu to prevent any offense by unfriendly spirits and appeals by victimized spirits.

Music Before Sedan
Music-Before-Sedan, a small band in front of Mazu’s sedan chair, consists of suonas, drums, cymbals and temple blocks.

Umbrellas and Lingqi Flag
These umbrellas, also known as “Glamorous Hats”, are used to protect Mazu from rain and the sun, continuing the legacy of “a shelter for people” in ancient times. Lingqi Flag is used to avoid unkind spirits.

The Sedan Chair
At the head of incense-offering lines sits Mazu’s sedan chair, whose arrival is welcomed by nonstop fireworks. According to legend, Dajia Mazu’s sedan chair possesses special powers, which encourage devotees to touch and carry the chair during the eight-day pilgrimage.

Incense-Offering Flag
A triangular incense-offering flag with two attached bells represents individual pilgrims as the bells will call pilgrims together when dark night falls. Taoist talismans from temples are tied onto the flag to offer prayers for personal and family safety.

First Incense
According to old stories, 53 villages in Dajia took turns arranging Mazu pilgrimage during the Qing Dynasty. However, due to long time interval as well as wealth inequality between the villages, First Incense competition was introduced for villages that aspire to organize the pilgrimage events and compete to offer incense under the name of First Incense, Second Incense and Third Incense.

Ten Rituals

The dates and times for the Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage are flexible and usually decided via a poe divination ritual conducted by the Dajia Jenn Lann Temple chairman during Lantern Festival. According to tradition, 10 rituals are held with a specific way, place and time during the nine-day journey: poe divination, flag-raising, pray-for-safety, sedan-ascent, start-off, rest, pray-for-luck, birthday congratulations, return, and statue-placement.