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Young Taiwanese flock to reinvigorated goddess festival

Popularity reflects growing interest in the island's distinct identity

A person dressed as the child of a god dances next to exploding firecrackers at an event celebrating the Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage. (Photo by Naomi Goddard)

TAIPEI -- From firecrackers and dance troupes to blaring horns, Taiwan's century-old Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage includes all the elements that exemplify the island's temple culture. Its popularity is also growing rapidly among young Taiwanese, amid rising interest in Taiwan's distinct identity, and in sharp contrast with neighboring China, where worship of the ancient folk gods is moribund.

Every year, thousands of believers embark on a nine-day journey to show their devotion to Mazu, the "heavenly mother," praying for auspiciousness and prosperity. From Jenn Lann Temple in Taichung city's Dajia district, committed pilgrims follow Mazu to more than 110 temples, barely sleeping as they trek 340 km. Hundreds of thousands watch the procession in person, and millions more on television.

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