Just like what Backlight53 said: this week, there is one thing people in central Taiwan are crazy for. That is Da-jia Matsu's inspection tour.
Based on Mei-Rong Lin's research, Matsu is the deity most commonly worshipped by Taiwanese people. Matsu's birthday falls on the 23rd day of the third month in the lunar calendar. All the worship activities are held shortly before and after this date. Activities related to the Matsu's inspection tour are very hot, and more and more young people join these activities these years.
What people do in Matsu's inspection tour? Based on backlight53's words: in addition to walking with Matsu and serving free tea and water because they made the wish, the most important tradition is going through Matsu's palankeen. People believe that after going through Matsu's palankeen, they will have a better luck in the future year.
In 2006, National Youth Commission held a workshop about the belief in Matsu and brought interested young people to join Da-Jia Matsu's inspection tour in central Taiwan. In this special inspection tour, the believers walk eight days (4/21-4/29 this year) for about 300 km. They only eat vegetarian dishes and sleep in temples.
Nycfour in Da-Jia Matsu inspection tour youth exploration group blog talked about the importance of the inspection tour to people who believe in Matsu: Many people keep many sad things in their mind. They cannot find anyone to talk to and discuss. They wait for Matsu's inspection tour every year, and hold incense and pray and tell Matsu the bitterness in their life. Because of this, they wait for Matsu's inspection tour every year. To the elders, Matsu is better than psychiatrists.
Because Matsu has very strong social influence in Taiwan, there are some rituals that represent the competition among the local powers. For example, before the inspection tour, local powers would compete for the first incense. In some areas, the group winning the first incense is the most powerful group. In some areas, people even try to 'rob' Matsu because they believe Matsu will protect the area where she is located.
Hsiu-Tsen in Da-Jia Matsu inspection tour youth exploration group blog talked about what they saw in the 'robbing Matsu': These people believe that Matsu will protect the region of inspection tour. Some people try to 'rob' Matsu, especially in Chuanghua. Before Matsu went into Nan-Yao Temple, police officers took over Matsu. Local people tried to use fireworks and firecrackers to stop Matsu, and some young and strong men tried to grab the umbrella that belong to Matsu. This year they did not succeed because there are too many police officers. The number of police officers let me feel there was a serious criminal case.
Da-Jia Matsu's inspection tour attracted many people. However, it was not the case decades ago. Based on I-Chun's article: Today we visit the Chaotien temple at Peikang which is almost 320 years old, however Chaotien temple is not in the plan of the Matzu pilgrimage. In fact, before 1988 the Chaotien temple was the main reason for Da Jia Matzu pilgrimage. Da Jia Matzue pilgrimage was original mean “visit forefathers”, because in the Chaotien temple has worship Matzu’s parents and every year Matzu has to visit her parents. Nevertheless, in 1988 Da Jia Zhen Lan temple has decided not to visit Chaotien temple anymore because Da Jia Xhen Lan temple do not want rank lower than Chaotien in an academy way’s understanding.
What makes Da Jia Xhen Lan temple feels it is superior than other Matsu temples in Taiwan? Based on Kuo-Chou Huang's article, Da Jia Xhen Lan temple brought their Matsu to China in 1987 because the belief in Matsu is originally from China. Thereafter, they think they are more orthodox than others.
Some people think that even though we do not consider how Chinese culture revolution destroyed the belief in Matsu in China, there is difference between Matsu belief in China and Taiwan.
Based on Mei-Rong Lin's research, Matsu was originally Goddess of the Sea. Our ancestors brought her over with them when they crossed the sea to Taiwan, to protect themselves, and when they moved inwards, cultivating the land of Taiwan, they frequently appealed to her for blessings and protection, and thus Matsu became "Taiwanized," and having started out as Goddess of the Sea became Goddess of Rain. The Taiwanese saying, "Lord Tatao controls the wind, and the lady Matsu brings the rain" further encouraged the belief that the ritual of "welcoming Matsu" often brought rain.
When some people argued about the political powers behind Matsu, many people only consider Matsu as a religion, like other religions.
Miki said: Religion is the place the light is. We are like children, attracted by the light in the darkness. I like the positive power of orthodox religion. When I saw these believers walking silently, the power of belief is very positive.
The movie 'Island Etude' has its own blog. The author EtudeBike talked about Matsu in their movie: After shooting this movie, I have a different view toward 'religion.' Religion is not for doubting, but for believing.
'We will see what we want to see' is very suitable to describe what religion is. Although I am not in Taiwan, and I cannot say I am a believer of Matsu, I still watched the movie about Matsu inspection tour happily. I believe in Matsu, because I believe in the people who believe in her.
If you are interested in this activity, you can check 'the handbook of Da-Jia Matsu inspection tour'. Maybe like Arkun said: I feel that Matsu's inspection tour provides good hiking and profound tourism experience with free food and accommodation. You cannot find a better one even with a lantern!