Over 100 foreign students join Mazu frenzy in Taichung
Taipei, March 25 (CNA) A total of 148 foreign students took part in the annual Dajia Mazu pilgrimage in Taichung on Saturday, alongside hundreds of thousands of local pilgrims, taking the opportunity to learn more about local culture.
The students from 27 countries traveled to Taichung in central Taiwan to participate in an activity dubbed "Fun Mazu-Learn Chinese," which was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Feng Chia University (FCU).
Before joining the parade, the foreign students gathered at Yonghe Palace in Taichung's Dadu district, where professors from FCU's Chinese Language Center gave briefings on the architecture of Taiwan's temples, the legend of the sea goddess Mazu, and the Mazu religious ceremony, according to the education ministry.
The briefings also included cultural implications of the annual Mazu pilgrimage, one of the biggest religious activities in Taiwan, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the students had to learn some simple words or sentences in Mandarin Chinese and the Taiwanese dialect so that when they joined the Mazu parade at noon they could communicate with other followers, according to the ministry.
The highlight of the program was the ritual of "climbing under Mazu's palanquin to get a blessing," along the four kilometer part of the pilgrimage that the students joined, the ministry said.
The pilgrimage began at Dajia Jenn Lann Temple late Friday night, drawing hundreds of thousands of followers along the route, which will take them to Fengtian Temple in Chiayi and back over a nine-day period.
This is the second year that the education ministry and FCU have jointly organized the Mazu frenzy for foreign students.
It is part of the ministry's "learning Chinese from everyday life" initiative, which is designed to allow foreign students in Taiwan to take part in local cultural and festive activities while learning the language.
Under the initiative, the ministry works with local universities and organizations to promote Taiwan as the top choice for foreign nationals seeking to learn Mandarin Chinese.
The ministry said it is currently planning similar activities around the Dragon Boat Festival, the Moon Festival and the Ghost Festival this year. (Courtesy of CNA)