The Power of Tradition: Matsu Pilgrimage (II)
Imagine this: an 8 day pilgrimage that takes you over a distance of 300 kilometers across numerous municipalities and all you have to do on the way is walk – all food and drink are provided by devout followers along the way.
This might sound incredible, especially during this day and age when people might express doubt about the “free food” aspect. However, this is the scenario I experienced at least during my 10 hour walk-a-thon with the pilgrimage in Taichung County. Surprising or not, there were enough bottled water and small treats (even a hearty breakfast consisting a small box of fruits at a temple) contributed by roadside spectators to the point that the bottle of water I bought at the 7-eleven before the trip began remained in my backpack.
Generosity at this day and age – especially to strangers who you never met and just passersby – is something rare. However, this is what you see at the pilgrimage: stacks of bottled water and light snacks prepared by followers (from temples to regular households) make sure that the pilgrims are never hungry, sustaining their determination to walk on.
Of course, it also makes economic sense if you consider all the showy fireworks the pilgrimage encounters every half-an-hour or so. On average, these events last an average of 20 minutes; given all the glamorous mid-altitude fireworks bellowing in the air, you can probably imagine the price tag that comes with these extravaganzas. Yes, a cargo of mineral water is probably just chump-change compared to these shows.
Raising the Flag for… Popularity Votes?!
As for the sponsors… well, you do have the random local councilperson trying to make a name for himself or herself – there are enough flags around outside the makeshift rest stops carrying the name of these people.
Notice the amazing number of politicians who find time to show up at the ceremonies… as well as along the way.
It forces one to consider what it means to be “close and approachable” to the public. Is it because the politician really believes in it, or is it just a vote-garnishing machine?
That’s just some food for thought. This is, after all, Taiwan, where popular belief is mingled with a spoonful of political reality.
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