Taipei, April 9 (CNA) More than 100 foreign students took part in the annual Dajia Matsu pilgrimage in Taichung on Saturday, alongside hundreds of thousands of local pilgrims.
The students from 24 countries traveled to Taichung in central Taiwan to participate in an activity dubbed joining the "Matsu frenzy while learning Chinese," which was co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Feng Chia University.
The students, who had to register to take part in the event, first went to Yonghe Palace in the city's Dadu district, where professors from the Chinese Language Center of Feng Chia University gave briefings on the architecture of Taiwan's temples, the legend of Matsu, and the Matsu religious ceremony and its cultural implications.
As part of the activity, the students had to learn some simple words or sentences in Chinese and Taiwanese so that they could interact with the other followers in the Matsu procession, which they joined at noon.
The experience involved the ritual of "climbing under Matsu's palanquin to get a blessing."
The pilgrimage began at Dajia Jenn Lann Temple late Friday night, drawing hundreds of thousands of followers along the route that will take them to Fengtian Temple in Chiayi and back over a nine-day period.
The Ministry of Education said the foreign students' participation will be included in a film, and related stories will be posted online to promote Taiwan's culture.
In recent years, Taiwan has been promoting an initiative called "learning Chinese from everyday life," which encourages foreign nationals to visit Taiwan for tourism or to serve as volunteers.
As part of the effort, local universities have been organizing cultural activities to promote Taiwan as the top choice among foreign nationals seeking to learn Chinese.
(By Chen Chih-chung and Lilian Wu)