Whose Festival? Ritual Reconstruction and the Shaping of “Sense of Place”: The Mazu Meets the Mary


On October 20, 2018, in Wanluan Township, Pingtung, Taiwan. A religious activity named "When the Holy Mother (Mazu) From the East Meets the Virgin (Mary) From the West - Let Love Fly" was co-organized by the Centennial Catholic Church of Wanjin and the Taoist Zongtian Temple of Taiwan. This was the first formal meeting between the two religions across time and culture in the past millennium. However, although this was a historic moment for Taiwan as well as world religions, it is also rather controversial.

This study takes the activity as a case study through field investigation of the Wanjin Catholic community, including interviewing both the leaders and reviewing or analyzing related articles, online videos, and news reports. This paper introduces the two religions’ background, the religious negotiation and preparatory work before the event, the ritual on the day of the event, the discussion of different opinions, while critically reflecting on this differentiated interreligious activity in terms of the collision and integration of ritual reconstruction and the shaping of "sense of place". The paper attempts to answer the following questions: (1) What are the difficulties and opportunities for the two different religions to co-organize the "Let Love Fly" activity? (2) What are the similarities and differences between Virgin and Holy Mother in this festival? How are differences settled in the festival? (3) whose festival is this activity? Why is this interreligious activity possible in Taiwan and what could we learn from Taiwan's experience as a diverse multi-religious community?

Author Information
Xiaochun Chen, National Taiwan University of Arts, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2020
Stream: Religion

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon