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An Investigation of the Baishatun Matsu Volunteer Associations in Central Taiwan
Gong Tian Temple, the religious center of Baishatun of Miaoli County, was founded in 1863. The Baishatun Matsu pilgrimage has more than a century of history. One major characteristic of Baishatun Mazu pilgrimage is that it is without a fixed route. The unique feature of the pilgrimage is that Matsu directs the schedule and the route. The Baishatun Matsu pilgrimage starts from Tonghsiao in Miaoli County to Beigang Chao-Tien Temple in Yunlin County. The common route of the Pilgrimage is across the coastal area of Miaoli County, Taichung City, Chang-Hua County, and Yun-Lin County. Some sincere polgrims calls for their friends and families to do something about the Baishatun Matsu pilgrimage. They prepare food, water, and plain raincoat, then they send to the people who follow the Baishatun Mazu pilgrimage by foot (xiang-deng-jiao). These people set up volunteer association to do more things about Baishatun Matsu pilgrimage. This examination was guided by the following research questions: What reasons cause those people to do such voluntary work? Where do they come from? In considering the structure of the volunteer associations. This start the field research of the Baishatun Matsu pilgrimage form 2012 to 2015, and talk with the key members of these volunteer associations. Most of them say that they organize the association because the Baishatun Matsu palanquin once parked in front of their house. Before that, these founders of the associations don’t understand about the pilgrimage. The important finding from these data suggests two types of organization; One type can be called as missionary type, which means that they just sent out food, water, and plain raincoat to the “xiang-deng-jiao”. Another type can be called as normal type which means that they run more like a normal Matsu association. They tend to do more things for Baishatun Matsu. Such the finding may account in part for the reason of the people to do such voluntary work. The results of the present study that might profitably be addressed by future researchers in the area. Accounting for why more than more people from another County of Taiwan to follow the Baishatun Mazu pilgrimage by foot remains for future research.
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