Customs
Folk Beliefs

God’s Tour

Context:

The collector interviewed the informant for Taiwanese folklores. The informant is the father of the collector. He was born and raised in a town by Kaohsiung, a city in the southern part of Taiwan.

 

Main piece:

绕境  In Pinyin: rào jìng

Literally: tour around the region

Rao Jing is the practice of a particular god enshrined in one shrine going out for a tour to visit other shrines or temples that enshrine the same god. The most common Rao Jing is Rao Jing of Mazu.

Taiwanese people, just like people living in other coastal regions in Southern China and some parts of Southeast Asia, have strong belief in the folk goddess Mazu. She is the major god who protects fishermen on the sea. There are countless shrines for Mazu in Taiwan.

Exchange activities are held among different shrines. When clergies in the shrines ask for the will of the goddess and it is revealed that she want to go on a tour, they will carry the goddess (the idol) outside to visit other Mazu shrines. The goddess usually visits multiple shrines during one tour.

When a guest god arrives at another shrine, the clergies at the local shrine and the believers living around the shrine prepare welcome banquets. Banquets are for the god and also for the people. The guest god will be worshiped by locals, and all the party accompanying the guest god will be served, including the clergies, the workers such as the bearers of the god’s litter (the chair vehicle) and the believers who follow the god from the original place.

 

The informant never participates such practice. He has only witnessed it.

 

Collector’s thoughts:

I witnessed once or twice such practice in my hometown when I was little, but I didn’t know the name of it until the informant (my father) told me this time. It is an interesting practice in folk religious system that facilitates communication between regional communities.

It is also important to note that in the vernacular religious system in Taiwan (or maybe say in Chinese culture), even though different shrines worship the same god, there is a distinction between the individuals of that particular god enshrined in different places.

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