Religion: The Magic of Matsu

MILLIONS of mainland Chinese may have found another sort of faith in their devotion to the wisdom of Chairman Mao, but on Taiwan the island people still cling to their ancient folk religion, a heady mixture of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian beliefs and practices. None of the old gods and goddesses is more popular than the gentle Matsu, patroness of fishermen and seafarers. According to legend, Matsu was a devout 9th century girl who acquired divine powers at her early death. Pioneer Chinese settlers credited her with protecting them on their trip across the Taiwan Strait 350 years ago.

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