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Taiwan, mainland pilgrims support bid to have Matsu culture listed as world intangible heritage

More than 2,000 Taiwan pilgrims joined mainland people Saturday in southeast China to help promote the bid to have Matsu culture included on UNESCO's world intangible cultural heritage list.

The pilgrims across the Taiwan Straits paid homage to a Matsu temple in Fujian's Meizhou island, which was regarded as the hometown of Matsu and the mecca for nearly 200 million Matsu worshippers worldwide including more than 16 million in Taiwan.

They prayed for the country's prosperity and people's happiness.

Matsu is an indigenous goddess of the sea widely worshipped in China's southeastern coastal regions which have sea-faring traditions.

Started from last September, the world intangible cultural heritage bid centered on Matsu's selfless love and included in the package the memorial ceremony of Matsu, its popular practice, and relevant folklore, said the bidding group's head Tang Bingchun.

"The Matsu culture is the belt for linking feelings of compatriots across the Straits," he said. "It could be a shared spiritual legacy of the whole mankind through the bidding."

"People can also vote on-line at our web sites to give support," Tang said.

The Matsu bidding now entered the third stage of the appraisal and was awaiting for the final voting by 24 members of the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in late September and early October this year, Tang said.

"I turned to Matsu each time I encountered difficulties, and as long as you are sincere, you will have gains," said Tu Yu-ping, a pilgrim from Taipei.

Tu arrived at Meizhou with about 350 fellow members Friday on a direct ferry from the Taichung Port, one of Taiwan's largest ports.

This was the first such direct trip for these pilgrims, according to Cheng Ming-kun, chairman of the Taiwan Matsu association and vice president of Taiwan-based Daja Jenn Lann Temple.

"We used to stop at Kinmen or go to Hong Kong or Macao to come here by plane," he said. "We made the history this time. If the route could be fixed, it will help to promote religious exchanges across the Straits."

In 2006, China's State Council, cabinet, published the first list of state-level intangible heritage items, including the memorial ceremony of Matsu.

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