The Dalai Lama on Tuesday led thousands in prayer in his first big public appearance since arriving in Taiwan, as China signalled its ire by postponing or scaling down planned events with the island.
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader emerged in front of a crowd of more than 10,000 in a stadium in the southern city of Kaohsiung, underlining the devout Buddhism of a large part of the population on the island.
The ceremony at the Kaohsiung Dome was focused on the tragedy which struck last month when Typhoon Morakot swept in from the Pacific, leaving at least 571 dead in its trail.
"My goal here is to seek blessing and ward off misfortune for the typhoon victims," the Dalai Lama said.
The 74-year-old monk has said repeatedly that his visit is non-political, but the trip has nevertheless met strong opposition in China, which sees him as a "splittist" bent on independence for his Himalayan homeland.
The Chinese view is supported by small but vocal groups in Taiwan, and today morning protesters favouring Taiwan unification with the mainland appeared in Kaohsiung, engaging in shouting matches with Dalai Lama supporters.
However, few of the believers inside the Kaohsiung Dome appeared to be thinking about politics.
"I'm very moved that the Dalai Lama has come to Taiwan to visit the typhoon victims," said Vivien Cheng, a bank employee.