Monday, November 5, 2012

Rukai Tribe in Haocha Village, Pingtung County, Taiwan

I went to Haocha village twice in March and August 2012 and August 2013. People living there are extremely friendly and opened. They used to live in village called 好茶 (Fine Tea) up in the mountains but were resettled to a newly built one after flood destroyed their possessions of life. From the first moment I was astounded by the view-Haocha is set on a hill, with panorama on wide river bank. It's the last montaneous/hilly are before the land  gets flat guiding the river to the ocean bank. Haocha surprises with beautiful and sophisticated house decorations- they indicate the class membership of the owner, and intricate ornament colorful Rukai clothes.
Here are some information about Rukai customs, beliefs and traditions.

New Church Opening Celebration, Haocha village, Pingtung County

Rukai tribe is strictly patrlinear and cultivate male primogeniture.

They occupy a relatively small area within Kaohsiung and Pingtung county borders.
One of the less populous tribes, count approximately 12 thousands.

Rukai tribe territories are surrounded by Puyuma and Paiwan tribes so there are many similarities between these three.

Their main ritual is Millet Harvest Festival taking place in July or August. Millet biscuits are baked to foretell the following  year's harvest. All woman take part in a bamboo swing.

View from Sandimen village, Pingtung county

Their main domain is farming, taro, millet and yam but they also hunt and fish.

This tribe is known for its beautiful colorful garment ornaments made from beads and shells. They make great contrast with black fabric.

Rukai also developed social class system. Clan chef's sign is carving of a snake or human head next to the house entrance. Also having pottery was a privilege of noble class, Rukai cannot make it however.
The noble class are land owners. Their houses are slightly bigger.
The other are: The gentry, The commoners.
The other classification is as follows: chief, nobility, warriors, commoners. Warrior (mainly war or hunting heroes) class is allowed to wear bear skin, boar tusks and deer antlers.

The white Lily is a symbol of sacred honor. Both men and women can wear it, it indicates man's hunting skills and woman's purity.

Rukai wedding ceremony, Sandimen village, Pingtung county

Rukai worship hundred pattern snake. There's even a legend of Rock of Oponohu carvings which includes a  disobeying of hundred pace snake worship custom.  (It says that Rukai young man married a Bunun girl. She didn't follow Rukai customs of not eating the hundred pace snake and she was expelled from the village. She didn't stop eating hundred pace snakes though, and so when she reached Oponohu Rock  circle patterns emerged in each place she touched. )

hunderd pace snake ornamen

Rukai are also great singers although they haven't developed as sophisticated harmony and singing pattern as Bunun.

Anniversary of settling in Sandimen (from Haocha village, after flooding in 2004)

Rukai homes are made of stones slabs.

Sandimen village
Sandimen village
Haocha (好茶) village is relatively new, built after the 2004 flood destroyed the old one. The villagers have been relocated into a new safer location. They have made an incredible effort to decorate their new houses with ornaments expressing their history culture, memories and status.

Many villagers offer aboriginal DIY lessons, definitely worth trying

Breakfast shop where you can try Rukai tribe quisine

Paintings of a local art teacher

Haochan village is situated pretty high in the mountains. The atmosphere is truly unique and the scenery astonishing. One can see as far as Pingtung while looking through the window of his bedroom.

There's another village worth seeing downhill, it's called Shui Men (水門). If you happen to be there during the lunch or dinner time, you should certainly visit a shop located in Heping street, Nr 31.
It sells trditional Rukai wedding dresses, but also serves drinks snaks and traditional Rukai dishes.
The design is extremely creative combining Rukai ornaments with the atmosphere of colonial times in Vietnam (One could argue whether there was a proper colonialization in Taiwan. It was ruled for only a short periods of time: basically 60 years  in 17th century- Netherlands' VOC /Dutch East India Company/ and Spanish and Japan from 1989 until 1945).

One can have a really nice walk full of breathcatching views between Shuimen village situated dowhills in the  river bank, the Taiwanese Aboriginal Park, and back Haocha village situated uphills.
My itinerary: I was wondering in almost every corner of narrow steep streets, and I am sure that there are still many treasures hidden, waiting for other to discover them....

The entrence to the Guliu Workshop (restaurant/wedding clothes shop).
Address: 内埔鄉水門村成功路31號, Shuimen village, Chenggong street Nr 31
The shop on the map

Continuing the journey in narrow streets of Shuimen......

Taiwan Aboriginal Culture Park is definitely worth seeing.
It introduces all officially recognized Taiwanese tribes, their history, culture, beliefs, artifacts, and housing - which is the drawing card. Culture Park occupies pretty huge territory and tribal houses are set in the mountains. One can walk but there is also free transportation between spots provided. Buses to different direction depart approximately every 5 min. making sightseeing really convenient. There are many activities held: archery, sewing etc.
Singing and dancing performance in a Concert Hall is a must see. The troupe represents a theatre standard, providing  an amazing experience of aboriginal culture. English translation is available everywhere.

Drum Concert at Concert Hall in Taiwan Aboriginal Culture Park Majia Township, Pingtung

Taiwan Aboriginal Culture Park Concert

Haocha Hostel
Mobile phone: +886926820695
Address: 屏東縣霧台鄉好茶村古茶柏安街13巷2號
Pingtung county, Wutai Township, Haocha Village Gujarat Bain Street, Lane 13, No. 2,
I stayed in Haocha Hostel during my trip.
It's located almost on top of the mountain, and is a great base for excurions....

There are two rooms available: double room and a twin.
Rooms are located upstairs, with a small living room with TV set, water dispenser, refrigerator, also coffee or tea available.

Family name of the owners



Traditional Rukai porcelain

Traditional Rukai artifact, hall

View from the window, double room, 1st floor

The owners are a young Rukai marriage. They welcome their guests to learn more about the Haocha village and Rukai heritage.
Yuemei is a skilled crafstwoman who also studied design. She specializes at making Rukai traditional jewellery for sell: necklaces and bracelets.
The owners provide traditional Rukai catering, Rukai costumes for pictures etc.
There are many facilities available, guest can use the kitchen in case they chose not to try local quisine.

Rukai vase

Porch outside of house

Public transport directions to Haocha Hostel from Pingtung city

Haocha Hostel on the map

Introduction to Haocha village

Other useful information about Rukai tribe in Sandimen- Taiwan, the Heart of Asia website