Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Bunun name is Niung, Bunun tribe in Gufeng Village, Hualien County, Taiwan


I travelled to a very small village on Eastern cost of Taiwan in Hualien County in order  to learn more about Bunun (農) indigenous people. I have to say that this place really seems like a paradise, a small enclave in a messy world that, if you once enter, will never be willing to leave. At least that's exactly what happened to me and I stayed here much longer than I had previously planned.

I lived in Hualien councillor's house - Mr. Lu. It seems that he is one of those people who care.
He doesn't have a regular working hours since he treats his work like his own mission. Many times, he leaves late at night right after receiving a phone call. That's because he thinks that his duty is to help people who had voted for him.

Mr. Lu (standing) during the celebration
The village is really small, squeezed between two mountain ranges, where everybody knows each other. Most of inhabitants are relatives and that makes this place even smaller... you know who's the best cook or hunter - something which is difficult to experience in bigger cities. Talking about animals, it's the only place I've been to, where most  dogs have only three legs. That's because mountains are full of traps and  dogs are used for hunting.
There are rice fields in the front and mountains on the back of the village

This pet dog used to have all four legs when I first saw him a month ago.
Another super friendly three legged dog, called "Pangpang"- fatso

Bunun people believe that  snakes are their friends and warn them against danger in the woods. These mountains can be dangerous since it's not a tourist area, there are NO paths whatsoever. So what you should do when facing a snake is to simply  turn back. Another thing is, Bunun believe that snakes hunt in twos. So if you have already seen one, there's a high probability that you'd face another one soon.
Mountains at night
Crab picking
Besides hunting issue and poor dogs, the rest of pets is doing pretty well.

pet piggy

Few words about  Bunun


"if you come to a Bunun village, close your eyes and only listen, but listen carefully..."

Bunun  live on higher altitude than any other tribe in Taiwan between 100 and 200 meter above sea level. They are famous for hunting skills. In old times you could see animal jawbones under the eaves and human skulls in front of village chief's house. These were proofs of great hunting skills and bravery.

Village's chief were in charge till his old years and eventually a new one would be chosen accordingly to his hunting abilities and experience. A chief was in charge of warfare and political affairs.

Bunun are believed to get into fights over hunting territories quite often. These battles were a chance to show tribe's bravery and skills.

Bunun used to build working hats far away from their home stay village to save time while hunting...

Both men and women used to tattoo their bodies and pull out their front teeth or incisors but this habit has long been forgotten.
They are believed to count time by knotting to mark each day.

There are six groups among Bunun tribe:
Taketodo, Takebaka, Takevatan, Takbanuath, Isibukun, Takopulan.

They mainly live in the river alleys between mountain ranges.

Many indigenous people in Taiwan are Protestants (Thanks to Dutch arrival in XVII century. People in the northern part of island are mostly Catholics because that was Spanish influences area)
Their Churches are  simple and one won't find any paintings or sculptures of Jesus inside....
Christmas tree

The Pastor of Gufeng Church is the most warm and kind woman I've ever met... The Mass is mostly about singing... but what kind of singing!  Bunun are marvellous singers. They are simply born to sing. Their voices are incredible. Amen

Zhofeng Primary Scholl children, music lesson

And so, I gave up trying and only enjoyed listening. But let's get to the point: Christianity and Protestantism differ a lot. Or... maybe the Bunun way of believing. The villagers meet in different family's house to pray and chant almost every evening. There's time to share  your problems or concerns. Isn't this the point of harmonious and efficient community?
Their religion or rather belief is visible in every aspect of daily life.
The village structure seems to reflect the old hierarchy, where everybody was working for the common good...

Here is the Bunun prayer, children say at school's canteen before every meal.

The school is really small. There are  two up to six children in the class so the learning environment is very comfortable. Each classroom has a computer with the Internet connection and an interactive board, moreover e-books are also used. A lot of effort is put to preserve the Bunun language and culture, unfortunately,  it seems that the youngest generation won't be able to speak Bunun fluently. All classes are held in Chinese and there are separate Bunun language classes.
School's exhibition

The view from the school's first floor

The school has well maintained library and the cultural hall where you can find handicrafts and Bunun language handbooks.

English lesson

P.E. lesson
Two meters long paper beetle

hand - made jewelry
Children take part in many competitions involving indigenous culture knowledge or skills e.g. painting or singing. This school's students are last year's champions in national singing competition.

Below: Singing is the way of spending free time

A special activity  is held at school every year. Students from capital's secondary schools come to  know the aboriginal culture better. This year's students came from Jian Guo Secondary Male School.  Here's the video of them acting.... Pretty awesome;)

My favourite song (partially in Bunun)

Bunun people live higher than any other tribe in Taiwan, mostly in  mountainous central part of the island. Population counts approximately forty thousands. 
According to their legend long long time ago there were two Suns and the temperature was unbearable. People's life was really tough. One day Bunun couple  went to work on the field. They left their newly born son near by. As there were two Suns it was very very hot and so, after finishing work they noticed that their son has completely dried up. Grieving father took his bow and shot down one of the Suns, which became the Moon.

Hualien county is the main stone provider on entire island. All "Yuanzhumin" use stones to build their houses.
stone roof

the old school's building, Gufeng, Hualien County

Bunun practice archery and have certain archery ritual called Dear-Ear Ritual. It it held after successful hunting and, literally, involves shooting to the deer ear as the most challenging practice.

Another worldwide famous ritual is called Pasibutbut- a prayer-song for abundant millet harvest. It was discovered by a Japanese ethnologist in 1952 and is recognised by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as eight-part harmonic singing.
Sounds are meant to imitate the nature: bee buzzing, water flowing, the wind...
Only healthy adult males can participate. It is forbidden to practise it before the actual performance. There's only one shot to please the spirits, the more beautiful and harmonious the sound the more abundant the crops should be...

Above: Hunter's speech

Bunun are known among other tribes for their excellent hunting skills. This man quartered a pig quickly and skillfully.
Zhuofeng Primary School, Hualien county

trap making lesson
corn drying

Traditionally Bunun people do not drink alcohol and only ferment it for special occasions.

Women dress in black but blue colour is also very significant. Men wear white garment.

Hualien, Bunun culture poster
...and its model

The Gufeng village is situated  near YuShan National Park and its environment is simply astonishing.

The view from the building I used to live was different everyday but always same breath-taking.

one of few roads to the nearby mountain peak....

There are several attractions available in the area: hot springs, waterfalls and biking trails.... Roads are well maintained and the view - worth exercising....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tayal means brave, Fuxing Village in Taoyuan County, Taiwan

Subjective but still as objective as possible short introduction of Tayal Culture and Fuxing Township, Taiwan

My first contact with Atayal  culture took place a year ago,  during 'Five Flavors' Asian Movie Festival (taking place in Warsaw) where I have watched  'Everlasting Moments' by Ling Hun Lu Cheng and Chen Wen-pin, Taiwan 2011
Soon, because four months later I was already in Taiwan.
I strongly recommend this movie:-)

In this article Pinyin transcription is being used but I tried to provide Wade-Giles (or Tongyong) pinyin as well. However, native Taiwanese indigenous people's clans names are provided only using in Wade-Giles, to respect their uniqueness as well as Taiwanese origin. Villages names and main tourist attraction are also written using Chinese characters to avoid any confusion.

復興鄉 (Fuxing xiang) is a small village located between the mountain  peaks, about 40 km from 大溪(Daxi). It's mainly known for the nearby 拉拉山 (Lala mountain), 小烏來 (Xiao Wulai Sky walk) and 石門水霸 (Ximen dam). It has really a lot to offer for those who are into nature and exploring non tourist areas. Actually it is a tourist area but not very popular among foreigners due to the poor transportation system. There are some hostels and few museum: Historical and Cultural Center, Camphor Museum, also Jiaobanshan Sculpture Park. The place was once visited by Chiang Kaj Shek so one can see many family photos as well as furniture collected in  Shaobanshan Villa.

Lala Shan Center exhibition

Lala Shan area

Camphor Museum, Fuxing

Dao Temple, Fuxing

Dao Tempe, Fuxing

Origin of the name Fuhsing Township.
(Data from the leaflet signed by the Township supervisor Liu Hsin-yi, 2011-4-30)
"At the end of Qing dynasty, Liu Ming-chuan, governor of Taiwan established a development center at Dakekan (currently known as Daxi) in order to manage the indigenous people's affairs, and set the township as the target for development. During the Japanese ruling era, this region belonged to Daxi county, Shinchiku prefecture. After the restoration, it was changed to Jiaoban Township, Daxi region, Hsinchu County, and renamed as Fuxing Township at the end of October in 1954. It is the sole mountain township in Taoyuan county, with an area taking up to 1/3 of the entire county."

Historical and Cultural Center was established in 2003. Fuxing is the only indigenous people township in Taoyuan county. First floor exhibitions: Township Historical and Cultural Exhibition, Atayal Cultural Relict's Exhibition ( objects of dining clothing, housing and transportation), Village Historical and Cultural Data Exhibition. Second floor: conference room, dance studio.

This area is inhabited by the Tayal tribe also know as Atayal, 泰雅 (Taiya), one of the largest indigenous population in Taiwan.
Atayal has 2 subgroups: Tayal and Seedeq ( Wushe incident commemorated in "Seediq bale- warriors of the rainbow"  movie, 2011). In this article I use Tayal and Atayal name interchangeably since I was only able to explore the Tayal branch.

Kueihuei village
Seediq Bale movie trailer

A leaflet introducing 'Seediq bale' movie n Atayal language

Tayal tribe originaly lived in Renai Township in Nantou County a thousand years ago but due to growing population they decided to move north to Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Yilan. Atayal tribe in Fuxing is called Mstbtunx (northern part of Shihmen Reservoir) and Gogan ( southern part).
Each tribe has it's own characteristic feature and Tayal is meant to be brave. It is also famous for its facial tattoos. Only great warriors and skilled girls could get a tattoo. This custom was  forbidden during Japanese occupation and now this tradition seems to be abandoned. The language is still spoken, though. Atayal don't have their own character system. The culture traditions and legends used to be passed by oral teaching. Nowadays the Latin alphabet is in use, however most aboriginal tribes is not fluent in reading it so they simply use Zhuyin instead.
Tayal is famous for it's weaving skills at least 300 years old. There are a lot of different patterns and fabric categories, used according to occasions. Also, it is believed that different weaving patterns have been used for messaging. There are two types of special occasions Atayal clothing: shell bead garment and bell garment. These can be worn only by people of special position, origin  or skills. Women decorates themselves with earrings and neck ornaments. The favorite color is red representing blood and power.

Tayal hunter, Tayal Culture Center, Xikoutai

Badasun 文面 is a facial tattoo forehead and checks for women and forehead and chin for warriors. Only people with badasun will be able to pass the Rainbow Bridge after death and meet with their ancestors.
Gaga = taboos and rules to be obeyed, set by the ancestors, Ancestral Spirit Worship ceremony. It's a type of patrilineal-based social unit. Members of the same gaga share in ceremonial, hunting and farming functions.

Tayal tribe mainly harvest millet, taros, sweet potatoes. They have feasts of sacrifice three times a year: sow seeds feast (samiyatu), harvest feast (ysdsomh) and ancestry spirits feast ( uvong). Main activities: weaving, farming, hunting, fishing, making rattan plaits, carvings and harmonica.
Bamboo is widely used to build houses, also as a water and food container. It's not a native species and was artificially introduced to Taiwan. Houses are covered with cogongrass.

photos taken in Atayal Cultural Relict's Exhibition
削節刀 Soqu' a tool for removing bamboo joints while building a house. First bamboo need to be split into two.

Tayal Culture Center, Xikoutai
背網袋 Tokan- used to transport a wild hog
拌飯吃 Quebuw, 湯匙 Taku- spoons used while preparing rice.
Historical and Cultural Center, Fuxing

溪口台 (Xikoutai) see on the map

It's a little village on the southern bank of the dam. There's a newly built Tayal Culture Center, two churches and my lovely host family's home.
You can see some tourists wondering around from time to time who have just crossed the picturesque Xikou Suspension Bridge. Shikou Terrace in within walking distance from the Tayal Center,  better view however, is from the opposite bank. The higher the better. The path to Fuxing and the bridge are so magical that I've crossed it several times without any particular need. Oh well, I had to do the shopping and the closest 7/11 was in Fuxing.

Shikou bridge

Xikoutai village Tayal customs.
There was no irrigation system until Japanese occupation. During that time not only the irrigation but also education system was introduced. Japanese was compulsory. Many elderly people can speak Japanese fluently. They often can also speak Taiwanese ( Hokkien) and muyu eventually.
There was no idea of seasons. Atayal used to know when to harvest and when to hunt by observing the  baiyin flower.
Many Atayal don't know how to swim. There are many monuments commemorating those who got drowned in this area.

Monument commemorating whose who got drowned, Northern bank of Shimen dam
Atayal used to make mochi (Hokkien, Taiwanese 麻糬) - a sticky rice often eaten with crushed peanuts and sugar. One could hear the process from afar knowing that some celebration is being held.
Atayal hunt for the whole village. They believe that you have to share with others, otherwise you will never be able to hunt anything again. They hunt only after harvesting on a certain territory e.g. one mountain. You can chase your prey and hunt it on the other's village territory but you have to explain yourself and share.
My hosting family members work at 大溪中心. They prepare incentives for different companies. It's really pretty good. Everything refers to Atayal culture so that Taiwanese Han people can try many new activities and understand their culture better.

Tayal bamboo instruments
The strangest thing was catching the chickens. I'm pretty sure European animal rights activists would not believe what they've seen.

In the Tayal culture center one can see the process of making crewel garland, preparing traditional food or making toys.
Wooden toys making process

Educational path, Tayal Culture Center
Preparing mochi
Tools used to prepare mochi
Alcohol drinking custom

Making crewel garlands

Rice with banana in bamboo leaves
Bamboo food container

Tayal Culture Center, Xikoutai

Tayal dance

How to get there
Take the bus NR 9130 from Taipei to Daxi ( it takes approximately 2 hours) than take a bus going to Kaoyao (only twice a day: 10:10 and 16:25) from the same bus station. There are some street bars near by and the food is really good. The bus to Xikoutai goes up and down more that  five mountain peaks, stops near schools. Somebody did really good job with setting turning back points. The streets are really narrow but there's nothing to be worried about. You need to ask the driver to stop in Xikoutai. Mrs Kumu's house is near by, you just need to go downhill for about 100m.
Mrs Kumu is the director of Tayal Culture Center in Fuxing
Mrs Kumu's phone number: 0913526343 (+886913526343 from abroad)
Address: 桃園縣,復興鄉,澤仁村二 鄰十六號之二
Mrs Kumu's house where you're welcomed to stay

Local teacher, living near by Lala Mountain. Ask him to introduce Tayal culture and Lala Shan area nature. You won't regret it!

Mrs Kumu's adorable grandson

Xikou terrace, view from Zeren village

Mrs Kumu (on the left) with colleagues preparing a meal in Culture Center

Short introduction of Fuxing township villages attractions:

Sanmin village 三民村
Tuba church, Bat Cave (discovered in 1931, inhabited by bats that time, it can accommodate more that 1000 people, there are two waterfalls near by),  Zhentoushan ancient cannon

Zeren village 澤仁村
(the highest ratio of Han people) Jiaobanshan (角板山) park, Xikou (溪口) bridge

Jiaobanshan park

Xiayun village 霞雲村 (Siayun)
Marvellous nature: Ironwood waterfall (鐵木瀑布)
Clans: Jinnuan, Yusiayun, Kuchi, Koai, Jiachi, Chichi

Yisheng village 義盛村
Xiaowulai waterfall (小烏來瀑布), Fengdong (風動) rock (5 meters height), Heweishan (賀威山) ancient tree

Xiaowulai waterfall
Luofu village 羅浮村
Lexinwadan memorial park, Weaving Center/Hall (built in 2005), Luofu dual bridges (also known as double bridge)
Clans: Luofu, Holiu, Duanhui, Kaobo and Tawan

Luofu double bridge

Kuihui village 奎輝村 (Kueihuei)
The name (literally means horn) suggests that the place is full of wild animals.
Present clan: Kueihuei

Changing village長興村 (Changsing)
Taoyuan fairy valley (逃源仙合).
Clans: Chutoujiao, Gaozau, Shinganping, Silung, Simen.

Gaoyi village 高義村
Ronghua (榮華) dam/weir (for holding sand and power generation), riverbank cliffs.
Clans: Sewunau, Inner Kueihuei, Kayilan, Biyawai, Gauyilan and Suo.

Sanguang 三光村
Hot springs, Yesheng terrace field (爺亨梯田 - originally a slope which was changed into terrace by Atayal tribe), Yuling waterfall, Lidung Mountain Fort

Hualing village 華陵村
Separated from the Sanguang in 1973. Lalashan and Galahe ancient trees/Galaho ancient tree group (嘎拉賀), Boomtown hot springs(新興溫泉).
Clans: Kuanghwa (Hagawan) and Balung.

February- Cherry blossom festival
April- Makino bamboo harvest
June- Green bamboo shoot
November- Kwei bamboo shoot and flower festival
December- Atayal's Murho festival

Zeren village
Fuxing Township is famous for its fruit and it should be, because I wasn't able to find the same taste anywhere else in Taiwan.

This article is based on my personal experience as well as:
The guide book of Fuxing Township, 2008
Reserve Fuhsing, 2011
Taiwan's Aboriginal Peoples, Wang Wei-chang, 2002