Aboriginals are the indigenous people of a land. They are the original sons of the earth, before mighty empires and powerful kingdoms colonised their land. While the term aborigines calls into mind the dark-skinned folk of Australia and Africa, the Taiwanese have their own aboriginal culture as well. Far long before the Japanese colonised the island, far long before the Han Chinese immigrated into the island, and even long before the true formation of cities and nations, the Taiwanese aboriginals and their forefathers, and the forefathers before them, have been living their lives for thousands of years.
There were dozens of tribes, living in the mountains, plains and islands in Taiwan. Most of the clans subsisted on hunting and gathering, though the lowland tribes practiced animal husbandry, raising and rearing livestock. Tattooing, especially of woman’s faces, was a common sight and a tradition among the tribes. Tribes had a few spiritual leaders in the form of shamans, who chased away the evil spirits and brought good luck upon the tribe. Wood-carving, tribal dancing, basket-weaving and music-making are but a few practices of the tribes. A feared and well-known practice of the tribes was far more blood-thirsty; headhunting. Bringing back a head to the tribe was regarded to be lucky, and both the warrior and the tribe he belongs to shall be blessed.
These proud peoples are now only a minority on what used to be their homeland. 2% of Taiwan’s population are aborigines. The tribes are giving up their ancient ways of life, receiving education and working in the cities. These customs and traditions of the “people of the earth” are now fading away. Head-hunting is gone, and traditional tattooing is waning. However, these traditions are not gone forever. Tribal music when reproduced in the pop music form, is making it big locally. And the rich cultural history of these folk are still present in the form of tourism sites.
Several aboriginal villages are opened up to the general public. For example, the Ita Thao village at Sun Moon Lake. Set against the backdrop of the magnificent shiny blue Sun Moon Lake, the village is the homeplace of the Thao tribe, one of the smallest tribes in Taiwan. There are only about 280 pureblood Thao aborigines left in the entire world. The village sells baubles and trinkets made by the Thao people. Museums are situated right near the lakefront, telling a thousand stories of the Thao history. There is also the Thao cultural village. Every weekend, a tribal performance is set up for visitorsto appreciate the traditional culture of the Thao people, with a repertoire of tribal music and dance for the enjoyment of the viewers. During August in lunar calendar, the harvest ceremony, the most important ceremony of the year, takes place during that time. It is the perfect opportunity for any visitor to appreciate the true beauty of the Thao culture.
Another aborigine village would be the Yuyupas Tsou cultural tribe village. Located at 1,300 metres above sealevel, the village is surrounded by an extensive framework of tea plantations. The Tsou night party is the highlight of the visit, where a unique cultural performance is set up for the pleasure of the viewer. Traditional Tsou song and dance, preserved from pre-history to the modern age, is put on show on a theatre.
Taiwan’s aborigines are a treasure of the land, and the marvel of the aboriginal world. Take a look at the disappearing traces of one of the richest cultures in the world before it is too late! Contact Taiwan Free and Easy, where we can tailor a tour to suit what you want.