It’s quite interesting to learn different cultures in different countries, especially the culture from aborigines and tribes. Although Taiwan is a small island, there are variety kinds of aborigines in Taiwan. Festivals are held in each tribes and all of them are meaningful. Among these festivals, there are 5 famous aboriginal festivals you must know in Taiwan!
FLYING FISH FESTIVAL
AliBangBang(Flying Fish) is the most important food for Orchid Island people. It is one of the main sources of animal protein. The capture of flying fish is the core of the traditional culture of Yamei(Tao )in Lanyu. Every year from March to July, flying fish will come with the Kuroshio. Tribes in Orchid Island will held this festival to tell their families “It’s time to catch AliBangBang!” It’s the biggest and grand festival for Tao. People only catch the flying fish in summer, during this period, they won’t catch other kinds of fish.
3 festivals will be held during the flying fish season. The most important part of the festival might be the story of “AliBangBang will appear in your dream”. According to Tao legend, people got sick after eating the flying fish which is cooked with other seafood. Then a fish god appeared in a elder’s dream. The god asked him to find a place where there would be a flying fish with black wings waiting for him. The flying fish taught the elder the right way to eat the flying fish. The elder then taught his tribe and other tribes the way of eating flying fish. After centuries, it becomes a festival.
At the festival, the men will wear traditional thong costumes, silver helmets and gold pieces. They will dance and sing to pray for a good harvest of fish. Women are not allowed to touch the canoes and the fish which are just caught during the festival. Women are prohibited to participate in the Mivanwa(the festival to pray for fish coming), too. Though there are some prohibition, but the flying fish festivals are willing to teach people the importance of rebuilding and respecting the rules of nature.
MAYASVI (WAR FESTIVAL)
There are 3 important festivals in Tsou Tribes, Mayasvi(War festival), Miyapo(Sowing festival) and Homeyaya(Millet harvest Festival). Mayasvi is a tribal festival. It’s held to pray for the war god to protect the warriors, and encourage the people to protect the entire tribe’s life with all their spirit and life. There are 2 tribes will take turns to hold the festival. The festival is held in every February and will be last for 3 days. At the midnight of the last day, people will sing loudly to say goodbye to the gods.
Mayasvi reinforces tribal solidarity, illustrates the differing roles the men and women of the tribe play in maintaining tribal ethics, norms of life, dances, and religion, and preserves the rituals through which the wisdom of the gods is venerated. The polyphonic choruses sung during the festival keep alive a longstanding heritage of tribal music, literature, and history. It’s quite an important activity for the tribe to inherit their spirit.
MANAQ TAINGA (EAR FESTIVAL)
If you have once heard about Bunun in Taiwan, then you must learn about the well known activity of Bunun, Manaq Tainga, the ear festival. Actually there are 2 famous ceremony of Bunun, the ear festival and the malastapang, the festival for reporting the records of fights. Most of the activities of Bunun are prohibited visitors to come but the ear festival allows visitors to participate in. Ear festival is held in April to May and it’s the grandest festival of Bunun. The festival is the most important ritual ceremony for the growth of children. It is also the way to train for the hunting ability, establishing the value of individual life, and obtaining the way of social recognition. It’s a compulsory course for adult etiquette.
Well, what is the “ear” means in the festival? It’s actually the deer’s ears. Anyone who can hunt a deer will be regarded as a hero by the tribe. Therefore, the deer in the mountain be the most-wanted prey when the Bunun people are hunting. Nowadays, to protect the environment, they shoot pigs’ ears which are set on the branch instead. The main point of the festival is to express the gratitude to the prey for the whole year. it also teaches their children the importance of inherit the culture and the spirit of unity. If you have chance to participate in the festival, enjoy the unique atmosphere!
ILISIN (HARVEST FESTIVAL)
The Ilisin Harvest Festival is the definitive folk cultural practice of Taiwan’s Amis indigenous people and it’s seen to be the most significant traditional sacrificial ceremony for them. Makotaay is the tribe in Hualien which near the ocean. You can see that the clothing worn and the dances performed during the ceremony is deeply influenced by the sea on the tribe’s culture. The festival does not only show their gratitude to the land and praise the harvest but pay carefully attetion to the ethical education meaning of pursuing the future, respecting the old and the sage, the importance of uniting and harmonious.
The word ilisin means sacrifice in the Amis language. There are two origin stories relating to the Amis Makotaay Tribe’s Ilisin Harvest Festival. One tells of natural and man-made disasters that destroyed the tribe’s crops. The tribe’s priest clan (the Cilangasans) went out on a headhunting expedition with the intent of transforming the souls of their defeated enemies into guardian spirits of the tribe to whom they could pray for favorable weather and stable livelihoods. The other story holds that tribal members collectively cultivated crops on the hillsides during the era of traditional tillage. The villagers would organize a grand celebration to welcome young men back and hold the ilisin to celebrate the bumper harvest and offer sacrifices to the ancestral spirits.
It’s the most famous and important activity for Siyat people. It is held after the harvest of crops around October 15 of the lunar calendar. The event will last for 4 days and is divided as entertaining, welcoming and farewell. Only the entertaining part allows visitors come. The ceremony is held to show their repentance of the Dwarf, so it’s sacred. The music and dance are mainly simple. It puts emphasis on integrity so the formation is maintained as the swirl and everyone in the tribe will wear ratang.
In Siyat legend, Siyat people and dwarfs were once get along with each other, they would celebrate he harvest together. But the dwarfs have a bad habit, they used witchcraft to confuse and tricked the Siyat women. To revenge them, Siyat people thought of a plan which let most of the dwarfs fall into the abyss and died at the time of harvest festival. There are only 3 dwarfs alive. Though the Siyat people did a successful revenge, their crops no longer harvested anymore. Fear of the haunting of dwarfs’ spirit, they decided to turn the harvest festival into the Pasta’ai to show their apology. Since the plan was thought of by chieftain who named Zhu, so the ceremony is mainly held by Zhu’s family.
All the ceremonies are unique and mysterious. If you have chance to come to Taiwan, give a try to learn more about Taiwanese aborigines. Don’t forget to show your respect when participate in these activities!
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Thanks to Taiwan Religious Scenes Top 100 for the content sharing.