Tribal art of Taiwan

 

 

This Bunun man in Dilih is wearing a woven headband, adorned with the horns of a Reeves’ muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi ssp. micrurus). In former days, aboriginals of Taiwan were keen hunters. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan is home to a multitude of peoples of Malayan origin, who inhabited this island long before the invasion of Chinese peoples. Today, these tribes number about 600,000 persons, or c. 2.5% of the island’s population.

Officially, 16 indigenous peoples are recognized: Amis, Atayal, Paiwan, Bunun, Puyuma, Rukai, Tsou, Saisiyat, Yami, Thao, Kavalan, Truku, Sakizaya, Sediq, Hla’alua, and Kanakanavu, each having its own distinct culture, language, customs, and social structure. Three of the largest minorities are described below.

The Amis, also called Pangcah, are the most populous of these tribes, numbering about 180,000. They mainly live in the lowlands along the east coast, from Hualien southwards to Taitung. The Amis have a matrilineal society, where the husband moves in with the wife after marriage, and the children take the mother’s surname.

The Bunun, numbering about 50,000 people, mainly live in the mountains in the central part of the island. They grow crops like millet, fruits, and vegetables, and supplement their diet with livestock and fishing.

The Atayal, or, as they call themselves, Tayal, number about 86,000 individuals, making them the third-largest indigenous group. The word tayal means ‘man’. This tribe mainly lives in the northern mountains.

Pictures, depicting Taiwanese indigenous peoples may be studied in the gallery at People: Tribals of Taiwan.

Many areas, especially in central Taiwan, are adorned with wonderful art, created by indigenous peoples. Formerly, the wild boar (Sus scrofa) was of huge importance to these tribal peoples as a food source, which is evident from their artwork. The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) also played an important role as a totem animal. This animal is described on the page Traditional medicine.

 

 

 

Bunun
The pictures below show various artwork of the Bunun tribe.

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Mural in Dilih, depicting a woman, sowing crops. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Decorated stone from Dilih, depicting a sharp-nosed pit viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus), which is venerated as a totem animal by various Taiwanese tribes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Painted stone, depicting women, who pound crops in a mortar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Slate slab from Wushe, near Puli, with an engraving, depicting women harvesting millet. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Another slate slab from Wushe, depicting extraction of facial hair with a string. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
This mosaic, also from Wushe, depicts a Swinhoe’s pheasant (Lophura swinhoii), which is endemic to Taiwan. Pictures of this species are shown on the page Animals: Birds of Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Another mosaic from Wushe, depicting a Taiwan serow (Capricornis swinhoei) with two kids. This animal, which is also endemic to Taiwan, was formerly hunted for food by various tribes, but is protected today. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

The artwork below was observed in a village near Cing Yun Waterfall, south of Alishan, possibly made by Bunun tribals.

 

 

Carved totem poles, depicting an indigenous couple. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Door panel with a carving, depicting a man, who is harvesting rice. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Wooden sculpture and a wall painting, both depicting a Taiwan blue magpie (Urocissa caerulea), which is endemic to Taiwan. This species is described on the page Animals: Birds of Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Atayal
The artwork in the pictures below was created by members of the Atayal tribe Da An (‘Great Peace’), who live in the mountains near Dongshih, Taichung County.

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Mosaic, depicting men and a dog, hunting an Asian black bear. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Another mosaic, depicting hunters, carrying a killed wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Taiwan 2008
These mosaics depict women, weaving clothes and baskets. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Sculpture, depicting a hunter, carrying a shot wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Bird-like creature, made from an upside-down tree trunk. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

This collection of artwork was made by members of the Atayal tribe Tian Gou (‘Heavenly Dog’), who also live near Dongshih.

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Taiwan 2010
Wall painting and sculpture, both depicting the following legend: Once upon a time there were two suns in the sky, making the climate unbearably hot. A mighty hunter took his bow and arrow and shot down one of the suns, which became the Moon. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Wall painting, depicting a hunter, who has bagged a wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Mosaic, depicting hunters, killing a wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
In this mosaic, men catch fish, using a trap and a leister. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Mosaic, depicting an old woman with tattooed upper lip, smoking a pipe while weaving a carrying-basket. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Maopu
Near Wufong, Hsinchu, Maopu tribals have created these mosaics from broken tiles.

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Pipe-smoking woman, fishing. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
The endemic Taiwan macaque (Macaca cyclopis) is fairly common in most parts of Taiwan. This species is presented in detail on the page Animals: Monkeys and apes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Wild boar sow with piglets. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Goat. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Asian black bear. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Hsia-yeh
The art work in the pictures below was produced by Hsia-yeh tribals, near Taitung.

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
Carvings on a pole, depicting men. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014
Detail of a wooden sculpture, depicting a woman with pestle and mortar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
Wooden sculpture, depicting a hunter, carrying a bagged wild boar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2014a
Engraving on a slate slab, depicting women with pestles and a mortar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Song Lin
Artwork, created by Song Lin tribals, Wanda, near Puli.

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Mosaic, depicting a pipe-smoking hunter. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
This mosaic shows a woman with tattooed face, likewise smoking a pipe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Mosaic, depicting a happy child with tattooed face. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2016a
Burial stone for a deceased man, carved out of a slate slab. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Thao
The artwork below was made by members of the Thao people, a small tribe who live around Sun Moon Lake.

 

 

As the Thao live around Sun Moon Lake, it is only natural that fish appear in their art. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Owl and dancing couple. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Taiping
The mosaic depicted below, depicting Taiping (Xi Sha) tribals, who celebrate a festival, was seen in Wufong, near Hsinchu.

 

 

Taiwan 2011
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Rukai (tentatively)
The artwork below was observed at Maolin, Kaohsiung County, possibly made by Rukai people.

 

 

Wall relief, depicting dancing people. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This wooden beam in Maolin Butterfly Park has been decorated with paintings, depicting various subjects, including butterflies and two sharp-nosed pit vipers (Deinagkistrodon acutus), venerated as a totem animal by several Taiwanese tribes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Bei
The sculpture in the picture below was created by Bei tribals, Erbensung, Shei-pa National Park.

 

 

Taiwan 2010
Wood carving, depicting a woman with tattooed face, who is carrying a basket, using a headband. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lin
The mosaics below, seen at Wufong, near Hsinchu, was made by Lin tribals

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Happy farmer with his buffalo. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Fighting goats. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2011
Crab and fish. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

(Uploaded February 2020)