Seediq are spread in the central mountain of Taiwan. Weaving and facial tattoos are prelevant cultures. They follow ancestral instructions gaya and value the Ancestral Spirit Ritual. Their current Seediq population is 9,473 (until March 2016).
Seediq/Sediq/Sejiq originates from Pusu Qhuni/Rmdax Tasil in the Central Moutain Range; it is the legendary place of origin for Seediq. Now it is called Peony Rock. A long time ago, Seediq Ancestor migrated from the origin to Truwan (called ‘Plngebung’ by Tgdaya) in today’s Hezuo Village of Renai Township, Nantou Couty. They settled there, grew and prospered.
After living in Truku Truwan for a period of time, Seediq population grew while farmland became insufficient. They were forced to move from Truku Truwan again in the eighteenth century. Where the people settled won them a new identity. Those who moved to Wushe at the lower land opposite Truwan (the mountain across today’s Chunyang Village) are called ‘Tgdaya’; those who climbed over Chilai Mountain and reached Tpwqo, Kbayan and Browan are called ‘Truku’; and those who crossed over Hehuan Mountain and reached Upper Meiyuan and Zhuchun are called ‘Toda’.
Moving to Tgdaya, Toda and Truku creates three subgroup identities among Seediq people. One group is called Sediq Toda; the second group is called Seediq Tgdaya; and the other group is called Sejiq Truku. The distribution of Tgdaya, Toda and Truku is as follows:
According to Qing and Japanese archives, the territory of Tgdaya covered Wushe Group (Nantou) and Mugua Group (Hualien).
Tgdaya in Nantaou: They lived in the basin of Zhoushui River and Meixi River between Wushe and Lushan in Renai Township. After Wushe Incident in the Japanese Occupation Period, those who lived to the east of Wushe were relocated to Qingliu and Zhongyuan along the midstream of Beigang River (the current Huzhu Village, Renai Township); those who lived deep in the mountains to the east of Meixi River were relocated to the valley of Nanshan River (today’s Nanfeng Village, Renai Township). Now, Tgdaya villages include Huzhu, Nanfeng and Tatung in Renai Township, Nantou County.
Tgdaya in Hualien: They lived along Mugua River in Hualien. At the end of Qing Dynasty, pressures from the growing power of Truku drove them to Xikou Village of Shoufeng Township and Mingli Village of Wanrong Township in Hualien County. Around 1945 after WWII, they again moved to Jiaming Village and Fushi Village of Xiulin Township. Some among them moved southbound to Jianqing Village and Wanrong Village of Wanrong Township, Hualien County.
When Toda still lived in Nantou, their territory covered the quiet mountains to the north of Tgdaya. In the eighteenth century, Toda people climbed over Hehuan North Peak and arrived the uppersream and midstream of Taosai River in the mountains of Hualien. By that time, they were already called Toda. Now, the marjority live in Jingying Village and Chunyang Village of Renai Township in Nantou County; some also live in Lishan Village and Lunshan Village of Zhuosi Township in Hualien County.
(Before) Truku used to live at Jingguang in Renai Township, Nantou County. Afterwards, they moved to Hualien and took Liwu River as their territory. Now, Truku mainly live in Songling Village, Lushan Village and Jingguang Village in Renai Township, Nantou County. Many live in Xiulin Township and Wanrong Township in Hualien County. Some still live in Lishan Village of Zhuosi Township, Qingfeng, Nanhua and Fuxing of Jian Township in Hualien County.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Seediq people expanded powers across the Central Mountain Range in Nantou and Hualien Counties. In the beginning of the twenieth century due to Japanese influence, the traditional Seediq territory was proclaimed national and Seediq people were discrimnated against by Japanese police. The chief of Mhebu Village, Mona Rudo, led his peoople to an anti-Japanese revolt at Wushe Village in Nantou in 1930. This incident shocked the international society. It was at that time called ‘Wushe Incident’. Wushe Incident is the last armed resistance against Japanese launched by Seediq people during the Japanese Occupation Period. It unsettled the Japanese government and surprised the international society. It is a significant incident in the history of Taiwan.
In the 2000s, as Seediq people identified with the common history of Tgdaya, Toda and Truku, they demanded the government to recognize them as ‘Sediq Balay、Sejiq Balay、Seediq Bale’ or collectively ‘Seediq’. In 2008, Seediq officially became one of the officially recognized (government-recognized) indigenous peoples in Taiwan.
1. Industry and Cuisine
In the past, Seediq people lived on farming and hunting. Sweet potato, taro, millet and broomcorn millet were staples. Melons, beans and wild vegetables were non-staples. Dry rice was introduced in recent years. Meat was procured at hunting during slack farming season. Game included flying squirrel, wild boar and water deer. Meat was smoked to be preserved for a longer period of time.
Traditional Seediq costumes are made mainly of ramie. The most salient characteristic of these costumes is the red color. Both men and women wear capes made of ramie. Daily clothes for men include white long-sleeve shirt with red stripes; daily clothes for women are long-sleeve short shirt with red stripes and a long skirt. In the beginning of Japanese Occupation Period of the twentieth century, calico became popular. Long-sleeve shirts were made of red calico; blue calico was stitched over the sleeve and shoulder with small bells at the lower rim of the shirt. A stand-up collar was the most salient feature. In recent years, these traditional costume characteristics are revised and modernized in order to highlight the cultural uniqueness of Seediq.
Weaving in Seediq is called ‘tminun’. Plaiting (or braiding) and weaving are two needed skills. To plait is traditional a male craft, while to weave is traditionally for female.
Traditionally, men plait articles for daily use. The materials they use include twig, Supplejack, bamboo bark and hemp. By function, these objects can be back basket, net bag, clothes basket, fishing net, fish corf, fish basket and round dustpan. Weaving is important for women in Seediq society. Materials come from white ramie fibers. They are made into colorful thread bundles and woven into pieces of cloths. These cloths can be made into clothing, ornaments and cover sheets. Prevalent colors are green, red, yellow, black and white.
4. Facial Tattoo (patasan)
The culture of facial tattoo is lost right now. Facial tattoos are marks of adulthood in Seediq culture. They are also marks of beauty, and they represent traditional cultural values. They scare away evil spirits, too. Neighboring Atayal and Truku peoples share the same culture. Seediq men must have hunted human heads or passed the test of hunting to deserve facial tattoos. Seediq women must be recommended by elders for their weaving and farming skills to deserve facial tattoos. Seddiq people believe when they leave the human world and reach the home of ancestral spirits, their facial tattoos will help ancestors to identify their Seediq lineage. In other words, the culture of facial tattoo also has religious significance.
Face, chest, abdomen and limbs can all be tattooed; among them, face is the most important spot. Men usually have vertical lines on the chin, and women usually have parallel slashes and cross-lines on both cheeks. Both men and women have tattoos on the forehead. Traditionally, men only have one horizontal line as thick as a finger, while women have five to seven lines. This custom was banned and ceased to exist since the Japanese period.
Traditionally, Seediq architecture can be functionally divided into family house, building attached to family house and public building (a watchtower).
There are two types of Seediq traditional house: a subterranean wood house and a bamboo house. The former is the original traditional house in Seediq society, mostly seen in Nantou. The latter was developed after migration due to easy construction; they are mostly seen in Yilan and Hualien in the east.
A traditional subterranean house is built upon a dug-up foundation, where pillars are placed to support the house. In other words, this house is half buried underground. There comes the name of ‘subterranean’. The foundation is either square or rectangular, and the size is determined by the number of standing pillars. Two stoves are installed inside the house, one in the middle and the other by the wall. The one in the middle is a three-leg stove for heating, while the other by the wall is for cooking daily meals.
Seediq people have a patrilineal society. People divide labor in the house and in the village. Men take heavy duties and hunting, while the rest of work is shared among men and women. Such division is not very strict. Seediq people follow monogamy. According to the marriage regulations regulated by gaya, violations against gaya such as living with an unmarried couple, in extra-marital affair or becoming single parent are strictly forbidden.
2. Village Organization
The Seediq village is headed by a chief, who is elected by villagers from candidates with integrity. The chief is responsible for maintaining connection and negotiation with the outside world as well as for settling villagers’ disputes and keeping peace and harmony in the village. Sons may inherit the chieftainship from their fathers, so may younger brothers succeed the position from their elder brothers based on the recognition and trust Seediq people have for their previous leader. Nevertheless, new chiefs must also earn the same trust from people by being capable and trustworthy. The best example is the chief of Mhebu, Mona Rudo.
Mona Rudo was elected chief for his intelligence, excellence and courage. The former chief Temu Robo trusted him, and the people of Mhebu also greatly admired him. Therefore, he was elected the chief.
After he took the position, Mona Rudo was invited by the Japanese government to visit Japan. He knew how developed and powerful the Japanese colonists were. However, seeing Japanese police in the village arrogantly abused his people without justifiable reason, after several conflicts, he finally decided to fight back. On the sports rally day at Wushe Public School (27th October 1930), Mona Rudo led his people to armed resistance against the Japanese. That incident shocked the Japanese government and surprised the international society.
3. Ritual Group (gaya)
Gaya is the important code of conduct and social norms in Seediq culture. Violating gaya inflicts punishments upon the people. Therefore, Seediq people strictly follow these norms to avoid jeopardizing the safety of the entire society.
The gaya of Seediq, the gaya of Truku and the gaya of Atayal are the same. They refer to the systems and rules made by ancestors. If a member of gaya violates rules and taboos, the entire gaya society will be affected. So, the violator will be required by the peers to repent. The gaya group is made of one or two close relative clusters as the core in addition to some distant relatives and affinities. Friends without any family relation can also become a member. Members of the gaya group share field work, ritual responsibility and taboo regulation. They work together in religion, territorial distinction and kinship affairs. Studies of Seediq gaya show since the nature of territorial distinction is clear, the relationship between the gaya group and kinship and family also becomes rather clear and specific.
Seediq supernatural belief, utux, centers on belief in ancestors. Seediq people believe ancestral spirits can impact the fortunes of a person, so they must follow the instructions and code of conduct, gaya, from ancestors. Therefore, Seediq people really value the Ancestral Spirit Ritual. After the 1960s, Seediq people started to accept western religions. Most have become members of the Christian churches. Almost every traditional ritual eventually stopped. In recent years because of the rise of cultural awareness, some village started to restore the teachings of ancestral spirits. Seediq people value ancestral spirits and ancestral instructions, gaya. This value also reflects itself upon annual festivals. In every agricultural and hunting ritual, paying gratitude to ancestral spirits is integral; it appears in the rituals conducted by individual families or by the entire village.
Ancestral Spirit Ritual
Ancestral spiritual ritual takes place after the harvest of millet. The date is decided by the chief or elders after discussion. People usually tie offerings to the bamboo pole and invoke ancestral spirits to come and feast. Wine, millet, crops, fruit and fish are offered to the spirits. After the Ritual, the foods must be consumed. Leftover must be left at the ritual site when people leave and must not be taken home. People must also walk over fire in order to separate themselves from ancestral spirits. On their way home, no one shall turn and look back. Ancestral Spirit Ritual was banned during the Japanese Occupation Period. It was not resumed only until recently.