Paiwan is known for its family name, the concept of family and strict hierarchy which involves politics, marriage, religion and art in the society. Paiwan people celebrate ‘Millet Harvest Festival’. Besides, the Vuculj group of Paiwan celebrate ‘Five-Year Ritual’ every five years and invite ancestral spirits to come and visit their offspring. It is also called the ‘Ritual of the Union between People and Gods’. The current Paiwan population is 97,903 (until March 2016).
Paiwan people spread from Dawu Mountain in the north, Hengchun in the south, Fangliao in the west and Taimali and Xinyuan Li in Taitung City in the east. They live on both sides of the southern part of the Central Mount Range, which covers both Pingtung and Taitung Counties. According to genealogy, custom and self-identification, Paiwan can be divided into two subgroups: Ravar and Vuculj. The Ravar originated from Tavadran in Sandimen Township. Culturally, they wear lilies and prefer firstborn son succession system. Besides, they are very well-known for art performances like sculpturing and pottery making. The Vuculj are mainly located in Majia Township, Taiwu Township, Chunri Township, Shizi Township and Mudan Township of Pingtung County; Daren Township, Dawu Township, Jinfeng Township and Taimali Township of Taitung County; Xinyuan Li of Taitung City. Old villages around North Dawu Mountain and South Dawu Mountain include Padain, Payuan, Puljti, Kuljaljau and the original village Tjalja’avus. In terms of culture, the Vuvulj practice Five-Year Ritual, gender equality and primogeniture.
Paiwan started to encounter the outside world and trade since the Dutch period and the Qing Dynasty. Nevertheless, they still maintain rich and complete indigenous cultures and customs. Since the Japanese Occupation Period, agriculture development, currency exchange, the use of Japanese language and aboriginal administration system challenged the traditional cultures of Paiwan from all aspects (sides). After the coming of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China, the introduction of western religions increased the number of Christians among the people. Nowadays, churches are available in every village.
At earlier times, important Paiwan economic activities are farming, hunting and collecting in the wilderness. Main crops and staples are millet, upland rice, sweet potato and taro. Game meat caught at hunting provides the source of proteins. Taro can be cooked in water and made into taro cake; it can also be roasted to make dry taro for better preservation and transport. Betel nuts are indispensable energy booster in daily life. They are also important gifts at socializing, ritual and wedding. At a Paiwan wedding, qavai (small millet cake) and cinavu (meaning to wrap food with leaves) are necessary foods. Cinavu is pronounced as ‘qi-na-fu’ in Mandarin. It is a combination of millet (or glutinous rice, dry taro powder) and pork wrapped in the leaves of a plant called ‘Apple of Peru’. It is a traditional Paiwan delicacy.
In ancient time, the costumes of Paiwan were made by tree bark or hide. Afterwards, they used square cloths made of hemp, cotton or wool. People sewed these cloths into pieces of clothing. Women from Paiwan noble families have more time for weaving. They decorated their costumes with all kinds of specific prints patterns and totems, making them especially elaborate and beautiful.
Clothes for men include Chinese-style crew neck long-sleeve shirt, short skirt and outer rectangular cape draping over the shoulder. At significant ceremonies, they put on ceremonial hat, long jacket, male leg covering and shoulder belt. They also carry a ceremonial knife.
Clothes for women include one-piece dress with right collar and a crewneck, long skirt, leg covering, headband, elaborate wreath or forehead band.
Paiwan chiefs and noble families are entitled to certain patterns such as human head, human figure or hundred-pace snake that indicate their distinct noble status. The special status of the chief and nobility is shown in costumes, hand tattoo and wrist tattoo, which they use to decorate their body. Common people can also obtain the privilege to tattoo their body and hand after they are honored for some achievement. In terms of accessories, glazed beads are the most precious. They are important ornaments for traditional costumes.
Paiwan art refers to the commonly called ‘Three Treasures of Paiwan’: ancient pottery, glazed bead and bronze knife. In addition, sculpture by men and weaving by women is also well-known.
Men from Paiwan nobility value craftsmanship, and they show their skills through wood sculpture and stone sculpture. Paiwan people believe that hundred-pace snake is the common ancestor of the people, so the patterns of a hundred-pace snake and a twin-head snake are common themes in sculpture. They are carved on the pillars of the house; they also appear on double-linking cup, mortar, wine cup and scabbard.
◎Three Paiwan Treasures: Ancient Pot, Glazed Bead and Bronze Knife
According to the cultural legend of Paiwan, ancient ceramic pot is where ancestors originated from. It means the origin of life. Every ceramic pot has a name and meaning. Divided by their patterns, ancient ceramic pots can be divided into male, female and androgynous. A male pot is often decorated with the patterns of hundred-pace snake, which symbolizes men; a female pot is often decorated with mastoid or bell, which signifies women; and an androgynous pot can be decorated with both styles that refer to both men and women. A rare ceramic pot is always owned by the noble families and the chief. It is a marker of social status and a significant wedding gift.
Legend has it that Paiwan ancestors caught a dragonfly and made beads with its beautiful eyes. That is the origin story of glazed bead. Thousands of years ago when Paiwan ancestors came to Formosa, they already brought with them the oldest glazed bead; but since hundreds of years ago, Paiwan ancestors also learned to procure new beads through trade. In recent years, Paiwan people start to make their own beads.
There is a whole set of cultural concepts around glazed beads because of their colors, patterns and stories. Every important bead has a name. For example, the ‘bead of nobility and beauty’ is the most classic and precious bead; the ‘bead of peacock’ is related to story of love and has become an important wedding gift for the families of chiefs and nobility; and the ‘bead of the tear of the sun’ means all the tears the sun sheds as it leaves the earth. These names and stories add life to glazed beads. In this way, not only are glazed beads precious treasures of the nobility, but they are also important heirlooms and wedding gifts. They are highly regarded in the Paiwan society.
For Paiwan people, a bronze knife is the symbol of authority and power. By function, there are knives for work and knives for ceremony. The ceremonial knife is divided into three types by rank: one for the commons, one for the brave men and the other for the nobility. These three types of knife are all carved and decorated. They are also important wedding gifts from the men to the women.
A Paiwan house is made of slate stone; in some places, wood, bamboo, thatch or sun-dried mud brick are used as building materials. A typical Paiwan house has a trapezoid foundation. The floor, roof and wall are made of slates. Settlements of slate stone houses are mainly located in Sandimen Township, Majia Township, Taiwu Township, Laiyi Township and Chunri Township of Pingtung County.
The house of the common people is divided into the house and the front yard. The inner space is long; the interior is decorated with a bed and the stove is set by the wall near the entrance.
The house of the nobility has a specially spacious and comfortable front yard. There are trees and seats, ready for meetings and relaxing. There is often a sacred platform raised above the floor by 1.5 meters, and a stone pillar usually stands on top of platform. The lintel of the front door of the house of the nobility is carved; the central pillar of the house and the pillars of the bed are also carved with the images of ancestors. Inside, the front side of the house is set with a bed, while the backside of the house is the space for storing pots.
The house for ancestral spirits is also an important building in Paiwan society. It is the house of the ancestors of the chief of the village, who founded the village. Later on, the house for ancestral spirits becomes old and is used as the place to worship ancestors. Inside the house for ancestral spirits, there is a main pillar carved with human figures and hundred-pace snakes; many animal bones and tools for rituals are also hung on the pillar. At present time, the house for ancestral spirits is the place where Paiwan people worship their ancestors and hold rituals or ceremonies.
1. Family and Marriage
The Vuculj Group of Paiwan practice ‘primogeniture’, which means the first-born child of the family inherits family properties regardless of its gender. For a marriage, the partner that is not the first-born shall be married into the family of his or her partner who is the first-born. When both partners are not first-borns in their original families, they leave their original families and build a new one. When both partners are first-born, they should not leave their original families but stay and manage the affairs of both families together. Their children will also inherit the properties and affairs of both families. Marriage can determine social status in the Paiwan society. If a commoner is married to a noblility, his/her social status is elevated because they have become close affinities through the marriage. The status of their children will also change through the union.
2. Village and Chief
Chieftainship in the Paiwan society is hereditary and inherited by the first-born of the family. The chief enjoys superior social status, property and given privileges; he owns the land, river and hunting ground of the village. The chief takes care of the nobility, priests, professionals, the commoners as well as every individual in the society. People shall also pay part of their daily earning to the chief as tribute.
3. Rank and Society
The Paiwan society is divided into five ranks: the chief, the nobility, the shaman and priests, the privileged class and the common people. Every rank has different rights. The chief and the nobility have higher social status; they are entitled to tattoos like human head, hundred-pace snake; they enjoy more land resources and can levy land and forest tax upon the people. The houses of the chief and the nobility are also very spacious and beautiful carved. The privileged class is a rank between the nobility and the commoners. They enjoy more special rights than the common class, such as exemption from tax and the entitlement to certain names. The common people can win favors from the chief and the village by personal achievements.
The religion of Paiwan focuses on the concept of tsemas. Tsemas refers to all supernatural gods and spirits, such as the God of Mountain, God of River, the Ancestral God, Ancestral Spirits and Spirits. They are found in several different places like the place of God (i pidi), the upper world (i tjari vavau), the world of men (i katsauan), the middle world (i tjemakaziang), the underworld (i makarizeng), and the lower world (i tjarhi teku). There are also good and bad tsemas in every world. The good gods bring people peace, prosperity and happiness; the bad gods harm people, bringing them disasters and misfortunes.
The tsemas that are closest to people are called vuvu (ancestors). Vuvu is the relative that lives in the underworld after death. So, at any daily gathering, before taking a sip of drink, people will dip the wine with the index finger of their right hand and flip the drop of wine to the surrounding, the inside of a house or the floor of the house, to offer it to ancestors. In every traditional house, there is also an altar where people make offerings to ancestors.
To communicate with the good gods (spirits), the bad goods (spirits) and ancestors among the tsemas, Paiwan people rely on professional shamans (malata) and priests (palakalai) to assist all kinds of rituals or the communication with gods and spirits.
Traditional Paiwan religion and faith were banned and interrupted during the Japanese Occupation Period. In the 1960s, Christianity and Catholic faith were introduced to the villages. As a result, there are western churches in every village; they coexist with traditional faith. In recent years, Paiwan-style carving and patterns start to appear on the statue of Jesus, Holy Mary, and the crucifix. They represent conversations between traditional culture and modern religion.
Among Paiwan annual festivals, the Millet Harvest Ritual is the most important one. In addition, the Five-Year Ritual practiced by the Vuculj group once in five years is also an important event. In the Ritual, the priest and shaman take charge of every detail. The priest presides over the ritual, while the shaman communicates with gods, spirits and ancestors who are the central figures in the Ritual.
1. Millet Harvest Ritual
Paiwan people celebrate every stage of cultivation from tilling the ground, planting the seed, weeding and harvesting. After the completion of the fieldwork, there is a masalut (Gratitude Harvest Ritual). It means crossing over or passing over to the New Year. It is the indicator of ‘time’ in an agricultural society like that of Paiwan.
On the first day of the Harvest Ritual, millet shall be taken into the granary. It is followed by praying for blessing and selecting seeds for planting in the coming year. The next day, the chief will summon the shaman and the priest. Together they will visit every house to check upon the harvest and pray for blessing. Part of the harvest will be taken away by the chief to be offered to ancestral spirits at the House for Ancestral Spirits, while the rest of the harvest shall be collected and stored in the granary after the shaman has done the prayers and rituals.
2. Five-Year Ritual
The Five-Year Ritual is the most extravagant and symbolic ritual for every village of the Vuculj Group of Paiwan. The Vuculj believe that ancestral sprits live on the mount of Dawu and they visit their offspring once every five years. So they hold this grand ceremony to welcome ancestral spirits and their visit. Because of its extravagance, the Ritual was banned by the Japanese government. Some villages stopped holding it. However, villages that still hold the Five-Year Ritual are Gulou Village, Wenle Village, Wangjia Village and Nanhe Village in Laiyi Township; Lili Village, Qijia Village and Guichong Village in Chunri Township in Pingtung County; and Tuban Village in Daren Township in Taitung County.
The Five-Year Ritual is divided into three stages: the pre-ritual stage, the formal ritual and the post-ritual stage. The following example comes from Gulou Village:
◎The Pre-Ritual Stage
At the pre-ritual stage, people make preparation for the ritual. They need to clean the village to make it a holy place, clear the path for ancestral spirits, build the rattan ball pole and prepare the blessed rattan balls. Besides, wine, offerings and food such as glutinous rice cake must also be prepared.
◎The Formal Ritual
● Welcome the Spirits, Entertain the Spirits and Thrust Rattan Balls
At the Welcome of Spirits, the shaman and the priest call the names of ancestors and worship them with millet cake, pork, pig bone and millet wine. They also sing and dance to ‘entertain the spirits’. Afterwards, the priest presides over the formal ritual of thrusting the rattan balls.
Before the priest tosses the rattan ball to the sky, he says a simple prayer to give each ball a special meaning such as harvest, health and happiness. This is the most impressive event in the entire ritual.
● Driving Away Bad Spirits
On the second day of the ritual, every family worships to entertain spirits, families and friends with feasts. In the afternoon, the shaman performs the ritual to drive away bad spirits at the House for Ancestral Spirits. Every family must prepare the offerings for the bad spirits. After the ceremony, the priest leads the warriors and sends away bad spirits quickly from the village.
● Sing, Dance and Feast
The third and fourth days of the ritual are days for songs, dances, feasts, and reunion with ancestral spirits and families and friends.
● The Last Rattan Ball (kadjuq) Ritual
On the fifth day at noontime, people gather at the House of Ancestral Spirits to send off good spirits. The priest chants for the good gods, and the people send them away with offerings, songs and dances. Most of the times, men bring the offerings and lead the spirits away to where the village marks as the world of the spirits. After sending away the good ancestral spirits, people return to the playground and perform the ritual of thrusting the last rattan ball.
◎The Post-Ritual Stage
On the sixth and seventh day, the Hunting Ritual and Taboo Lifting Ritual are done. It marks the end of the Five-Year Ritual. In the following year, another ritual of sending away ancestral spirits will be held, which is commonly known as ‘Six-Year Ritual’. The agenda is like the formal ritual of the Five-Year Ritual, but thrusting the rattan ball is not included.