John Seed in Taiwan

Paiwan artist gives carving to John Seed

I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.

Wutai in Pingtung County

After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks.  Continue reading

Visit to the Bunun community of Kalibuan

Bunun Museum in Xinyi Township

Over the weekend I visited the Bunun community of Kalibuan (Wangxiang, 望鄉部落) with a group of students from Providence University and National Chengchi University. The first stop on the way was a small museum in Xinyi Township of Nantou County. The museum contains a range of materials related to Bunun culture.

The picture above shows a reconstruction of a traditional slate house in the museum. There are also some items related to hunting and farming and a reproduction of a Bunun calendar. The Bunun were the only group of Austronesian people in Taiwan to develop a writing system. The calendar contains information about phases of the moon, hunting, farming activities and significant events like births or marriages. The knowledge about making the calendars was only held by a few families.  Continue reading

In the land of the Seediq

Seediq woman playing bamboo mouth harp

Over the weekend I joined a trip organised by the Research Centre for Austronesian Peoples at Providence University to Ren’ai Township in Nantou County (南投縣仁愛鄉). We visited several villages in the area to learn more about Seediq (賽德克族) culture. The main purpose of the trip was as an orientation for professors from several universities who are working on a project to improve science and maths education for indigenous children. They plan to include various elements of local culture and knowledge into the curriculum to make it more relevant and improve learning outcomes.

Presbyterian Church in Sadu

The first place was visited was Sadu (靜觀), which was at the end of the road at an altitude of 1,500 metres. In the church Pastor Kumu Tapas gave us a talk about various aspects of the local culture and history. Actually the people in this village identify as Toda, a sub-group of the Seediq. The other two sub-groups of the Seediq are the Tkdaya and Truku. The Seediq groups were classified as Atayal until the Truku gained official recognition 2004. Then the Seediq (Tkdaya) were officially recognised in 2008. However, the Toda haven’t gained recognition as a separate group. Continue reading