about one of the myths of the saisyat tribes of taiwan. I hope my animated movie will inspire my audience to learn more about the history of this unique ethnic group and, ultimately, respect the culture of the saisiyat.
She was also an art student in Taiwan. She went to this tribe in 1986 for her thesis and encountered a large ritual of Atyal tribe. (A tribe that is closed to Raisney) She was fascinated by the aboriginal cultrue, dancing and music. She met a young man in Atayal tribe and they fell in love with each other. In order to intergrate the tribe and get married. She started to learn the old weaving technique. She started from plant the ramie, dyed the fabric and used the backstrap loom.
I was a little girl who studied in junior high school (7-9 grade) in Taiwan. Our textbook was published by Ministry of Education. I learned from my textbook that there was a group of people who lived in the mountainous areas in Taiwan, and they are native Taiwanese. There were nine different tribes of Taiwanese aboriginals. They are enthusiastic and talented at singing as well as drinking. Men used to hunt, and women used to weave. But they don’t hunt anymore because it is now not appropriate in the civilization. They are not wealthy because they live in secluded areas of the country.
I also learned that Taiwan was colonized by Japan for fifty years. In that period of time, Taiwanese aboriginals fought violently with the Japanese for their hunting fields and their lands. The society thought aboriginals were wild and brave. Japanese cut their precious trees and sold them at a good value. After 50 years, Japanese lost in World War II, and the sovereign rights of Taiwan Island were given back to the Taiwanese.
The Taiwanese were immigrants from China who took back the island from the Japanese. However, the situation didn’t get any better. Traditionally, Taiwanese aboriginals hunted people’s heads for worship, so there were conflicts between aboriginals and the government. Fortunately, there was a hero named Wu Feng , who was an aboriginal who spoke Mandarin. He later became a negotiator between the government and the tribes. He prevented conflicts. The above were my simplistic understandings about aboriginals when I was a little girl.
When I was twenty three and earning my college degree in Taiwan, I learned from my classmates that Taiwanese aboriginals sold an entire mountain of peaches at a very low price so they could get money immediately to buy alcohol and groceries. In reality, peaches were a high-value crop worth a lot more than what the businessmen paid. The capitalist businessmen took advantage of Taiwanese aboriginals. This was clearly an unfair trade , and the capitalist businessmen should feel ashamed. My classmates and I decided to volunteer to help aboriginals sell their products directly instead of reselling through those businessmen.
From this moment, I realized that there was racism in my country specifically directed toward Taiwanese aboriginals like the Saisiyat. The aboriginals are not familiar with the rules of the capitalist economy, yet they are not allowed, by law, to hunt, which is what they know how to do. They can only live in remote areas that lack access to schools and technology. Trapped between worlds, they cannot earn enough money to support themselves. Young girls are sold to become prostitutes. Imagine being mistreated this way. What would you do? Many aboriginals choose to intoxicate themselves in order to forget their pain.
When I was 26 years old,after I graduated with my first degree, the society of Taiwan was changing due to the advancements of the internet. There was more freedom of speech. On the internet, people spread gossip and exposed scandals. Education was changing. Schools began to include Taiwanese history beyond a selective history of China. Then the Taiwanese government confessed that the history previously taught by schools and the government was pure propaganda. There was no hero like Wu Feng. He was a fiction invented by the government. Also, the government used to blame the Japanese for cutting down lots of Chamaecyparis formosensis, a very large coniferous tree that can grow to 60 meters tall in the mountains of Taiwan. The tree is valued for its timber, but cutting down so many damaged the environment by causing imbalances in the soil and water. In fact, our government was doing the same thing as the Japanese. They didn’t protect our environment. Instead, they brainwashed the younger generation so no one cared about soil and water conservation.
As a graphic-design graduate student at Maryland College Institute of Art (MICA), I learned that there were more tribes than the nine described in the textbooks of my youth.There are, in fact, twenty-six tribes that exist in Taiwan. When the Japanese colonized Taiwan, they divided the aboriginal tribes according to language and geography. However, that was not how the aboriginals defined themselves. Because of the language barrier, they were not able to explain themselves to the Japanese. The way the aborigines divided their tribes was based on religious belief systems, not geography, language, or descent.
I was shocked by what these tribes had been through. They lived on this island for eight thousand years, and they created a beautiful civilization. One hundred and fifty years ago, foreigners occupied their island, spoke a language that they didn’t understand, and forced them, at gunpoint, to surrender. Of course, the tribes wanted to fight, but modern weapons overpowered them. Hypocritically, the modern society described the aboriginals as wild, violent, and cruel. They were incorrectly divided into tribes. Some aboriginals refused speak for the remainders of their lives. After the Taiwanese government regained possession of the island, they didn’t give attention to the minorities. The Taiwanese government only wanted to take back mainland China; therefore, they didn’t pay attention to managing this island. i learned, at 32 years old, the truth about the crueladult world.
I want to help the Taiwanese aboriginals change society’s prejudice toward them. The greater Taiwanese society is now more friendly, but ordinary people still lack sufficient awareness of human rights and respect for the cultures of tribes like the Saisiyat. I want to tell their stories so people can understand their beliefs and culture. The myths of the Taiwanese aborigines remind people to be grateful and generous. There will always be a mythical authoritative figure overlooking people’s actions. For my thesis project, I chose the medium of animation to dramatize a myth in order to draw people’s attention to one form of the aboriginal culture.
I used the shadow play as my concept. Shadow play was one of the traditional performances that was used for telling a story in ancient times, well before television was invented. Taiwanese aboriginal myths had something in common with Chinese myths. For example, both cultures told stories of two Suns that were too hot for Earth. One warrior tried very hard to shoot one of the Suns down. In the Chinese version, the warrior was Chinese instead of aboriginal, and there were nine Suns instead of two. Otherwise, the myths were remarkably similar. Since the geologic location of Taiwan and China are very close, I think shadow play was the right visual language to use. I created each character as a puppet and constructed an animation based on the shadow-play technique, which means the screen was in front, and a spotlight shined from behind the puppets. Eventually I want to establish a YouTube channel that contains all the animations I can make of aboriginal myths. I will promote the videos on social networks for people to watch and analyze. I hope to educate younger generations and to raise people’s awareness. I am a Taiwanese woman, but I am not aboriginal. My grandfather emigrated from China to Taiwan in 1949 because of war. We didn’t realize we were entering an entirely new culture, and we took Taiwan for granted. Misery is often caused in the world because people don’t respect each other’s cultures. All cultures deserve to be preserved. I hope my animated movie will inspire my audience to learn more about the history of this unique ethnic group and, ultimately, respect the culture of the Saisiyat.