When we think of Taiwan, we think of a country with heavy Han-Chinese influences. Their official standard language is Chinese; their food has Chinese flavors; most of the population is ethnically Chinese. But Taiwan is not China, so who were the people living on the island before the presence of the Han Chinese ethnic group?
All images included in this article are photographs taken by the author at the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines.
islands from the coast of Africa to the coast of South America, it’s truly a wonder why the globe hasn’t been exposed to the fascinating history of Taiwan.
if I did not acknowledge their strife, as well. Due to slower economic development in the tribes, youth are forced to move into the city and adapt to more an urban life which takes them away from their native culture and identity. Thus, this adversely affects the structure of their tribal society: Villages have a hard time maintaining their land as land that was promised to them is being bought out for urban development.
Their suffering does not stop there, but there are many generalizations of their lifestyle and stereotypes of their people which gives way to discrimination. For example, there is a commonly promoted image of indigenous peoples being alcoholics which takes away from the understanding of their hardships being marginalized in modern Taiwan society. Traditional religious beliefs have basically disappeared and been replaced by Western religions. In recent years, racial consciousness has increased, and the country has thus become more aware of the indigenous groups.
In the later years of the 20th century and into the 21st century, advocacy for aboriginal rights, recognition, and reclamation have transformed the edification and awareness of these indigenous groups. I was fortunate enough to learn all of this information from my trip to the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines in Taipei. This museum was established in 1994 to exhibit the history and artifacts of those aboriginal groups with the mission to educate the public of the cultures and societies that founded the island we now call Taiwan.