Taiwan's Hidden Culture - the Tsou

Collection with 21 media items created by Benedict Young

13 May 2014 11:36

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 14
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi ceremony: Village males light a ceremonial fire inside the Kuba, which is then transferred to the centre of a courtyard. Inside the Kuba two important rituals are carried out. Firstly the ‘Patkaya’ rite, in which newly born babes are presented to the residing deities; following which, in the ‘Yasmoyuska’ rite, male teenagers come of age in a ceremony that involves them having their bottoms smacked with a large stick. After completion of this, they are ready to join the ranks of grown men and warriors, known as ‘Maotana’.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 6
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - before Mayasvi: A local 'Moatana' or Tsou warrior, now only symbolically so. He is getting ready for Mayasvi, the most important time of year for the Tsou.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 11
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi: A Tsou warrior with traditional feather headset and freshly cut leaves from the sacred yono tree in his headpiece.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 18
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Alishan forests, Taiwan: Alishan's misty forests are a magical and beguiling place, but they too have fallen foul of commercialism and money-grabbing. This once peaceful and divine place is now filled to heaving most days with hourdes of tourists - mostly from China, but the area is also exceedingly popular with local Taiwanese and Japanese visitors.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 10
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi: In an important ritual, local warriors climb the yono trees and cut the sacred leaves, which are then worn in their traditional headwear.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 5
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - yono trees: The Tsou have made their homes in the forests of Alishan for aeons. These yono trees have sacred significance for them. During the 'Mayasvi' ceremony, the blood of the a sacrificial boar is smeared on these trees, which creates a spiritual pathway via which their gods I’afafeoi and Posonfihi can descend from the heavens and bless the villagers.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 19
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Alishan forests, Taiwan: These age-old towering trees in Alishan mountain forest have seen the rise of human culture in Taiwan. From early man, to Taiwan's original Austronesian inhabitants, then the Dutch, the Ming, the Qing, the Japanese, the Chinese Nationalists, modern day Taiwan. However, it is the Tsou who have made their home amongst their towering trunks for the longest and who hold the deepest respect for them.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 12
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi: Male villagers in traditional attire look on as a squeeling wild boar is sacrificed, thus ushering down the gods I’afafeoi and Posonfihi.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 14
By Benedict Young
08 Mar 2014

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi ceremony: The Maotana run out of the kuba courtyard into the surrounding countryside, later returning to the ceremonial fire with a triumphant shout.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 17
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi ceremony: The men and women of the village perform a group dance around the ceremonial fire. Singing Tsou songs together as they do.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 9
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi: Villagers perform a male only dance, circling around a ceremonial fire. They sing and dance arm-in-arm in a show of unity. Mayasvi is a particularly important festival for males as it includes a rite of passage for newborn baby boys and a coming of age ritual for male teenagers. Furthermore, the focus of the rituals is at the Kuba, a sacred straw-roofed building where important decisions are made and ceremonies carried out. Women are forbidden to enter or even touch the Kuba.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 16
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi ceremony: After the village males have completed several important rituals, the villages ladies will join.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 13
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tsou house near the kuba, Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan: The jawbones of hunted animals are hung on the wall inside this Tsou house, providing protection. Previously, when the Tsou had a headhunting tradition, the skulls of human foes would have been used for the same purpose.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 3
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Nia'Ucna village, Alishan, Taiwan: Pasuya lives in a remote village in Taiwan's high mountains. His family dog earnestly keeps guard outside their humble home, but can provide no protection against the serious threats the Tsou face. Natural disasters made worse by mismanagement of the land by Taiwan's government pose a serious threat to life in the mountains and the unstoppable march of globalisation threatens to see Tsou language and culture disappear from this Earth completely.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 21
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Taiwan, Alishan: Pasuya's generation hold a wealth of knowledge about the history, beliefs and language of the Tsou, while few youngsters speak the language fluently any more. Furthermore, their traditional culture is caught between being watered down - Mayasvi is now a tourist event in Taiwan - or disappearing completely, which is a real possibility if it fails to find relevance in the modern age to the lives of young Tsou people. There may still time to preserve this precious culture, but as Pasuya and his peers pass on, they will undoubtedly take with them knowledge and insights, some of which will be lost forever.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 1
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Nia'Ucna village, Alishan, Taiwan: Pasuya, a Tsou (one of Taiwan's aboriginal peoples) ruminates about the fate of his people and his home.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 2
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Nia'Ucna village, Alishan, Taiwan: Pasuya, now a janitor, was once famed for his superhuman strength on building sites and for having longest grenade throw record during his national service in Taiwan's army. Unfortunately, discrimination and lack of access to education means there are now few opportunities outside of manual labour for many of Taiwan's original inhabitants.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 15
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - during Mayasvi ceremony: Tsou lady in traditional clothing carries a flame to the sacred fire outside the Kuba during the Mayasvi ceremony. The fire will be kept alight for two days straight.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 8
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Tfuye village, Alishan, Taiwan - before Mayasvi: A traditional Tsou knife, which will be worn during the ceremony. Mayasvi is also known as the Ceremony of War and Triumph. The Tsou were once fierce and feared warriors in Taiwan; previously, they had a headhunting tradition, though this was outlawed by the Japanese, who colonised Taiwan from 1895-1945. Keeping traditions such as Mayasvi alive is vital for the survival of Tsou traditions and culture in the modern age.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 4
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Taiwan, Alishan, Nia'Ucna village: In 2009, typhoon Morakot swept through this region of Taiwan and ravaged it. Four years later, hillsides decimated by landslides and the skeletal remains of trees ripped from their roots still lay strewn around.

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Taiwan's Hidden Culture - 20
By Benedict Young
19 Oct 2013

Nia'Ucna village, Alishan, Taiwan: Pasuya, is a dignitary is Tsou society, he is the brother of the former Nia'Ucna village chieftain. Seen here displaying his traditional tobacco pipe and headpeice made from seashell and black bear hair. He is now the custodian of many of the Tsou's tribal treasures as after the devastation of typhoon Morakot, Pasuya collected and saved as many of the ancestral artifacts as he could - those which had not been washed away by the flood waters - he keeps them safe in his house.