Culture and History
Today, the national park has only two aboriginal villages – Dongpu and Meishan, inhabited by aborigines of the Bunun tribe. The Bunun were originally residents of Taiwan's western plain. Decades of Han Chinese encroachment and the search for better hunting grounds forced these people further and further eastward, into the central mountains. Today, their tribe is dispersed through much of Taiwan's central mountain range and they have long since adapted to life away from the plains. Religious ceremony is central to Bunun life, with a major festival taking place nearly every month. While now primarily involved in settled occupations (tea, vegetable, and plum cultivation), the Bunun traditionally relied on slash and burn agriculture for sustenance, supplemented by hunting and the gathering of food plants in the wild. Converted to the Christina faith several generations ago by Protestant and Catholic missionaries, the Bunun still preserve many elements of their own traditional rituals in the Christianity they practice today.
The park has preserved paths and roadways initially built during the Qing Dynasty and Japanese colonial periods. One of these roads, known today as the Batongguan Trail, runs for 152 kilometers from Linyipu Jhushan in Nantou County to Pushihge Yuli in Hualian County. It was the road used by a Qing Dynasty general and his "Flying tiger" army during the late 1870s. Legend has it that he had it built in only 10 months. The road has the distinction as the only "class I" historical trail in Taiwan. During their colonial rule of Taiwan, the Japanese constructed several additional trails to facilitate their control of aborigine tribes living along the Laku Laku and Laonong streams. It is these trails today which are frequented by hikers and which testify to the path of early development in the Yushan area as well as the history of infringement upon and resistance of the area's original inhabitants.
The food of Bunun
Bunun have simple diets and traditionally eat millet as the staple food, and taros, sweet potatoes, and sweet corns as food supplements.
Millet is the staple food of the Bunun and the cultivation and harvest of millet are major events for the Bunun people. Many important ceremonies and festival are celebrated with growth of millet. For the Bunun, millet also symbolizes happiness and fortune.
The Bunun use them as both a staple food and a food supplement. Based on research done on the Takebakha tribe in Tannan village, there are many taboos for the Bunun regarding the cultivation and eating of taros.
The sweet potato is a very important food. Taboos about eating sweet potatoes should be avoided, such as eating millet and sweet potatoes at the same time.
After harvest, the Bunun will dry the corn and crush it in a wooden mortar. Then the husks is used as pig feed and the Kernels can be eaten as food or used for brewing, if the crop is abundant, the Bunun will spread wood ash on the corns to prevent insect activity.
The wood spoon is used to stir steamed millet. The Bunun people believe that steamed millet will be more palatable after stirred.
The rice tub is a round-shaped wood container used to store millet. It is made of a scooped whole trunk. In the old days, females only have to husk millet for the whole family's everyday consumption. It's the head of the family who has to take out the millet from the rice tub for the females.
Soup Utensil and Spoon
Bamboo utensils and wooden spoons are used at the dining table.
The steam tub is a cooker made from a scooped trunk and often used in making Chinese pastry or rice cakes. An iron slab with a hole is placed on a steam tub. The food is placed over a large pot with boiling water.
The Hunting Techniques
Living in the wild makes hunting part of the traditional Bunun lifestyle. Before important ceremonies, hunting activities must be held and the Bunun take great pride from their hunting skills. The better a hunter's skill, the more chance for the hunter to become the hero of the tribe. The Bunun are not only excellent hunters but also good at making different kind of traps. Considering how the Bunun hunt and coexist with Nature, we find the Bunun hunting only for survival. It is clear that they have carefully observed local wildlife and established the knowledge of sustainable management of Nature.
Setting a stone trap is the first step to becoming a hunter. Use twigs to support a stone and put bait on the stone to attract small animals, such as squirrels, little birds,and mice.
Flying Sqirrel Trap
The trap is placed noto a trunk because flying squirrels will leave the trees when disturbed. Make a ring with a thorny vine(Daemonorops margaritae Hance Beccari) and place it on the squirrels' route to trap the coming squirrels, making them unable to escape.
Dig a hole on the ground, put sharpened bamboo sticks into the hole, and then place hay or even sweet potatoes and taros over the hole to attract prey. Such traps are designed to catch large animals, such as wild boars. Because of the light weight, small and medium sized animals won't fall into the trap.
Woodcarving Calendar of the Bunun
The Bunun tribe has no written language. In 1937, a piece of wooden engraved illustrative calendar that bore the functions similar to the written language of the Bunun tribe was discovered in today's Nantou Country. Through illustration, this piece of wooden engraving displays the major ritual and events in the lift of the Bunun tribe.
The People of Yushan
The word Bunun means "people" in general. The Bunun inhabit the southern part of the Central Range, spreading through Nantou. Kaohsiung, Hualien, and Taitung. They have a population of approximately forty thousand, around half of whom dwell in mountainous areas around an altitude of 1,500 meters, A typical mountain tribe, the Bunun are also one of the most energetic, wide spreading, and the best adapted for the mountain climatic among the native tribe of Taiwan.
Migration of the Bunun
The Bunun is a typical mountain tribe and also one of the most widespread. They compose six tribes, including Isbukun, Takebanuad (Nantou. Hualien, Taitung, and Kaohsiung), Take-vata (Tili), Take-todo (Jenai and Wuchieh), and Takopulan which is extinct. The earliest Bunun lived around Sheliao and Mingchien, located on the southern bank of the Choshui River. They then migrated along the Choshui River to the west rim of the Central Range and the north of Yusun. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, they had traveled across the Central Range to the southeast and the south, then moved forward to the southwest, Although the distribution of Bunun is second to that of the Taiya, the Bunun have demonstrated their excellence in expanding over the other native tribes of Taiwan.
The Sacrifice of Bunun
The Bunun use sacrifice for the purpose of worshipping gods and asking ancestors for their blessing for harvest, hunting, war, and health as well as prosperity, longevity, and peace. Among all of the events, the Sow and Shoot Ear are the most important.
Ear Shooting Festival is one of the most grandeur rituals being held by the Bunun tribe in the year. The reason behind the ritual is for the blessings of smooth and good harvest during the hunting season. As millet is the Bunun tribe's main diet, prayer for the blessing of good harvest in millet of the Millet Sowing Festival is also a very important ritual. Amongst all, the unique whole and chromatic tone in the chorus of Pasibutbut Song (Millet Good Harvest Song) has been extremely stunning in the world's ethnomusicology.
Dress of the Bunun Bununs
have a variety of accessories including head ornaments, neck ornaments, bracelets, etc. Most of them are made from shells or glass beads that are abtained through trade with outside world. The Weave of the Bunun For traditional Bunun, men and women are responsible for different jobs. For example, men have to go defend clan, hunting, logging, and weave the baskets as well as make pottery and tools. Women take the responsibility of harvesting ramie, weaving, sewing, and farming. During the time when the men are out for hunting, women will harvest the ramie and continue with the process of peeling, boiling, and drying it. Finally, they will weave the fiber and make clothes for family members. The Dress of the Bunun Traditional costumes can be classified into casual and formal. Casual dresses are worn in daily life, for farming and hunting. Formal dresses are worn for visiting friend or attending ceremonies. The most typical male costume is the sleeveless top, made with two rectangular pieces of cloth folded and stitched together. Chest pocket and belly pocket are the accessories. For pants, they only wear a piece of cloth. The Takebanuad tribesmen used to carry belly pockets, the function of which is the same with that of a chest pocket. The formal costume of Bunun males in Kaohsiung and Taitung is a round-collared, long-sleeved top with a wrap skirt. Females in Nantou and Hualien wear the Han-style round-collared long-sleeved tops and cropped pants or a long wrap skirt, with a binding cloth on the lower leg. Bunun females in Taitung and Kaohsiung wear one-piece long dress, with long skirts and binding cloth around the lower leg. The Walk of the Bunun The Bunun is a typical mountain tribe, with most them living in mountains at more then 1,000 meters above sea level. The Bunun are always able to navigate with wisdom and perseverance the zigzag trails or rushing streams of the mountains. Take crossing a river for example. A Bunun can build a makeshift bridge in just a few minutes with some simple tools. Also because they dwell in the highlands, people of all ages and both sexes can travel over the mountains and valleys on foot, going through the dangerous natural environment with their physical strength. In addition, the Bunun often use vines to make tools to carry heavy items.
Woven with vines, the head strap is an accessory of the carry basket. When carrying, the user has to put the strap on his forehead, with two hands holding the two sides of the strap, and carry the objects by using the strength his head and neck.
When put the rack on user's back, the bottom of the rack slightly tilts upwards; therefore, goods such as woods and millets can be loaded onto it. The users place the straps over their shoulders. Great quantity of millets can be loaded onto the rack; moreover when a load requires a capacity more than the bottom board can provide, extra capacity can be created by binding bamboos or wood sticks to the bottom board. As a result back racks are versatile and convenient tool for carrying goods.
The carry basket is a must for the Bunun. It is often used to carry food, tools, or even kids uphill as crops and wood downhill. The basket is made for both males and females. There are also small baskets for children to improve their strength in order to carrying heavy objects.
There are two kinds of net bags; one is for males and the other is for females. Men use the net bag to carry prey. The hole of this net bag can be tied to prevent the object inside from falling. Women use net bags to put miscellaneous articles or baby-care stuff when they go out.
There are various kinds of bamboo baskets for different purposes, such as carrying millet or other items.
Rattan Hunting Bag
The hunting bag is nicknamed as "the mister's bag" because it is not easy to cell from the outside whether there is prey in the bag so that the user can avoid sharing his prey with others by pretending that he doesn't have anything in the bag.
Music of the Bunun
The Bununs love ballads much more than musical instruments. Music is not only a recreation in their daily life, but also sacred with its connotations in their rituals. Just like other Bunun tools and appliances, traditional Bunun musical instruments simple and unadorned, often easily made from local materials.
The stringed instrument has five stringed in the tribe Take-bakha, but in the tribe Takebanuad, it has only four strings. They use fingers or two small wood sticks to pick. A hollow iron box or container is often placed under the instrument as a makeshift resonating chamber. It's an instrument for both sexes.
A simple and traditional musical instrument, the harmonica is common among the Bunun. It is made of a long bamboo bar, in the middle of which are rectangular openings and an elastic mouthpiece. By holding the harmonica with the left hand and using the right hand to pull the strings to vibrate the reeds. The player places his mouth over the reeds, exhaling and inhaling to make his mouth function as a resonating chamber.
The bow belongs to the stringed instrument and is a main solo musical instrument for the Bunun. It consists of a thin, bow-shaped bamboo rod with an iron string (or an Alpines specious (wend.) KSchum. String) stretched between both ends. The player holds the bows with the left hand, with the right index finger picking the string or presses strings with the left index finger, with the right hand picking the strings. When bowing the bridge, the player holds the bow back in the mouth and adjusts his breath to produce tones.
Traditional Houses of the Bunun
Traditionally, a family of the Bunun tribe lives under the same roof; shares the same granary and stove. They work together and share everything among themselves. Generally, the building materials include stone slab, wooden slab, cypress tree bark, thatch stem or a mix of these materials that the Bunun tribe obtains locally. Hence the building materials differ according to regions. For defensive purposes, it is a norm for the Bunun tribe to build their houses in which the interior and garden are usually lower than the level ground.
The center of a Bunun traditional house is the millet barn, around which are bedrooms. The bedroom in front of the barn entrance belongs to the head of the family, symbolizing that the entrance to the barn is under full control of the head. Apart from the millet barn and bedrooms, the remaining space is called the inner court, a place for daily activities as well as the family cemetery. In the inner court, there are still two stoves (the right stove is used to cook men's food and the left one is used to prepare pig food) and various household utensils.
Faith of the Bunun
Traditionally, millet is the most important crop for the Bunun. Millet-related events accounts for as much as fifty days in a year. The main purpose of these ceremonies is to pray to heaven (Dihanin) for an abundant harvest and in order to ensure a plentiful harvest, magic is practiced on the millet and people are asked not to violate taboos
The Wizard of the Bunun
The traditional Bunun society, when someone encounter difficulties, they would turn to a wizard for help. Generally speaking, there are male wizards and female wizards. To become a qualified wizard, one has to learn from a qualified wizard or to learn from a holy spirit in a dream. As the communicating agent between the immortals and mortals, a wizard helps to solve difficulties, exorcise evil spirits and cure illness. Wizards enjoy high social status and are respected by tribesmen.
The Bunun believe that disease has much to do with evil spirits so they go to a wizard for disease outdoors or under the eaves, facing to the east, and ask the patient about his/her dreams and symptoms for diagnosis. Then, with the power of an awn, the wizard will exhale and make some gestures to call an evil spirit and discuss the proper therapy with the spirit. Finally, a bamboo sifter, a bowl of water, six awns, a pork chop, and some millet wine will be prepared for the spirit summoning ceremony. Then, the wizard will spray water onto the awns with his/her mouth, put the sifting hair on the patient's head, hum the spell, and end the therapy process.
The Cause of Hack Head
In Bunun tribes, there are two major political positions-Lisigadan lus-an and Lavian are responsible for the social order in the tribe. The Lisigadan lus-an is often taken by wizards. Lavian has to take charge of the matters inside the tribe. They also acts as the political leader of the tribe.
In earlier times, men would hack each other's heads for revenge or judgment. Hacking heads is very sacred. Before head-hacking, dream divination must be practiced. There are a lot of taboos to obey. At the ceremony, people will pour wine into the mouth of the sacrifice head, saying, "Welcome to this place. You are our important guest. You should ask your family to come here or you'll be too lonely."
The Taboo of Hack Headorn
A hacked head cannot be held from the time millet is sown to the time it is harvested. To avoid evil effect on the millet, the hacked head must not be placed in the barn or hung on the outside walls. In the Isbukun tribe, a special rack for the hacked head will be erected near the house of the team leader.The Cause of Hunting
The Bunun are good hunters. Males have learned hunting skills from the elders since childhood. Hunting is regarded a sacred activity and there are a lot of hunting taboos. For example, one is not allowed to join the hunting team when there is pregnancy, a newborn or death in his family. During the hunting period, the hunter's family members must obey all the taboos and females are especially not allowed to touch hunting tools.
The leader of the hunting team will give the prey for the members according their contribution. The head of the animal will go to the one who shoots it and the remaining parts will impartially be given to all other participants. Then the hunters can share their prey with families, neighbors, and friends.
Lifetime of the Bunun
Traditionally, in the life of the Bunun tribe, from birth, naming, Baby Festival, Adulthood Ceremony, wedding until aging and death, each have their respective customs and underlying meanings. For example, the Bunun tribe adopts the indoor burial in its funeral procession. Burying the deceased indoor has the meaning of protecting the family members who are still alive free from danger.
The Bunun believe that at the beginning of pregnancy, the baby is on the ldft side of the body and will move to right gradually. When the baby moves to the middle, it will be born. On the third day after a baby is born, the parents will name the baby and give blessings. Before the baby is named, the father has to go hunting in the mountains and brew millet wine for the naming celebration. The baby's day is observed to celebrate the birth of the newborn. This day, parents will hold the baby in their arms at the door, introducing the baby to the friends and relatives, and put a necklace around the baby's neck, hoping the baby to be as lovely as the necklace.
The growth ceremony is observed to celebrate the growth of the children. Parents will give a hog to the mother's family (if it is a boy, the gift will be a whole hog; if it is a girl, the gift is a half hog), to show their gratitude for the mother's clan and also symbolize the blessing of health and peace. Boys more than three years old will come to the Shoot Ear ceremony in order to receive blessings to become an excellent hunter. The growth ceremony involves pulling out a tooth. Having incomplete teeth is a sign of beauth for the Bunun. Teenagers must extract their incisor teeth at the age of fifteen or sixteen. Traditional marriage is arranged by the parents. Before the marriage is settled, the bridegroom's family often has to spend the evening in the bride's home many times for discussions. On the day of the wedding, the bridegroom will bring presents and a wild boar to the bride's house. The hog is shared by the bride's family.
Traditionally, deceased family members are buried in the house for the purpose of protection. Once their family cemetery is fully occupied, the family has to move and build a new house.
The Bunun classify death into "blessed" and "cursed"—"blessed" means to die in one's own bed and "cursed" means an accidental death.
For a "blessed death," when one is on the point of death, his/her family will dress him/her and buries him/her in the sitting position with limbs bound under the house.
The funeral must be held during the day and the deceased must face to the west (in direction of the sunset). The clothes and belongings of the dead will also be buried and the grave is covered with a slabstone. The family will mourn for a couple of days and during the mourning period, they family cannot eat meat, clean the house, take baths, or go out for work or hunting. For the "cursed death," the one who finds the dead body has to bury it and no ceremonies are held.
The Bunun Tribe Lives at Peace with the Nature
The traditional lifestyle of the Bunun is much associated with Nature because most of the articles for daily use are obtained from nature.
Rhus semialata Murr. Var. roxburghiana DC
This plant is common around the sunny bases of the mountains islandwide. When in bloom, the yellow and white inflorescence is really dazzling. Its nutty fruit tastes salty and has been used as salt by early aborigines.
Boehmeria frutescens, or ramie, is one of the plants highly praised by all the native tribes in Taiwan. Its leaf is heart-shaped with opposite arrangement and has white tiny hairs on the reverse side and short hairs along the stems. Such a plant grows in moist land and it seldom grows for more than 1.5meters high. The plant is an important weaving material for every native tribe.
Lagerstroemia subcoststs Koehne.
Its bark is smooth and tea-brown. The plant is common both on the plains and mountains around the island. It especially suited dry, barren land and helps to conserve soil. With its hard and fine texture, it is often used as a material for pillows and farming tools. Besides, it is a popular firewood because of its endurance and it emits little smoke.
Alpinia speciosa (wendl.)KSchum.
Its large and smooth leaves are used to wrap millet cake and the high-fiber leaf sheaths can be dried to weave ropes, boxes, or mats, which are both durable and insect-resistant.
Daemonorops margaritae (Hance) Beccari
The vines are tenacious yet flexible and can be used as weaving material. The tribesmen most often use the vines to make carry baskets and carry straps, which are durable and suitable for heavy loads. The fruit is covered with scales and its small but rather sour pulp was a popular snack for Bunun children in the old days.
Sapindus mukorossii Gaertn.
The peel contains much saponin. When rubbed, it will produce bubbles and deliver excellent cleaning action. In the old days, when the soap industry and synthetic detergents were not so popular, the plant was the main source.
The early distribution of human tribes was mostly along the terraces of river banks.The landscape of these terraces also played an important role in the distribution of human culture. In the Yushan area,today these river terraces are present along the Chenyulanhsi.The prehistoric relices of stone instruments,pieces of pottery,stone axes,etc.,found in the areas of Wangshiang and Tungpu are evidence that there existed human activities at least one thousand years ago.
Presently,there are Bunun Tribes inhabiting the two aboriginal reservation of Tunpu and Meishan villages in the park.They spread after their ancestors emigrated from the plains to the mountains three hundred years ago. In the early 1800s,they crossed the Central Mountain Range and extended to the southeastern area of Taiwan. After nearly a century's emigration,they occupied the large territory along both sides of the middle part of the Central Mountain Range.They have the highest emigration rate and can easily adapt themselves to mountain climate.
The Bunun Tribe has established a complete society system with father as the center of the large family. Family is the basic unit to share property and to live together. Usually a tribe consists of more than two large families.People of the same family until together but do not intermarry. The unit of clan or sept is the center of all functions.
The folk songs of the Bunun Tribe are one of the treasures of ethnomusicology in the world. In their sincere and pure song they have developed amazing choral techniques of contrast and harmony.Since the Bunun Tribe unite their living with singing,you can feel their wonderful and pure life energy when you hear them roaring and whistling in the mountains.
The crucial point of the management policy of Taiwan mountainous areas in the Ching Dynasty is the construction of the Patungkuan old passage. In the Ching Dynasty, Emperor Tungchin, conflicted with English,Amercian and Ryukyu people.This was an excuse for them to invade Taiwan.At that time,the Taiwan defense commander, Shen Pao-Chen, recommanded constructing three roads(north,central and south) to eastern Taiwan for the defense of this area.The central one, spotted with guardposts to encourage people to emigrate eastward, began to be constructed at the first year of the Emperor Kwangsu of the Ching Dynasty.This 110-kilometer old passage stretching southeastward though the Yushan area is from Chushan to Pushihko (Yuli). Years past, part of the old passage and some of the relics of guardposts were reconstructed, and some were ruined. Today there only remain some stonesteps and guardposts which call to ones attention as historical reminders.