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The world’s northernmost Austronesians: The Life of the Atayal Tribe

2021/05/09
The Atayal Tribe in Wulai of New Taipei City has a rich cultural heritage that can make their life better and happier. You are invited to explore an independent heaven in the real world, Fushan Tribal Village.

An Atayal song called lmuhuw says, 

“Usa’ mblaq mita siyax na wagi mangay qsya’ mtasaw”
 (Kick off the journey of exploration, find and settle in a place in the sun and by the river!)
”Si glu llyung mu sa su pstnaq Tranan la... ”
(Going up the river, you’ll see Tranan…)

Tranan refers to a place where Atayal’s ancestors may once have been. In the beginning, the tribal chief Yawi.Puna led his people on a hunting trip to this place after crossing the mountain from Baling Taoyuan. Abundant water resources and plentiful prey were found, and so all his people were called up to build a new village here, the southernmost point of Wulai in New Taipei City; it has become the home of the northernmost Austronesians: The Atayal Tribe.

the tribal chief Yawi.Puna

The river maps the migration paths in the history of the Atayal. The Daluolan River which flows through the tribal village is the main stream of Nanshi River. Going up the river, there is a green landscape accompanied by the sound of the river as the best background music. Dragonflies, butterflies and frogs come to the land by themselves. This place is the Atayal’s source of life and a precious paradise of animals and plants. The canal built during the Japanese occupation is evidence of ancient Atayal’s wisdom about coexistence with nature. 

Due to its location in the upstream protected zone of Nanshi River, this unspoiled land has allowed the Atayal people to maintain their traditional lifestyle. Murals and sculptures can be seen everywhere; they are the life and culture of the tribe. As for churches, it is the religious center and inner sustenance of the Atayal. The hundred-year-old elementary school represents the succession of generations. Never forget the words of Atayal’s ancestors, “No matter where you go, follow the river and you’ll live a good life.”

Atayal Cultural Experience
Follow the lead of the camp owner to enter the Atayal’s living area. Visitors can realize how the Atayal strictly abide by the rituals that their ancestors set down and passed on through generations from the apparel, dining utensils, and hunting skills. They go hunting in the prosperous season to maintain a balanced ecosystem. It’s the way they respect the mountains and forest, as well as their wisdom of coexistence with nature. The Atayal people are born to be hunters. Since childhood, they start learning hunting skills as well as how to identify animals’ footprints and edible plants by following expert hunters to the forest. Visitors can go to the Gesuw Camp to experience the Atayal’s cultural life.

Aboriginal food ingredients are taken from nature

Fushan Elementary School
Only a dozen or so students attend Fushan Elementary School, which is surrounded by mountains. Although it’s just a small school, it has a strong indigenous style. The rough and unrestrained wooden sculptures and luxurious color paintings decorate the school with its hundred-year-old history. The sculpture of the tribal chief yawi.puna, who led his people to cross the mountains stands proudly at the school gate as if to safeguard the children of the tribe; at the same time, it reminds them not to forget the land where their ancestors once lived.

Fushan Elementary School
 
Fushan Taiwan Presbyterian Church
An ark hidden in the mountain, Fushan Church is the most important religious center for the tribe. Like the stories told in the Bible, more people will be saved by “getting on board,” which is also the initiative of the pastor Lin Ching-tai. Pastor Lin Ching-tai successfully solicited funds to rebuild this small abandoned church. He hopes that the church will provide the residents and children of the tribe with a sharing space of mutual learning, and that it will be Atayal’s kingdom of souls. 

The Painted Wall
Vibrant and colorful images on the walls of the village keep a record of Atayal’s tradition and life, including how an Atayal woman chooses her spouse, the rituals of a tribal wedding, including carrying the bride over the groom’s shoulders on the way across the mountains, and the procedures and importance of the Atayal’s facial tattoos. In the simple but fun paintings, it’s easy to find the Atayal’s authentic sense of humor.

Let the tribal elders take you into the tribe’s living area   Tribal elders tell the story of the painted wall

Gesuw Camp Site
Address: No.132-5, Xiluoan Road, Wulai District, New Taipei City
Telephone: 886-2-26617349
Website: https://www.gesuw.com/

Fushan Elementary School
Address: Limaoan No.56, Fushan Village, Wulai District, New Taipei City
Website: https://www.fses.ntpc.edu.tw/

Fushan church
Address: Kalamoji No.21, Neighborhood 3, Fushan Village, Wulai District, New Taipei City

Fushan Tribe
Address: Limaoan No.39, Fushan Village, Wulai District, New Taipei City
Telephone: 886-2-26616442 (Wulai Township Office)