An indigenous cultural trip in eastern Taiwan
By David Hsu, Special to The China Post
May 29, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
Indigenous culture and customs have been major tourism resources in eastern Taiwan. There are seven indigenous tribes living in the area, with the Amis being the largest one.
The Amis people live mainly in the East Rift Valley and eastern coastal areas south of Liwu River. With a total population of 140,000, the Amis have kept their traditional culture largely intact to this day.
For most people, the well-known Amis harvest festival held during July and August every year has been a must-see for those visiting eastern Taiwan. During the harvest festival celebration, indigenes get together to sing, dance and drink wine to celebrate the year's good harvest and pray for another next year.
With the help of the East Coast National Scenic Area Administration, two Amis tribal communities have decided to unveil their mysterious culture and customs by welcoming visitors to their community.
Recently, I visited the two Amis tribal communities — Jhenbing (真柄) and Donghe (東河) — to explore their natural landscapes and culture. Both of the communities are in northern Taitung (台東) County, reachable by provincial highway no. 11.
The Donghe tribal community is located in Donghe Village, which is about a 40-minute drive from Taitung. Taking advantage of natural resources, indigenes living in the village have organized a package for visitors staying for two or three days.
The package includes rafting and fishing at Mawuku River, visiting a jade mine, and participating in beach activities. In addition, a river camp provides visitors with the chance to learn indigenous dancing, singing and other traditional skills, as well as enjoy indigenous foods, such as homemade millet wines.
In the Jhenbing community, I was guided through an indigenous museum exhibit of traditional farming and fishing tools. With visiting the community's youth gathering hall, I found the Jhenbing community is a highly moral indigenous community of Amis. The community’s youth are thought to be extremely obedient and respectful toward their elders.