Cultural Festivals in Taiwan

Taiwan is known for its vibrant cultural experiences, most of which originate from groups of indigenous people who continue to practice their beliefs today. Although a lot has changed since modernisation, the key elements of the practice still remain as the older generations continue to empower the new generation in holding firm to their traditional teachings.

With over 16 tribes that make up the indigenous community of Taiwan, you are in for a frenzy of festivals. Celebrating good fortune, luck and health, the tribes of Taiwan take their festivals very seriously and often involve intricate rituals that signify their respect for the homeland.

Here’s a list of indigenous festivals in Taiwan that highlight the native life of this enchanting island.

Ear Shooting Festival – Bunun

The Bunun people of Taiwan are the fourth largest indigenous group in Taiwan and are known for their tenacity and bravery. Occupying the rugged mountains of the Taitung and Hualien counties, witness the heritage and festivities by joining in on this two-day event. The Ear Shooting Festival coincides with the millet harvest season which adds to the festivities. This grand festival includes activities that revolve around hunting animals and growing millet. Visitors must abide by the local customs and respect the local culture as a sign of respect for those who came before them.

Flying Fish Festival – Tao

The Tao people of Taiwan occupy the eastern coast of an island known as Orchid Island. The Flying Fish Festival happens annually when the school of flying fish come close to the coast bringing an abundance of food to the occupants of the island. Predominantly sea dwellers, the festival represents the core of life and culture of the Tao tribe. Participation in this custom is restricted to men only.

Harvest Festival – Amis

Amis people make up the largest of the indigenous groups in Taiwan. Their harvest festival is one of the most anticipated events of the year as it is a 6-day ordeal with different rituals every day. There are two stories told when explaining the significance of this festival. One is a tale of the tribe’s priest clan who set off on a headhunting spree as a sacrifice for improved quality of life for the tribe. The other revolves around the men of the tribe who had to leave their village to look after their crops. They would only return during the harvest festival and their return is ceremoniously celebrated by the people of the village.

New Year Ritual – Puyuma

Through the years, hunting animals has become a banned activity in Taiwan. However, the tribes are allowed to hunt during this celebration to rejoice in their traditions through a hunting spree. The festivities begin with the children gathering around a bonfire to usher in the festivities with a dance. The dancing continues with groups of people joining the repeated dance pattern in waves. A feast awaits the tribe members from all the hunting done days prior to the festival. At the end of the night, fireworks light up the sky, marking the new year with a dazzling performance in the sky.

War Festival (Mayasvi Festival) – Tsou

This celebration is one of the three major festivals of the Tsou people. The War Festival is separated into 4 main events. The preparation, main ceremony, singing and dancing and the final ceremony. The preparation revolves around the kuba, a thatched-roof meetinghouse which is also the spiritual centre for the men of the tribe, where sacred objects are placed in it. The women are tasked with preparing the sacrificial offerings for the ceremony. The festival goes on into the night and ends with song and dance and final words from the chief before the bonfire is ceremoniously put out signalling the end of the festival.

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