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Chinese Culture >> Taiwan Culture >> Aboriginal Taiwanese People

Aboriginal Taiwanese People - The Heart of Taiwan

Recently we talked about Hot Pot and Taipei 101 building. My impression is that Taipei 101 tower is almost a "logo" for Taiwan, 500 meters tall, designed and built to represent Taiwan.

But if the symbol of Taiwan is the 101 building the the beating heart of the island, what makes Taiwan unique and not just a part of the Chinese continent, are the original inhabitants, knows as aboriginal Taiwanese people. Their ethnic and linguistic belonging is completely different from the Chinese one; aboriginal Taiwanese are rather related with other civilizations Austronesia, common in the oceanic continent and in the south of Asia. Seems that Taiwan was the original place from where these populations migrated for, later on spread in the two continents and create different civilizations. Historically the aboriginal Taiwanese suffered many invasions: the Chinese, the Dutch and the Japanese. During the Qing dynasty the emperor Qian-long the aboriginal people of Taiwan in "cooked", that are the tribes of the plains which, not being protected by the mountains were easy to submit to the emperor; and "raw", in other words the mountain tribes, with the strength to resist to the Chinese colonization. This distinction between plains tribes and mountain tribes has been later on adopted by the other colonizers till the modern "Chinese" Taiwan.

Recently the government started a politic of integration and protection of the aboriginal people, finally recognizing them as the most original cultural reality of the island.

Physically Taiwanese aborigines are generally darker and have a more powerful physique then the "Chinese" Taiwanese; because of their physical performance and because of the social marginalization which had limited their choices in the society in the past, many of them join the army or become policeman. Some of them are completely white and indistinguishable from non-aboriginal Taiwanese. It's amazing how they can recognize at glance each other under any circumstances, their not only able to know who is aboriginal and who is not, but they can even recognize the tribe they belong to.

Aboriginal groups are many and they differ in language, customs, and even in some physical appearance. Here is a list of the tribes (from

Recognized: Ami, Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Tao, Thao, Tsou, Truku, and Sakizaya.

Not recognized: Babuza, Basay, Hoanya, Ketagalan, Luilang, Pazeh/Kaxabu, Popora, Qauqaut, Siraya, Taokas, Trobiawan, Seediq.

Nowadays aboriginal Taiwanese people create their own original art and they are often engaged in the tourism industry representing the real Taiwanese folklore. 

Read this article with images on this link Aboriginal Taiwanese People: the heart of Taiwan

About the Author:

Hello and welcome to my blog about Taiwan.

My name is Andrea and I live in Taipei where I teach Italian language and study Chinese.

My wish is to offer, with this blog, one more information channel about a country which peculiarity and beauty is often ignored.