Rich Indigenous Culture
Sun Moon Lake is the largest alpine lake in Taiwan, with Zhuoshui River, Taiwan’s longest river, on its south. The unique geography here nourished the Thao tribe in Sun Moon Lake, and the Bunun tribe by Zhuoshui River, and both are rich indigenous cultures.
Grass Carp, also known as President Fish, has a delicate texture and can be steamed or deep-fried. It’s a popular dish among foodies. Baiman mochi is only eaten when the Thao tribe holds the Baiman Worship and the traditional new year ancestor worship ceremony. In addition, other Thao gourmet cuisine such as cured meat and wine are available for you to sample.
The rich and ancient Thao legends tell a story between humans, and how they relate to the earth, heaven, nature and things around them. Regardless which legend it is, they all illustrate the Thao culture, spirit and wisdom.
In the old days the Thao tribe relied mainly on farming, hunting, fishing and gathering to live. Their religious ceremonies, ancestral worships and harvest rituals are all closely related. Thao people hold religious ceremonies and worship their ancestors to ask for blessings in peace and health, and to be fed and clothed well.
Visitors who would like to see the religious ceremonies need to contact the Thao Tribe Cultural Development Association. Please be sure to comply with the rules of the Thao Tribe during your visit.
Thao Tribe Cultural Development Association: +886-49-2850036
Music and Dance
The music and dances of the Thao tribe pay tribute to their spirits and life, and are closely related to their religious beliefs, sacrifices, customs, materials, harvest and tribal affairs.
Pestle music and other songs and dances are some of the unique performances that visitors love. They play an important role and are highly regarded. Pestle music is played at the square of the head tribesman’s house. When the tribe hears pestles hitting the stone, they know it’s the prelude to the traditional Thao new year.
Show Time: Sat. 14:00, Sun. 13:30
Zhulu Market is located in the Ita Thao Shopping District on No. 42 Fengnian Street. There are Thao cuisine restaurants, specialty shops and a performance stage inside. Visitors can enjoy specialty meals while they watch Thao singing and dancing performances. The market also sells Thao cultural tour packages, agricultural products, crafts and DIY craft projects. You can also rent traditional costumes and have your portraits taken.
On weekends (Saturday and Sunday), the performance location is at the wooden stage square at the Ita Thao Wharf (On rainy days, the performance location is in the Zhulu Market). Schedule for the 3 performances are 11:00am, 3:00pm and 5:00pm. On weekdays there are only 2 performances, and the schedule is 11:00am and 5:00pm. There are no performances on Wednesdays.
In the old days, the Bunun tribe relied on hunting as their main livelihood. And from hunting, they developed the meat distribution and sharing culture. Today they still retain the method of grilling meat on a hot stone.
A-bai is a type of food like zongzi (a traditional Chinese rice dish made of glutinous rice stuffed with various fillings, and wrapped in bamboo leaves), and must be made at various festivals and celebrations.
Some of the wild-grown spice flavoring ingredients like maqaw (mountain pepper), and allanthus-like prickly ash (ailanthus-leaved pepper) are added to indigenous cuisines to impart a unique flavor.
Bunun Tribe Legend
The Bunun legend is closely related to nature and animals. The Hundred-pace snake had lived peacefully among the Bunun tribe and protected them. Legend has it that the snake was originally a Bunun child, who had died and was reincarnated into a snake. Therefore, it is said that the skillful Bunun hunters never hunted or ate snakes. In the Bunun language, the name for the Hundred-pace snake is “Kaviaz”, which means “friend”.
Bunun people hunt and farm according to the growth season of crops and the shape of the moon.
Each year from May to June, during the full moon, the Ear-Shooting Festival and Baby Blessing Festival are held. The former is one of the ceremonies that celebrate “the becoming of an adult”. The tribe’s elders teach young boys hunting skills, and from this ceremony, cultural heritage is passed to the younger generation. The latter is held to pray for blessings for all the newborns that year, and also where they receive the well wishes from the tribe.
Music and Dance
Bunun people’s love for music is not only for the passing of time, but is also closely related to their traditions and rituals, which is full of sacred meanings. For example, the Bunun traditional Pasibutbut, also known as the Eight-part Polyphonic Singing, is a song praying for the millet harvest. This complex polyphony singing involves multi-voice and harmony of the singers, and unique to the world. Such rare music expression is regarded by the music world as a precious ethnic and cultural asset.
Dharma Luan Cultural Troupe
Dharma Luan Cultural Troupe is the most active and professional performance troop. This group uses innovative ideas to give new life to the music and dance culture of the indigenous people. Through the reconstruction of allusions, cultural reinterpretation, derivatives, transformation and creativity, they were able to give new life to the indigenous culture.
Show Time: Sat. 14:00-15:00, Sun. 13:30-14:30
Venue: Takmazuan Arts Group Theater (101, Kaisin Alley, Dili Village, Shinyi Township, Nantou County)
For information about tribal tour packages and reservations for show tickets, please call Mr. Chuan at +886-49-2741619.
Aroma: I found the indigenous smell at the Sun Moon Lake.
In a Bunun village in Xinyi Township, Nantou County, I discovered a unique aroma! Here, the locals and perfumers spent nearly half a year to find the tribal smell though the repeated extraction of natural plants, developing Taiwan’s first tribal aroma—maqavfixative.
The maqav fixative spreadsa herbal fragrance at the beginning, then it has a strong lemon-flavored finale. After smelling it in the air, people feel comfortable as if they are embracing the forest. If you have the chance, follow my footsteps and book a tribal aroma search.
Flavor: Food, Mal-u Kitchen
At Mal-u Kitchen in Kalibuan, I met IbiIsqaqavut, a young Bununman who returned to his hometown to start his own business. With his wife Pei-rung Lin, they developed indigenous specialty meals, vegetable pizzas and baked food that have edible wild herbs,such as fireweed, beggar-ticks, honeywort, tree tomato and kidney grass. The exquisite tastes of these dishes stunned me! To my surprise, the flavors of the edible wild herbswere amazing!
Besides the edible wild herb dishes, based on the “zero food waste” concept, Mal-u hopes that customers can cherish and respect the food to make cooking eco-friendlier and dishes tastier! It is worthy of trying.