The aboriginal cultures of Taiwan represent 2% of the population of the island. There are 14 aboriginal tribes- the Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Thao, Saisiyat, Tsou, Kavalan, Truku, Yami, Sediq and Sakizaya.
Traditional culture has been greatly influenced by the predominant Chinese culture of the island, but due to a relatively small number of intermarriages and a pride in tradition and ritual, the tribes have remained relatively homogenous and culturally pure.
Photos provided by the Digital Museum of Taiwan Indigenous People
Atayal communities are widely distributed in northern Taiwan. The tribe is the second most populous indigenous group, known for its facial tattoos and weaving art.
The Saisiyat are best-known for Pas-ta’ai (the Dwarf Spirit Ceremony), featuring the music of hip bells made of bamboo.
The Truku have a strong culture of ancestor worship. Men are expected to excel in hunting and women at weaving as a precondition of marriage.
The Sediq are considered a branch tribe of the Atayal, though their cultural origins are unique. Traditionally, the men were accomplished warriors and earned the tribe a name in history during the anti-Japanese Wushe Incident.
The Sakizaya were nearly wiped out during the Anti-Qing Chialiwan Incident in 1878. The tribe remained concealed for nearly 130 years, before recently reclaiming its correct name.
Natives of the Yilan Plains, the Kavalan later moved to the Hualien area and are known for their unique skill in weaving clothes from banana trunk fiber.
According to legend, Thao hunters were chasing a white deer when they discovered Sun Moon Lake. The tribe is best known for its pestle song and dancing.
Bunun villages are located in central, southern and eastern Taiwan. The tribe is best known for its stirring Pasibutbut (eight-part polyphonic) singing.
The Amis are a matrilineal society and the most populous indigenous group in Taiwan. The tribe is especially known for its infectious ballads and nimble dancing.
The Tsou live mainly in the Alishan area. Leather from prey is widely used in their traditional costume and the men wear feathered caps.
Vasivas (Monkey Ritual) is a coming-of-age ceremony for Puyuma youth, serving to foster courage and the spirit of hard work.
Rich in lore, the Rukai have a special affinity with the lily and a deep reverence for the cottonmouth ("hundred pacer") snake and clouded leopard.
The Paiwan have a highly developed artistic sense, evident in the beautiful costume and fine wood sculptures of the tribe.
14. Yami (Tao)
The Tao are the least Sinicized of Taiwan's indigenous groups. The women's Hair Dance and the men's Warrior Dance are unique to this tribe.