December 07, 2013
Aborigines in Taiwan?


Yes, there are Aborigines in Taiwan. When we think of Taiwan, most people assume that Taiwan is populated only by ethnic Chinese. Taiwan is a small island but an extremely diverse land of people and culture. While 98% of Taiwan's population is made up of different kinds of ethnic Chinese, the other 2% consists of Aborigines or roughly 400,000 people in total.

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From the plains, the highlands and even the outer islands, Taiwanese Aborigines or “original inhabitants” can be found in all parts of the island. The island has close to 14 officially recognized tribes and just about as many unofficial tribes lobbying for recognition. The recognized tribes include the Amis (the largest tribe), Atayal, Bunun, Kavalan, Paiwan, Puyuma, Rukai, Saisiyat, Sakizaya, Seediq, Tao, Thao, Tsou and Truku.

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With the Taiwan government’s establishment of the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) and intervention in popularizing aboriginal affairs and culture, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the history, preserving the culture and more importantly aboriginal pride. Furthermore, the aboriginal culture has become even more popularized because of the popular music of A-mei, hit movies such as Seediq Bale, aboriginal delicacies such as boar and taro, travel to Orchid island for the Yami’s traditional canoe throwing ceremony and the establishment of pubic and private museums.

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For those wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the Taiwanese Aborigines, a great place to start is an aboriginal cultural and art museum. In Northern Taiwan, we’re lucky that we have three really great museums dedicated to expanding the knowledge and understanding of the aboriginal culture: Taipei City’s Ketagalan Culture Center, New Taipei City’s Wulai Atayal Museum and the privately owned Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines.

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Wulai Atayal Museum/烏來泰雅民族博物館
Located only 40 minutes from Taipei City, the beautifully designed Wulai Atayal Museum is nestled right in between the luscious green mountains of New Taipei City’s Wulai District. Established only in 2005, the museum covers 3 floors and is dedicated to the life and culture of the head-hunting (we should say former) Atayal indigenous people. On a side note, the staff were really nice and friendly. Plus the museum was photo friendly.
Address: No. 12, Wulai Street, Wulai District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 23341
Tel: 02-2661-8162
URL: www.atayal.ntpc.gov.tw/
Admission Price: Free

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Ketagalan Culture Center/凱達格蘭文化館
The Ketagalan Culture Center is the most convenient to reach and easily accessible by MRT and only a 3 minute walk from the New Beitou MRT Station. This center is pretty large and encompasses 10 floors for the promotion and education of indigenous people, culture, arts, and training. Photos can only be taken on the 1st floor.
Address: No. 3-1, Chungshan Road, Peitou, Taipei City, Taiwan
Tel: 02-2898-6500
URL: www.ketagalan.taipei.gov.tw/
Admission Price: Free



Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines/順益台灣原住民博物館
The privately owned Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines was the first aboriginal museum in Taiwan. The building’s aboriginal influence can be clearly seen in the external design of the museum and is a perfect place to introduce the natural environment of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples with 4 floors of artifacts. Of the three museums listed, this is a very professional museum and can be compared to the National Palace Museum in terms of the environment and display of the museum’s artifacts. Photos are allowed to be taken in and around the ticket booth and gift shop areas only.
Address: No. 282, Sec. 2, Chih-shan Road, Shih-Lin, Taipei, Taiwan, 11143
Tel: 02-2841-2611
URL: www.museum.org.tw
Admission Price: NTD150

Taiwan is a wonderful place and diverse in culture and history, so get out and get exploring the other 2% of Taiwan’s little known aboriginal population. In a later post, we will dig deeper into the aboriginal culture and explore it first hand by visiting an Aboriginal village in the mountains of Ilan.


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