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Taiwan Aborigines, Bunun Tribe, Formosa [c1900] Attribution Unk [RESTORED] | by ralphrepo
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Taiwan Aborigines, Bunun Tribe, Formosa [c1900] Attribution Unk [RESTORED]

Title not known, picture of Bunun Tribesmen, Island of Formosa [early 1900's] Attribution unknown [RESTORED] I did the usual spot removal, edge repair, contrast and tone adjustments, and finally added a sepia tone.


The present day issue of Taiwan being a 'part' of China notwithstanding, the island formerly known as Formosa has had a long history before incursion by foreigners. Prior to the massive Han influx in the mid 1600's, Formosa was already peopled by a variety of Austronesian tribal entities (historically well more than 20 tribes, with half that which are currently officially recognized) that had inhabited the island for approximately 8000 years before outside influences finally arrived. Han Chinese may simply have been the beginning of a long line of invaders.


This was a picture taken of members of the Bunun 布農 Tribe. Historically, they are best known for their unique tribal music as well as their bloody ferocity in battle. Nearly all Formosan tribes collected heads as trophies, and the Bunun were especially good at it. The Imperial Japanese Army, during their occupation of Formosa, recognized Bunun savagery as a martial asset, and had trained and used whole Bunun units much like the British did with the Nepalese Ghurkas (also Gurkhas).


According to one page:


"The highland tribes were renowned for their skill in headhunting, which was a symbol of bravery and valor. Almost every tribe except the Yami (Tao) practiced headhunting. Once the victims had been dispatched the heads were taken then boiled and left to dry, often hanging from trees or shelves constructed for the purpose. A party returning with a head was cause for celebration, as it would bring good luck. The Bunun people would often take prisoners and inscribe prayers or messages to their dead on arrows, then shoot their prisoner with the hope their prayers would be carried to the dead. Han settlers were often the victims of headhunting raids as they were considered by the Aborigines to be liars and enemies. A headhunting raid would often strike at workers in the fields, or employ the ruse of setting a dwelling alight and then decapitating the inhabitants as they fled the burning structure. It was also customary to later raise the victim's surviving children as full members of the tribe. Often the heads themselves were ceremonially 'invited' to join the tribe as members, where they were supposed to watch over the tribe and keep them safe. The indigenous inhabitants of Taiwan accepted the convention and practice of headhunting as one of the calculated risks of tribal life. The last groups to practice headhunting were the Paiwan, Bunun, and Atayal groups. Japanese rule ended the practice by 1930, but some elder Taiwanese can recall the practice."




This picture reveals tremendous evidence of sociological impact by outside civilizations. One cannot help but notice that two women are holding western styled umbrellas. The younger woman (front row, second from right) is also seen wearing a Chinese styled dress, that was apparently put on over her native tribal dress. Did she do this purposely to look special for the occasion, or was this considered normal fashion practice for Bunun women of the times; or perhaps this was just her individual idiosyncrasy? Needless to say, it provides ample evidence that the people of the island had their own cultural identity long before they were assimilated, rather forcibly, into modern society.


When Chiang KaiShek and his nationalist army fled the mainland, he enforced the island's inhabitants to undergo a severe program of sinification. This in effect, absorbed and rendered extinct, many of the remaining aboriginal tribes and made Formosa resemble a Chinese province for the first time.

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Taken on November 4, 2009