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Cultural Traces Around the World

Taiwan (Formosa)’s Bunun People – Fascinating Legends, Beautiful Ceremonies

2020-11-11
Language:English
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Among the Austronesian peoples of the world, the Bunun aboriginal group of Taiwan (Formosa) lives at the northernmost and highest point on Earth. They are known as the patron saints of Yushan Mountain, the island's tallest mountain. They have an orally-based culture with no written language, and they are also the ethnic group with the most ceremonies among Taiwan (Formosa)'s aborigines. Today, we explore the Bunun’s legends and rituals. The Bunun’s grandest festival is the harvest celebration. The pasibubut (eight-part polyphony) sung at the festival is a world-renowned traditional musical art form. While expressing the group’s best wishes and gratefulness to Heaven, the key point is the singers’ harmony and the sincerity in their hearts, rather than the prayer’s lyrics. The statues at the gate of Tao-yuan Primary School in Taitung County’s Yanping Township are unique. They are of a red-billed black bulbul and toad. These humble animals are the superheroes of a Bunun legend. The Bunun believe that the red-billed black bulbul originally did not have a red beak, red feet, or a black body, and the toad did not exist. The bird's appearance changed, and the toad was created because of saving the Bunun people. All ceremonies are regarded as important events by the Bunun people. For any ceremony, there will be group singing and dancing, just as pasibutbut (eight-part polyphony) is sung to Heaven during the harvest festival. The Bunun plant a staple food called millet. When millet is harvested, they hold a Homeyaya (Millet Offering) and sing to express their gratitude to Heaven. This is a Homeyaya song that the Bunun elders performed for us. Next is a song by the children from the Bunun Tao-yuan Primary School Choir, and is sung especially for our viewers! The meaning of the song is to thank and pray to Heaven and the ancestral spirits for a healthy environment and giving the Bunun people peaceful days!
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