Monday, December 11, 2006

BBC on Aboriginal Festival

The BBC has a good article on a famous local aboriginal festival:

Once upon a time, so the legend goes, the Saisiyat people - one of Taiwan's 12 officially-recognised aboriginal groups - lived in mountains next to a tribe of dark-skinned dwarves, or pygmies.

The short-people were both feared and admired by the Saisiyat as they were thought to have magical powers. But they also had bad tempers, and often flirted and made advances towards the Saisiyat women.

The story varies in detail but, according to one version, the short people were invited to the Saisiyat's annual harvest festival and angered one man by making advances towards his wife.

He took revenge by cutting down a bridge that killed all but two of the short people, who put a curse on the Saisiyat.

Alarmed, the Saisiyat begged for mercy and were forgiven on one condition - that they sing the songs and dances of the pygmies - called the Ta'ai - to appease the spirits of those they killed.

UPDATE: in response to the comments below, I know for a fact that Gluck attended the festival, one reason this article is so good.


Anonymous said...

I saw that article on the BBC earlier today and I couldn't help thinking that they spent a lot more time and effort on basically a "fluff" piece than they do on getting the facts straight on their political pieces.

Taiwan Echo said...

My friend sent that article to me but when I saw it was written by Caroline Gluck, I discarded it right away.

Oops, sorry that I missed a good one. Didn't expect it is possible...

Anonymous said...

when I saw it was written by Caroline Gluck, I discarded it right away.

Oops, sorry that I missed a good one. Didn't expect it is possible...

It still may not be possible...

I doubt that she did much research (beyond using a web search engine), or much of the writing (beyond re-writing or re-phrasing prior publications), as this is a rather old story. See

Looking after the little people

Amin is a Saisiyat tribe member who lives near caves said to have been inhabited for millennia by a race of black pygmies
By Jules Quartly
Sunday, Dec 05, 2004, Page 18

Over the weekend, the Saisiyat tribe from Hsinchu and Miaoli held its biannual events to mourn and celebrate the legacy of the Short Black People, who are thought to be Taiwan's original inhabitants
By Jules Quartly
Tuesday, Nov 30, 2004, Page 16

The Saisiyat entrapped and massacred all the pygmies but two. As the two survivors were escaping to the east, they cursed the Saisiyat. To appease the souls of the pygmies, the pas-ta'ai is held once every two years at the tenth full moon of the lunar calendar,

Anonymous said...

i agree with gridman 100%. I also attended the festival, and there are a hundred more interesting ways to approach this subject. The comercialization of aboriginal culture would have been one angle. But oh no, the usual rubbish about "aboriginal culture" (as if it were totally unconnected to mainstream culture)

Anonymous said...

She may have been there but it was not her story. It may not have been stolen, but it was borrowed without attribution.

Anonymous said...

update: The BBC article by Gluck and a previous article by Jules Quartly in the Taipei Times are similar. Surely shome mistake, or are they are related?

Michael Turton said...

Well, they are related, in the sense that journalists tend to approach the same topic from the same directions. Can you show direct dependence?