|中文版English簡體版日文版|兒童版

台灣原住民數位博物館標誌(回首頁)

 
 
 

 

Thao


Introduction to The Ethnic Group

The picture of a Thao canoe made with camphor wood,
taken on May 17th, 1900

Thao's clothing

The Thao people call themselves Thao or Thaw. During Japanese rule (1895-1945), there were various attempts to classify the Thao people who lived by Sun Moon Lake: Ino Kanori and Dennojo Awano categorized them as part of the Bunun, while Mori Ushinosuke considered them a subgroup of the northern Tsou in the Alishan area, based on the legend that the Thao people pursued a white deer from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake. Also owing to this legend, the Thao ethnic group had been regarded as a branch of the Alishan Tsou in official documents. Since the establishment of the R.O.C., scholars have continued to study ethnic group categorization from various perspectives: linguistic, anthropological and biological. The majority hold that the Thao people are more closely related to the Pingpu group, while some believe they have links with the Bunun ethnic group, and still others suggest that the Thao should be considered as an independent ethnic group.
In August, 2001, Siouche Lin presented his report on the Thao’s official ethnic name restoration to the Council of Indigenous Peoples under the Executive Yuan. The report cited the 1996 paper written by biological anthropologist Shudao Chen, arguing “there is no ground to regard the Thao as a subgroup of the Tsou group, since the Thao and the Tsou have significantly different genetic backgrounds and apparently did not evolve from the same ethnic group.” The report was approved and President Chen officially announced that the Thao were the tenth indigenous ethnic group of Taiwan. The long-muddled issue of recognition was finally settled due to the joint efforts of academic circles, regional and cultural workers, and historians, as well as those of the Thao people.

 

Geographical Distribution

The Thao ethnic group is scattered throughout Nantou County (23˚ 52’ N, 120° 55’ E) in central Taiwan and lives by Sun Moon Lake. The pattern of Thao economic activity is influenced by Sun Moon Lake, of which fishing and the tourist industry are key features. This characteristic is best illustrated by how they incorporate the traditional ancestral rituals into the government’s tourism event on the day of Mid-Autumn Festival. Against this backdrop, the Thao people have developed an inward approach (holding traditional rituals) and an outward approach (performing for tourists). The two combined can not only sustain their traditions but also meet the demands of political and tourist culture. However, in light of the intervention of outside material culture, there are also difficulties involved with performing tourist-oriented rituals.

 

Thao distribution map

Lalu Island of Thao (Guanghwa Island)

Shuishe Market

It is said that the early Thao people first lived in puzi (“Tuting” in Mandarin) and moved to lalu (Guanghua Island) during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722). At that time, besides houses, there were also farmlands on the island. The early Thao people abandoned their territory on Lalu before the reign of Emperor Daoguang (1820-1850) and resettled along Sun Moon Lake, forming numerous villages including Yuchih (Shenlu), Maolan (today’s Jhongming Village), Shueishe (including Shueishe, Shihyin and Maopu) and Toushe. During the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908), because of the Han Chinese intrusion, the Thao inhabitants in Yuchih relocated northward to Sinsingjhuang, while those in Maolan moved northward to Siiaomaopu, and residents in Shueishe moved to Damaopu, Shihyin and Jhuhu. Another major migration took place during the early phases of Japanese rule – villages in Sinsinjhuang and Jhuhu merged into Shihyin Village, while some residents in Toushe moved to Dapinglin.

At present, Tehuashe and Dapinglin are the two major Thao villages, each with a population of less than 300 people. The Thao people used to be the dominant population in the Sun Moon Lake region; however, their numbers plummeted due to land cultivation, inter-ethnic marriage, migration and malaria. The decline was closely related to the Han Chinese cultivation of the land and interaction with other indigenous peoples. Historian Jiyao Chen‘s studies show that the geographic distribution and types of indigenous peoples’ settlements at Sun Moon Lake became clearer in the late 17th century and early 18th century. He also suggests that the seven aboriginal tribes at Sun Moon Lake – the Shueilishe, Toushe, Shezaishe, Maolanshe, Shenlushe, Mujilanshe and Fugushe – have undergone four major migrations moving in and out “as groups” centered around Sun Moon Lake since the 19th century.

In June of the sixth year of the Showa period (1931), Taiwan Electric Power Co. launched its project at Sun Moon Lake. Daguan Power Station was completed in July, or the ninth year of Showa period (1934), with the level of the lake elevated by 21 meters. The inhabitants of Shihyin village, originally located at the southern lake, were forced to move to a Han village, Buji (today’s Tehuashe), and its nearby area (namely Bogu or Beiku), while Han Chinese who lived there beforehand moved to places such as Yuanlin and Ershuei. The Japanese government imposed a policy of segregation on the Thao people after the resettlement, which prohibited the Thao from moving out and Han Chinese from moving in. The government began to actively promote tourism once the dam was completed, and as a result, the Thao were gradually involved in this business. After World War Two, along with the increasing Han settlements in Buji, land conflicts between the two ethnic groups also mounted.

 

Residential Situation

At present, the largest Thao village is Tehuashe, which is located in Rihyue Village, Yuchih Township, Nantou County. Tehuashe is opposite to Shueishe, on the other side of Sun Moon Lake, and is the most populous tourism spot in this area. Shueishe used to be a Thao village but is now inhabited by Han Chinese. In addition to Sun Moon Lake Ring Road, there is another path in southern Tehuashe, leading to the Bunun village, Kashe, to the south of Sun Moon Lake, and continuing to another two Bunun villages, Dili and Shuanglong in Sinyi Township. By way of Yuchih in the northeast, people in Tehuashe can reach Bunun villages such as Guokeng and Wujiie in Renai Township, with which they have maintained long-lasting marital relations.

The current residential situation in Tehuashe is a result of the land redistribution of 1980 and of the rebuilding after the 921 earthquake in 1999. It has been deeply influenced by the tourism business at Sun Moon Lake, and therefore, the area has developed into a commercial area. Prior to the earthquake, the village’s population was a mix of Thao and Han Chinese, and there was no specific division. The atmosphere was quite harmonious. After the 921 earthquake, since many houses were seriously damaged, the government, together with some civil organizations, led by the Thao Culture Association, collected funds from both the public and private sectors. They then cooperated with architects and built 42 pre-fabricated houses both outside the village and on the original site of an aboriginal culture park. The pre-fabricated houses were distributed according to each Thao household’s Ulalaluwan (a vessel with some objects that represents ancestral spirits of the family), and traditional ritual places and tribal classrooms were also constructed. In order to separate the Thao people from Han people, these houses were strictly limited to the Thao who had an Ulalaluwan, a traditional ritual vessel; therefore, an ethnically mixed village turned into two distinct villages.

 

Ritual and Religion

Thao's pestle music

Ulalaluwan

Shinshi

Cultural collection- Shoulder basket

Cultural collection- Mat

An Ulalaluwan is a round rattan-woven basket with four legs, and is the object most representative of the Thao ethnic group’s belief in ancestral spirits. They usually put their ancestors’ clothes and jewels in Ulalaluwan, and couples who were assigned new Ulalaluwan would also place their clothes in the original Ulalaluwan. An Ulalaluwan represents the existence of ancestral spirits in a given household. The Thao believe that people become spirits after death and return to Ulalaluwans to be worshipped by their families. However, not everyone can transform into a spirit – that is, people who marry into the family may not be able to. In Thao society, clan is the unit of exogamy. Because a Thao man and a Thao woman who share the same clan name cannot be married, while couples who have different clan names but are relatives can, the Thao people have the custom of marrying people from different ethnic backgrounds. Since their population is male dominated, the Thao men tend to marry women from other ethnic groups under this custom. For geographical reasons, many Han and Bunun women have entered the Thao ethnic group through marriages. Cilu Chen’s studies show that the non-Thao population has remained stable at 30% of the total population since 1955 and has not only deeply affected the Thao population structure, but also its material culture and recognition of other ethnic groups. In order to resolve the identity issue, the Thao people have designed a ritual based on the “pareqa system” (Pareqa refers to the chief-celebrant of the Thao’s harvest festival) for non-Thao spouses to gain recognition from Thao ancestors. Thus, these people can be gradually integrated into the Thao ethnic group, and the Thao blood is preserved.

A non-Thao wife who has never served as pareqa will not be recognized as a member of her husband’s family, and moreover, she will not be able to become an ancestral spirit after death. A marriage cannot guarantee her status as an official family member, and her name will not be mentioned in rituals. She must go through the “pareqa system,” so that her bahi (soul) is transformed into a formal member of the family, hence giving her a respected status in the family after death. Therefore, whether one can get his or her identification is essential to whether his/her spirit can be transferred, and the significance and the identity constructing process underlying this idea is the Thao’s perception of an “ideal person.”

 

我的e政府無障礙空間標章

Digital Museum of Taiwan Indigenous People ©Copyright 2008  Privacy Policy | Website Safety Policy
Address:No. 1 Museum Rd., Taitung, Taiwan. Tel:089-381166 Contact Us
Resolution: 1024*768,For Optimum Results:IE5.0 or above