Saturday, June 27, 2009

Plains-tribes Austronesians make up the majority of Taiwan's population

This week I visited the Taiwan Shop in Taipei across from National Taiwan University and I found many books about the Austronesian plains tribes that were eventually forced to assimilate with the Han immigrants under the Manchu empire. They often are called the Pingpu.

If one actually stopped to consider, almost all of the Hoklo Taiwanese and Hakka Taiwanese have Pingpu ancestry. The majority of people in Taiwan today are descendants of the Austronesian whether Pingpu or East Coast and High Mountain peoples. Why are Austronesians in Taiwan only numbered at 2 percent of the population? Did they stop having children? No. But those who lived among the Han peoples on the west coast in the past 300 years and also those moved to the cities and began going to Mandarin language schools in the past century eventually were assimilated into the dominant culture.

Some of these descendants of Pingpu peoples are trying to regain their cultural distinctives. An article in the Taipei Times this week shows how the recognized Austronesian tribes would like to welcome them, but certain government officials are trying to drive a wedge between the plains tribe Austronesian descendants and the Central Mountain and East Coast recognized tribes.

Part of the motivation may be to try to discourage identification with a non-Chinese culture because that would expand the legitimacy of Taiwan's distinct status and make it clear to the world that China has no right to claim Taiwan. Imagine if Taiwan were classified at 60 percent Austronesian (genetic studies would put the number higher). That would leave the "pure-blood" Han Chinese as an ethnic minority and people would start thinking of Taiwan as they think of Malaysia or Indonesia that has a large ethnic Chinese minority. No one believes China has a right to claim these countries.

Also found at the Taiwan Shop was a new work in the plains-tribe Austronesian Siraya language published in 2002 by Edgar Macapili. Mr. Macapili writes his own version of the story of Noah's Ark in the Siraya language, called "Ta Avang ki Noe-an." The book also carries Mandarin and English translations. His story concludes with a hopeful tone of a new earth to live in. One can understand this hope in the hearts of the assimilated Pingpu plains Austronesian tribes: that one day they may walk this land with the names and languages of their ancestors instead of always being under a forced alien culture and language.

I quote the opening:

"Ka si-uru-uru tu naunamu ki way k'ata, nipey-ring-ey pa-ilpugh ta ti Alid ki vulu-vulum ka nay apa. Ni pakavantaw tin k'ana ta imεd ki kamamangka aku-kawagh-εn: ki irang, usi-using apa, ni-maran, ni-munonang ka ni-saw-abigh-apa. Ni murila ka pa-kaw'h-'mha-ato k'ana tu purugh tumang ka na vavare ki mariang-amighki vare, ka ududo ki matikanagh ku ralum."

The name for God is: "Meirang Alid"

English: "In the beginning God made heaven and earth. He filled it with life that jump, walk, hop and fly; green, red, short, long, circle and all kinds of colors and shape. They all dwelt and grew in the land where blew fresh cool breezes and flowed clean ocean water. Blossom and fragrance of grasses filled the air. There were sweet as well as sour fruits, also all kinds of vegetables grew in different seasons. All things were good and beautiful."

... [full text; this story was turned into a musical to be performed at schools; see the song lyrics; blog of the struggle of the Siraya people]

Both at the Taiwan Shop and at the nearby SMC Publishing there are dictionaries of some of the plains tribe languages now almost lost -- including Siraya (Sinkang dialect), Pazeh, etc. Also there are many language resources for the Austronesian languages in Taiwan -- all of them are endangered because of the government of Taiwan's insistence on using Mandarin as the only language of instruction in the public schools.

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's current president, has moved recently to downgrade even the one-hour per week "local" language class. Now these classes have been classified as extra-curricular languages -- like foreign languages and have been put into competition with English. Faced with the decision of whether to have one's child learn English or some rapidly disappearing language, what would most parents in Taiwan choose? Without actually abolishing the classes, Ma's government has taken steps to destroy them. Without a consistent steady class offering, those language teachers who teach these local languages will not be able to earn enough to make a living and so basically there will be fewer teachers able to teach the languages in future years as we begin to see losses from the current group of language teachers.

What needs to happen is what happens in Ireland and Wales: Elementary schools for each township with its local language should be offering at least half of all academic instruction in the local language. Signs in the communities should be bi-lingual -- the local language and also Mandarin. These non-Mandarin languages and cultures need to be shown respect.


The following video shows Edgar Macapili's performance of a Siraya song, "Spring forth Siraya":

Pictures from the 2008 Siraya conference: (You'll notice how the Siraya from this township had already taken on many of the dominant Han culture -- Hoklo's -- cultural elements including architecture and way of life:

News report on the Siraya dictionary compilation. The language had been basically extinct with the Siraya people using Hoklo Taiwanese. TITV reports that the only extant remnant of the language was that a few old folks remembered a few expressions in Siraya.

Children's Choir singing in Siraya:

On their fight for recognition. (Notice that many in their discussion are speaking Taiwanese and Mandarin.)

One Siraya interviewee said that the government's "Council for Indigenous People" under the current Ma administration has a function to "eliminate" indigenous people. Some Seediq peoples and other recognized Austronesian groups joined the protest. One of the Pazeh Pingpu people also was interviewed:


Anonymous said...

I just came upon this site, and I wanted everyone involved for producing it. During these trying times in Taiwan, it moves me very deeply that there are still conscientious and industrious people still working hard to preserve Taiwan's native cultures and native languages.

Please keep up the wonderful work!

Anonymous said...

and I wanted everyone involved for producing it.

and I wanted to thank everyone involved for producing it.

Anonymous said...

Linking Taiwanese identity to Plains Aborigines is a dead end. I would advise you to look for other, more constructive avenues for understanding the invention and deployment of ethnic, cultural and national identities.

Anonymous said...

Linking Taiwanese identity to Plains Aborigines is a dead end.

Please elaborate. Why is it a deadend? If it is accurate, the DNA evidence and ethnographic evidence should be there. People have a natural tendency to reconnect with their roots.

Anonymous said...

Identity formation has very little to do with DNA.
You are skating the thin line of ethnonationalism and essentialism.

Most recent studies conclude that collectivities (ethnic, cultural, national) are shaped by collective experience and imagined community, which is shaped more from reactions to a structure than to relations of DNA.

If you look at Indonesia. It is a nation of islands with very distinct ethnic/cultural heritage. Their unity as indonesians was created in reaction to the structure of the Dutch colonial power.

Your trope that Taiwanese = Ping-pu blood negates the impact of the imagined community and creates a dichotomy of authentic vs. inauthentic. This trope was introduced in the early 90's as the DPP attempted to deploy a short-term mobilization strategy to inflate its numbers at the polls. The Ping-pu identity was promoted and accepted, but few Taiwanese actually sought to change their identities. In the end the result only alienated Waishengren and other Taiwanese who did not identify with that trope. It is very similar to the "Chinese are Han and we are all Chinese" trope used by the KMT.

I have interviewed several communities of people who are seeking to establish their tribes and I am well aware of their histories and motives. Some may have a case based on the memories of a few old people.

For people who never knew of Ping=pu... it doesn't matter... unless we are willing to seek out our African roots as well.

Aì Tâi-oân said...

The "Anonymous" that spoke used the word "trope."

Please tell us who you are. Are you the one that wrote a critical comment awhile back criticizing the language equality post?

Take a look at the response that Either Independence or Cultural Death gave.

In answer to your comments here, what needs to happen is that the propaganda in the schools regarding Taiwanese Chinese-ness and single-minded focus on China needs to be removed. Yes Taiwanese have some ancestors who are Han that immigrated from China. But Taiwanese also have Austronesian ancestry that have been in Taiwan several thousand years and whose culture goes back without break well beyond the Shang Dynasty of the Han people with their oracle bones.

Teach both facts about both sets of ancestry and only then are the Taiwanese free to chose whom they wish to associate. Either way, they will begin to think of themselves as having connection with Han culture but also with having distinct Taiwanese culture.

It is the same way in the United States. I know some who have rediscovered their Native American -- specifically Comanche ancestry. They also have Scottish, Irish, and English ancestry with a little German thrown in. But that element of Comanche ancestry does make them think of themselves as unique with a great rich heritage. And they do think of themselves as akin to Europeans but also distinct.

Teach the complete picture in the schools and let the Taiwanese themselves make of it what they will.

Right now the Republic of China government in Exile with their insane mythologizing of the "Chinese people" and with a false history have distorted and propagandized Taiwan's students and their parents to a direction of un-truth and also to a direction of not valuing Taiwan's uniqueness. The KMT propaganda is imbalanced and destructive to other cultures and destructive to freedom.

Note how the only policy the current president Ma can come up with are copies of earlier KMT stuff... the moral stuff that Mrs. Chiang pushed, the single-minded focus on China to the detriment of Taiwan, everything. The KMT's culture is a rotting, ingrown culture that has inclosed itself in a world that is make-believe.

Let the truth out in Taiwan's public. Let them make of it what they will.

Joel Linton said...

Also, the motivation to expand recognition and respect of these non-Chinese Pingpu cultures is because their cultures in themselves are inherently valuable. Land and people are valuable. Beauty is worth preserving. Taiwan would be impoverished if the Austronesian cultures die a slow cultural death. If the Pingpu cultures can be taught, understood, and recognized, how much more valuable will people start realizing the extant Austronesian cultures in Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

Who am I?
I am a long time advocate for Taiwan and I had been deeply involved with the Overseas Taiwanese Independence Movement. I am friends with several of Taiwan’s best advocates and I care very much that we avoid emulating KMT or PRC ideology. I am also involved in Anthropology.

Take a look at the response that Either Independence or Cultural Death gave. 

In answer to your comments here, what needs to happen is that the propaganda in the schools regarding Taiwanese Chinese-ness and single-minded focus on China needs to be removed.
I totally agree. The current situation uses a model promoting an essentialized Chineseness as defined by the State. It leaves no room for true multiculturalism, which gives all cultures equal space. That would mean there would be room for mixed children of all types. Chinese nationalism is inherently racialist and promotes a state defined Han culture over other cultures. It also places culture on a trajectory of advanced/modern vs. backward/degraded. This construct gives Chinese nationalists their reasoning for promoting their cultural/civilizing project.
The R.O.C. was founded from the ashes of a modernist movement, which hoped to establish a modern republic in place of the dynastic Qing Empire. The early Republicans sought to maintain the old borders of the Qing, which had greatly expanded beyond traditional concepts of imperial territory, and brought non-Han peoples within the periphery of the Han-Confucianist center. At the same time, the Republicans relied on support from the secret societies, which hoped a new Republic of China would realize their anti-Manchu dreams of becoming a nation of ethnic Han people to compete with other racialized nations. The dialectic between the two visions of the R.O.C. was never clearly resolved by Sun Yan-sen.
The R.O.C. government enacted a policy of strong centralization to bring the people of the new nation closer to the cultural center and create a sense of unity, which had never existed before in Chinese history. The nationalization process focused on strongly centralized notions of government, language, education, economy and culture. The KMT regularly used force to wrest control of localities from warlords and the powerful elite who had hoped for a loose federation of localities and independent states. Later, Chiang Kai-sheck’s New Life movement of the 1930’s effectively canonized a national culture for the R.O.C., which married Republican modernism and social darwinism with a state-defined Han traditionalism. The official nationalist culture placed a burden on all peoples, particularly peripheral peoples, to demonstrate their alignment with the state by adopting official culture. It also legitimized, in the eyes of the government, the states own superiority over those peoples.
When the R.O.C. arrived on Taiwan following the armistice with Japan in 1945, the KMT maintained its framework of strong centralization. The experience of fighting warlordism for two decades in China influenced how the KMT engaged in its relationship with Taiwan’s different cultures. By framing national and local cultures in terms of their forwardness or backwardness, the KMT party-state implemented itself as the civilized center and burdened the majority of Taiwan peoples to identify with the state or risk losing access to state power. Many of the disparate refugees who followed the KMT to Taiwan readily replaced their home languages and cultures with those defined by the KMT to align themselves with the government and with other fellow refugees. This policy also established ethnicity as either a conduit or a roadblock to power. The New Life vision of a Han-centric state, was reaffirmed by the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement of the 1970’s, which promoted “Traditional Chinese” culture to check cosmopolitanism and compete with the PRC for authenticity. It was in this period in which Ma Ying jiu began his ascent within the KMT party ranks.

Anonymous said...

The establishment of a strong Chinese Nationalist culture as the state’s own symbol of modernity, and the state’s denial of modernity to local/indigenous cultures, is evident in the R.O.C.’s terms for recognizing indigenous peoples. Taiwan’s indigenous peoples must satisfy the R.O.C.’s standards for being traditional in order to be recognized as authentic; denying their coevalness and trapping indigenous peoples in Han stereotypes as they are imagined to have been at first contact. In essence, to be viewed as indigenous, one must also be viewed as traditional. This creates a gap between indigenous peoples and the state that can never be bridged on equal terms. This structure has continually frustrated groups of Plains Aborigines, who are confronted with not being “traditional” enough to be viewed as authentic in the eyes of the state.
My point is especially salient when we understand how the state-defined Han culture plays a predominant role in education and how children are taught to imagine their community as a “Chinese” community. All school children must study Confucian classics and learn about their “traditional” Chinese culture, which is more of a state invention than any example of how their ancestors may have actually lived, thought or behaved.
In response, the DPP deployed Hoklo centered ethnic Taiwanese nationalism in the late 1980’s as a short term means to jump start their fledgling party to challenge the KMT. The DPP adjusted this strategy to include a definition including four ethnic groups: Hoklo, Hakka, Aborigine and Mainlander. Despite the shift, the DPP definition falls short of addressing the realities of Taiwan’s dynamic and fluid ethnicities and cultures, while maintaining the imagined barriers of authenticity between them. For Taiwan to be a real multi-cultural/multi-ethnic nation there needs to be space for all cultures to thrive.
Essentially, the ROC is not equally accessible to all its citizens. Those who identify closer to the Chinese Nationalist version of culture and ethnicity will continue to be more equal than those who do not. In reality, ethnicity in Taiwan reaches far beyond the essentialized mantra of “four ethnic groups” as there are endless variations of pan ethnic unions and relationships, which are regularly negotiated and renegotiated. Children are born every day to parents of different cultures and ethnicities, yet when they reach school age they learn that one—state defined Chinese---is dominant over the others.

Anonymous said...

In my work with the Pazih, I found a situation similar to that of the Mashpee tribe James Clifford describes in The Predicament of Culture. Tribes or collectivities can be revived based on the memories of a few elderly people, and that is what the Pazih are working to do now. Mrs. Pan Jin-yu has provided a treasure trove of knowledge. The main reason, as expressed to me by members of the group, was to gain access to preferential government support. Again, we see the structural element. The Pazih in Ai lan are inventing tradition to satisfy the government’s own regulations on tribal recognition. I am not questioning the legitimacy of their invented traditions as many groups do the same thing. Many of the traditions we now identify with the current recognized tribes would not be recognized by their ancestors… yet they still have meaning for the group.
Austronesian culture is important to Taiwan. But arguments of a DNA based nation are eternally divisive as they ignite the battle for authenticity. Someone will always be more authentic than someone else. This process keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller groups. This is where ethnic hatred resides.
All of the tropes you describe deny the continual cultural shifts that have been occurring in Taiwan for thousands of years. Cultures are in a continual process of negotiation and renegotiation. Vertical cultural descent (parents to children) is often overplayed and overlooks the effects of the horizontal drift which occurs between peers. The generation gap. Are you culturally more like your parents or grandparents or your friends? Again, structure plays a significant role in this process as it provides the motives, benefits, detriments and impetus for social action. We learn the schemas of life to negotiate the structure and that is where our shared Taiwanese culture comes from… not DNA or blood. Blood has no memory or experience… it is only used to mobilize people against other people. Imagined ethnicity plays a role here if the state provides advantage or disadvantage to citizens based on ethnicity. In 1986 the ATA essentially established the Aborigine identity rooted mainly in their need to combat this imbalance.
Lastly, Taiwanese culture is what we do everyday by living here and participating. In Taiwan when we see a person in green on a motorcycle with a white helmet we know “postman”. A Chinese, American, New Zealander or Korean would not understand the symbolic meaning of the costume. i.e culture. This is where we derive our commonality and the validity of our Taiwanese identity, not from an imagined Pingpu Ancestor. The Ping pu trope is just a construct to match the Chinese 5000 year trope. They are both meaningless until politicized and deployed.

Anonymous said...

Lastly I’d like to take you to task on you Su Beng header:

This trope portrays this Taiwanese identity as a fixed identity with a clear border from which can be recovered. This implies there is a pre-existing or authentic model, which can be recovered. He portrays identity as an entity tied to history/culture/ethnicity and denies our freedom to choose to remain or depart from it. This is a common tactic deployed by political or religious leaders who seek to mobilize citizens behind their agendas. He is concealing the fluidity and changeability of identities. We often see projects like this where groups, political parties and religious sects construct origin myths and histories that attempt to show a definable group of people with a lengthy, distinguishable history as a "single people". These projects, like we have seen elsewhere, selectively draw narratives relying on specific sociopolitical and historic events to galvanize support around the specific identity/culture they claim to represent. This pattern of essentializing an identity and locking it to a preconceived primordial "origin" has played out time and time again as acts of repression, discrimination, conflict and genocide. A particular group of people invents the boundaries and uses those constructed boundaries to carry out their political project of eliminating the "enemy". You need to be more inclusive. I think you mean well with this blog, but I find your ideas reflect an intellectual immaturity that is detrimental to Taiwanese Independence. I hope you can read more social theory and gain a better understanding of what you are doing. I think that would be a responsible approach.

Aì Tâi-oân said...

Thanks for taking the time to write your comments. Many point are taken. The information you included was very helpful.

With regard to your last comment about "the fight for its recovery." The Japanese tried to make people in Taiwan think they were Japanese -- by erasing the past from Taiwan. The KMT tried to brainwash people into thinking they are "Chinese" -- even the Austronesians who retained their cultures. You have a Tayal singer who got a Golden Melody Award now singing "Thank you ChungHwa MinGuo" and "Thank you three principles of the people." This person was brainwashed in the KMT school system. Certainly there needs to be a recovery of an identity focused on Taiwan which they had before.

We need to remove the lies and recover the truth of the history and people.

And with all due respect to anthropological theories, there is something about knowing your genetic descent that is not racist at all, but you know where you came from and what shaped you, you know a layer in the current culture, etc. Who will be the ones to rally to preserve a dying culture besides those who have ancestors from that culture?

I hope anthropologists are not trying to apply some survival of the fittest darwinian theory to culture. Might makes right is not correct.

But feeling a connection with ancestry is different.

If someone in the U.S. has Scottish ancestry -- both highland (Gaelic - Q-Celtic) and lowland, with Northumbrian mixed in, and also the northern Britains who spoke the language of the Y Gododdin (P-Celtic), even three hundred years later from the move to the U.S. in a free society, this ancestry might prompt the person in particular to go to learn these language -- Scots Gaelic and Welsh, and put time and effort into preserving them.

If a foreigner living in Taiwan marries and Hoklo Taiwanese, and they have children, and that Hoklo Taiwanese is from I-lan and so there is also some Kavalan ancestry mixed in, it is right solely on the basis of genetic descent for the person to say, hey, I want my children to learn Hoklo and also Kavalan because their ancestors spoke it.

A few foreigners and anthropologists might do something to provide a framework to allow a culture or language to flourish once more, but they cannot live the life for the people. The people, if they gained a sense of value and respect would certainly keep their ancestor's culture. It is the prestige culture that puts itself to be the only thing valuable and penalizes expressions outside of it that causes perhaps within a few generations the destruction of the minority cultures.

If the Germans had invaded the United States and forced the German language on them and invented a false history that was taught in the schools of how the Germans had colonized the United States (instead of the English, Dutch, etc.)-- is it not right for the people to try to begin a movement to eradicate those lies and if they so desire return to the original language that their ancestors used, demanding it be treated of equal value, instead of continuing to speak the language of their oppressors?

Aì Tâi-oân said...

If the Hoklo and Hakka in the past caused a destruction of the Pingpu cultures, but now they wish to help them be revived or at least acknowledge their value, then that is right. If they can also acknowledge that they are of mixed descent, then that will help them identify more with their ancestors from Taiwan, they will not automatically say as they were trained to do -- "I am from Fujian Province". They will not automatically say, "We Chinese". They will identify with the land that the Austronesians inhabited for that long.

It is also one element that will help people in Taiwan open their eyes to a multicultural society and turn away from the lies of Han superiority.

Aì Tâi-oân said...

By the way, I hope that anyone who is moved deeply by this site will be moved to action.

Anonymous said...

I think you are not reading carefully and you are still way off base.

This person was brainwashed in the KMT school system. Certainly there needs to be a recovery of an identity focused on Taiwan which they had before.

"We need to remove the lies and recover the truth of the history and people."
Historical "truth" is what Stanford historian Hayden White describes as “narratological causality”, which challenges us to “consider the relationship between what we perceive to be the ‘facts’ of history and their performative and narrative construction.” The events become less of a “true account” of the past, but rather a mythologized treatment of events in an “ irreducible overlap between what has happened and what is said to have happened” as historians impose their own treatment of history on the reader, they fail to convey history as it happened, but instead tell a "historian's history". The historian Paul Cohen provides another model of history by separating the manner in which history is viewed into three distinct parts: Event, Experience and Myth. The “Event “can be reconstructed from documentary sources by historians in a narrative manner, although the historian may be free to arrange the known events in any manner. Documentary sources may include newspaper reports, census data, government inquiries, maps and other material that was recorded at or near the time the incident took place, while the “Experience” and the “Myth” are subject to specific readings of history and the experiences of individuals. The “Experience” is often a chaotic stream of individual observations, while the Myth is arranged with an explicit purpose or end result. What we are seeing here is a very subjective mythologizing of Taiwanese history with a particular political aim. Smart people understand this and therefore history is always a very poor starting point. Whose history? Whose truth? The nature of history does not lend itself to absolute truths. The myth making undertaken by this group is just as valid as every other treatment of Taiwanese history and suffers from the same weaknesses. You are not pushing truth you are pushing ideology. This is YOUR truth.

Anonymous said...

And with all due respect to anthropological theories, there is something about knowing your genetic descent that is not racist at all, but you know where you came from and what shaped you, you know a layer in the current culture, etc. Who will be the ones to rally to preserve a dying culture besides those who have ancestors from that culture?

There is a difference between "racist" and "racialist". Racialism is the belief in the concept of different races, particularly that there are grades of humans.

"I hope anthropologists are not trying to apply some survival of the fittest darwinian theory to culture. Might makes right is not correct."

I don't see where you get that idea from. Much of you own model is rooted in social darwinism and the racialist movements of the 19th century. "

"Recovery" implies you have an essentialized identity that is fixed in place and time. Part of the Taiwanese experience IS the Japanese and Nationalist experience, no matter how discriminatory they may have been.

"If someone in the U.S. has Scottish ancestry "

I think you might get a lot out of Eric Hobsbawm and Terrence Ranger's book 'The Invention of Tradition' coupled with Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities. You might find how little there is behind your comment.

"original language that their ancestors used, "

Do you wish to re-construct pre-Austronesian? You are not paying attention. In you post you advocate creating a Taiwanese national identity based on people's imagined DNA. It really doesn't matter what language we are speaking or where our ancestors came from to be Taiwanese. Nationalisms are pluralities. The important factor is that we are living in this community together. There is no single An example: authentic culture to "recover". Which culture do you want? To seek traditionalism is a red herring. Many of the young Siraya men of the Tainan area saw the Dutch project as a way to break unfavorable social customs and leap frog into a position of status. Many of these groups also viewed the Dutch military prowess in a favorable light and sought to adopt Dutch customs. Their culture was also always in flux. Even when the Dutch arrived the Siraya were undergoing a major social upheaval with inter-village warfare as the result of a trade imbalance. Also, many of your actors were at different times colonizers and colonized. Your chosen narrative lacks depth and focus. I really implore you to put more thought into your actions.

rain said...

I stumbled onto this site purely by accident, but I wanted to say thank you. Thank you to the author and thank you to everyone leaving comments. I am humbled by everyone's knowledge and cheered by your collective love and passion for Taiwan. Reading the debate between Ai Tai oan and Anonymous is like watching a tennis match between two champions and I've learned so much just from this one thread alone. I look forward to more great posts!