Friday, March 18, 2011

Bunun Indigenous Writing System

David on Formosa has a good blog post on his visit to the Bunun community of Kalibuan (Wangxiang, 望鄉部落). In it he mentions that the Bunun had developed their own writing system. You can see an example of this writing system by clicking on the link to a good PDF document on the Bunun. However it seems that the Bunun did not write down their entire language but rather devised a notation system to mark their lunar calendar.

(Does anyone have pictures of original documents or artifacts or stone carvings with this calendar? We'd like to get a copy rather than only have the above reproduced versions.)

Development of indigenous writing systems can be very important for national identity. The Koreans developed Hangul. The Vietnamese specifically chose to use a Latin script instead of Chinese characters in order to keep a distinction between Vietnam and China. China has coveted this land to the south but lost a war with the Vietnamese and so China was not able to annex Vietnam.

The Manchu peoples had their own writing system, traces of which can be found in carved inscriptions of west Taiwan from the time of Manchu empire outposts on Taiwan. However, as the Manchu people began shifting to Chinese characters, they lost a key cultural distinction and have not been separate from China since then.

Many factors contribute to a distinct identity. Language is one. Written script can be another. For Taiwan to free itself from the vise grip of its covetous neighbor and her tentacles already extended into Taiwan society, we must employ every means possible.

Elevating all the languages of Taiwan to a level of national respect, using them in schools, and adopting a romanized or indigenous scripts in the place of Chinese characters can all help to remove traces of the neo-colonialist/imperialist impositions of Chiang Kai-shek and his followers.

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