The Amis (Chinese: 阿美族; pinyin: āměi-zú; also Ami or Pangcah) are indigenous people of Taiwan. They speak Amis, an Austronesian language, and are one of the sixteen officially recognized peoples of Taiwanese aborigines. The traditional territory of the Amis include the long, narrow valley between the Central Mountains and the Coastal Mountains (Huatung Valley), the Pacific coastal plain eastern to the Coastal Mountains and the Hengchun Peninsula.
In 2014, the Amis numbered 200,604. This was approximately 37.1% of Taiwan's total indigenous population, making them the largest tribal group. The Amis are primarily fishermen due to their coastal location. They are traditionally matrilineal. Traditional Amis villages were relatively large for indigenous groups, typically between 500 and 1,000. In today's Taiwan, the Amis also comprise the majority of "urban aboriginals" and have developed many "urban tribes" all around the island. In recent decades, Amis have also married exogamously to Han as well as other indigenous.
Identity and classification
The Amis people generally identify themselves as Pangcah, which means "human" or "people of our kind." Nonetheless, in today's Taiwan, Amis is much more frequently used. This name comes from the word amis, meaning "north." There is still no consensus in the academic circle how "Amis" came to be used to address the Pangcah. One supposition is that it was originally used by the Puyuma to call the Pangcah, as the Pangcah lived to the north of them. Another supposition holds that those who lived in the Taitung Plain called themselves "Amis" because their ancestors had come from the north. The later explanation is recorded in the Banzoku Chōsa Hōkokusho, indicating this might originate from what is classified by anthropologists as Falangaw Amis, the Amis group located from today's Chenggong to the Taitung Plain. Their closest genetic relative appears to be the Filipinos.
According to Taiwanese Aboriginal History: Amis, the Amis are classified into five groups:
- Northern group (located on the Chihlai/Hualien Plain)
- Middle group (located west to the Coastal Mountains)
- Coastal group (located east to the Coastal Mountains)
- Falangaw group (located Chenggong and the Taitung Plain)
- Hengchun group (located on the Hengchun Peninsula)
Note that such classification, however widely accepted, is merely based on the geographical distribution and tribal migration. It does not match the observed differences in culture, language, and physiques.
Family affairs including finance of the family are decided by the female householder, in the Ami tradition. Not many people may have seen the Ami, but many people may have heard the Ami. The musical project Enigma used an Ami chant in their song "Return to Innocence" in their second album, The Cross of Changes. This song was the theme song of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The main chorus of it was sung by Difang (Chinese name Kuo Ying-nan) and his wife, Igay (Chinese name Kuo Hsiu-chu), part of a Taiwanese aboriginal cultural performance group. Maison des Cultures du Monde recorded their singing while they were on tour and released a CD, which was subsequently used by Enigma (without mentioning the ethnic origin of the song and the singers). The case was later settled out of court. Ami singing is known for its complex contrapuntal polyphony.
The most important traditional ceremony is the Harvest Festival. The Ami's Harvest festival is to show the people's thanks and appreciations to the gods and to pray for harvest in the next coming year. It takes place every July to September.
Notable Amis people
- Lin Chiang-yi, Minister of Council of Indigenous Peoples
- Chang Chen-yue, singer
- Difang and Igay Duana, husband-and-wife folk music duo
- Van Fan, singer, actor
- Jam Hsiao, singer
- Ehlo Huang, actor and member of pop group 183 Club
- Li Tai-hsiang, composer and folk songwriter
- Lin Chih-chieh, basketball player
- Show Luo, singer and actor
- Tank, singer
- Tseng Li-cheng, 2012 Olympics Taekwondo bronze medalist
- Chin-hui Tsao, baseball player
- Chen Chih-yuan, baseball player
- Yang Chuan-kwang, Olympic decathlete
- Teruo Nakamura, Taiwan-born soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army and the last Japanese holdout soldier of World War II
- A-Lin, Taiwanese pop singer, lyricist, and occasional songwriter.
- Suming, singer and songwriter, whose music is a crossover genre and features elements from traditional Amis culture for Mando-pop audience, and actor
- Ilid Kaolo, Taiwanese singer and songwriter, and winner of the Best New Artist, Best Aboriginal Singer, and Best Aboriginal Album at the 23rd Golden Melody Awards
- "Table 28: Indigenous population distribution in Taiwan-Fukien Area", National Statistics, Republic of China, Taiwan: Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan (DGBAS), retrieved 2006-08-30.
- "Ami", Ethnologue.
- Olson, James Stuart, An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China, Google.
- "Survey Reports on the Savages", Banzoku Chōsa Hōkokusho 8, Taipei, 1913–1918, p. 4.
- plbi-03-08-05 1..11 (PDF), PLOS journals.
- HPGL (PDF) 64, Stanford, 2001, p. 432.
- Amis Harvest Festival held in East Taiwan, The China Post July 28, 2005, retrieved in April 8, 2011
- "Li Tai-hsiang, composer of Olive Tree and other hits, dies at age 72". Strait Times. 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amis people.|
- Taiwanese government page on the Amis
- Amis Festivals
- Website dedicated to a documentary shot in the Amis village of Tafalong (Taiwan East Coast)
- Shamanic Healing among the Amis and Contemporary Christian Healing in the Spirit