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The Paiwan (Chinese: 排灣; pinyin: Páiwān; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Pâi-oan) are an aboriginal tribe of Taiwan. They speak the Paiwan language. In the year 2000 the Paiwan numbered 70,331. This was approximately 17.7% of Taiwan's total indigenous population, making them the third-largest tribal group.
The unique ceremonies in Paiwan are Masaru and Maleveq. The Masaru is a ceremony that celebrates the harvest of rice, whereas the Maleveq commemorates their ancestors or gods.
One of the most important figures in Paiwan history was supreme chief Toketok (卓其督; ca. 1817 - 1874), who united 18 tribes of Paiwan under his rule, and in 1867 concluded a formal agreement with Chinese and Western leaders to ensure the safety of foreign ships landing on their coastal territories in return for amnesty for Paiwan tribesmen who had killed the crew of the barque Rover in March 1867.
In the past the Paiwan had a fearsome reputation as head-hunters. When Paiwan warriors returned home from a headhunting foray, "the women would gather together in front of the courtyard to welcome their heroes and would sing songs of triumph. The heads of their enemies were then hung on stone pillars in front of which were displayed wine and offerings. The sacrificial rite started, and the soul of the dead was duly consoled by the sorcerer. A tuft of hair was removed from the skull and solemnly put in a basket which was used for divination." During the civil war, between 1946 and 1949, many Paiwan men were forcibly enlisted in the Kuomintang forces. When the war ended, some of the Paiwan remained behind in China and formed their own communities.
In 1871, an Okinawan vessel shipwrecked on the southern tip of Taiwan, and the crew of fifty-four were beheaded by the Paiwan aborigines. When Japan sought compensation from Qing China, the court rejected the demand on the grounds that the "wild"/"unsubjugated" aboriginals (traditional Chinese: 台灣生番; simplified Chinese: 台湾生番; pinyin: Táiwān shēngfān) were outside its jurisdiction. This perceived renunciation of sovereignty led to the Taiwan Expedition of 1874 by the Japanese.
Unlike other tribes in Taiwan, Paiwan society is divided into classes with a hereditary aristocracy. The Paiwan are not allowed to marry outside their tribe. On the day of their "five-yearly rite," "all marriage-seeking Paiwan men try to cut down as many trees as possible and offer the firewood thus procured to the family of the girl they want to woo.
Traditionally the Paiwan have been polytheists. Their wooden carvings included images of human heads, snakes, deer, and geometric designs. In Taiwan, the Bataul branch of the Paiwan tribe holds a major sacrifice - called maleveq - every five years to invite the spirits of their ancestors to come and bless them. Djemuljat is an activity in the Maleveq in which the participants thrust bamboo poles into cane balls symbolizing human heads.
'Witchcraft' has been described as an important part of Paiwan culture. Paiwan Witchcraft is traditionally seen as being inherited by blood-line. However, a decline in the number of Paiwan witches has raised concerns that traditional rituals might be lost; and has led to the founding of a Witchcraft school to pass on the rituals to a new generation.
Christianity first came to the Paiwan people in the seventeenth century, when Taiwan was occupied by the Dutch. More than 5,000 tribesmen became Christians after only ten years, but all of them were massacred in 1661 when Zheng Cheng Gong occupied Taiwan. The missionaries were either killed or driven away, and the churches were destroyed. Thousands of Paiwan people in Taiwan came to Christianity in the late 1940s and 1950s, sometimes whole villages. Today the Presbyterian church in Taiwan claims 14,900 Paiwan members, meeting in 96 congregations. The New Testament has been translated into Paiwan but is not available in Mainland China.
- Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan, R.O.C. (DGBAS). National Statistics, Republic of China (Taiwan). Preliminary statistical analysis report of 2000 Population and Housing Census. Excerpted fromTable 28:Indigenous population distribution in Taiwan-Fukien Area. Accessed PM 8/30/06
- The Island of Formosa Past and Present, James W. Davidson: 1903, SMC Publishing Co.
- "排灣族五年祭的宗教意涵與身體活動", by 謝志鴻.p. 67.
- Collins, Nick (21 Sep 2009). "School of witchcraft opens in Taiwan". Telegraph.co.uk.
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