Amis people

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Indigenous group dancers at Amis Music Festival 2016 IMF0936.jpg
Total population
200,604 (2014)
Regions with significant populations
Amis, Mandarin
Animism, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Sakizaya, Taiwanese Aborigines

The 'Amis (Amis: Amis, Ami or Pangcah; Chinese: 阿美族; pinyin: āměi zú) are an Indigenous Austronesian ethnic group to Taiwan. They speak Sowal no 'Amis (Caciyaw no Pangcah; 阿美族語), an Austronesian language, and are one of the sixteen officially recognized Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples. The traditional territory of the 'Amis includes 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.[1] This was approximately 37.1% of Taiwan's total indigenous population, making them the largest Indigenous group.[2] The 'Amis are primarily fishermen due to their coastal location. They traditionally had a matrilineal kinship system, by which inheritance and property pass through the maternal line, and children are considered born to the mother's people.[3]

Traditional 'Amis villages were relatively large for Taiwanese Indigenous communities, typically holding between 500 and 1,000 people. In today's Taiwan, the 'Amis also comprise the majority of "urban Indigenous people" and have developed many urban communities all around the island. In recent decades, 'Amis have also married exogamously to the Han as well as other indigenous peoples.[4]

Identity and classification[edit]

The 'Amis people refer to themselves by two different ethnonyms. While those living in the East Rift Valley and Hualien County generally identify as Pangcah, which means "human" or "people of our kind," 'Amis living in coastal Taitung County employ the term 'Amis. Perhaps because of the official name, in 21st-century Taiwan, the term 'Amis is much more frequently used. This name comes from the word 'amis, meaning "north." There is still no consensus in the academic circle as to how "'Amis" came to be used to address the Pangcah. It may originally have been a term used by the Puyuma to refer to the Pangcah, who lived to the north of them. Another theory is that those who lived in the Taitung Plain called themselves "'Amis" because their ancestors had come from the north. This later explanation is recorded in the Banzoku Chōsa Hōkokusho,[5] indicating this term may have originated from a group classified by anthropologists as Falangaw 'Amis, the 'Amis group occupying territory from today's Chengkung to the Taitung Plain. Their closest genetic relatives appear to be the native Filipino people.[6][7]

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 of the Coastal Mountains)
  • Coastal group (located east of the Coastal Mountains)
  • Falangaw group (located Chenggong and the Taitung Plain)
  • Hengchun group (located on the Hengchun Peninsula)

Such classification, however widely accepted, is based simply on the geographical distribution and ethnic migration. It does not correspond to observed differences in culture, language, and physiques.


Harvest Festival

Family affairs, including finance of the family, are decided by the female householder, in the 'Amis tradition. The most important traditional ceremony is the Harvest Festival. The 'Amis Harvest festival is held to express the people's thanks and appreciation to the gods, and to pray for harvest in the next coming year. It takes place every July to September.[8]

Representation in media[edit]

The musical project Enigma used an Amis chant in their song "Return to Innocence," on their second album, The Cross of Changes (1993). This song was used as the theme song of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The main chorus was sung by Difang (Chinese name Kuo Ying-nan) and his wife, Igay (Chinese name Kuo Hsiu-chu), who were part of a Taiwanese aboriginal cultural performance group.

Maison des Cultures du Monde had earlier recorded the singing of this group while on tour, and released a CD. This song was subsequently used by Enigma (although they did not note the ethnic origin of the song and the singers). The recording studio and the Taiwanese group filed a suit for copyright infringement, which was later settled by Enigma out of court. Ami singing is known for its complex contrapuntal polyphony.

Notable Amis people[edit]

Amis singer Tank

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chia-chen, Hsieh; Wu, Jeffrey (15 February 2015). "Amis remains Taiwan's biggest aboriginal tribe at 37.1% of total". The Central News Agency. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  2. ^ "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), archived from the original on 2007-03-12, retrieved 2006-08-30.
  3. ^ "Ami", Ethnologue.
  4. ^ Olson, James Stuart (1998), An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China, ISBN 9780313288531.
  5. ^ "Survey Reports on the Savages", Banzoku Chōsa Hōkokusho 蕃族調査報告書, 8, Taihoku (Taipei), 1913–1918, p. 4.
  6. ^ plbi-03-08-05 1..11 (PDF), PLOS journals[permanent dead link].
  7. ^ HPGL (PDF), 64, Stanford, 2001, p. 432, archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-02-14.
  8. ^ Amis Harvest Festival held in East Taiwan, The China Post, July 28, 2005, retrieved in April 8, 2011
  9. ^ "Li Tai-hsiang, composer of Olive Tree and other hits, dies at age 72". Strait Times. 2014-01-03. Archived from the original on 2014-01-05. Retrieved 2014-02-03.

External links[edit]