3/22/2008

Kiraya or Kira 花蓮, Taiwan


I went to Hualien (花蓮) twice last week. Yesterday, I found this museum on the Sakizaya (撒奇萊雅族), the 13th Aboriginal group to be recognized in Taiwan, or "proven" as the Sakizaya guide Anew put it in Mandarin. The Sakizaya were proven on January 13th, 2007. Besides the usual Aboriginal museum stuff - weapons (above pic), sewing tools, baskets, colorful garb - there were also three big brewing vats. The museum brews its own rice wine, which is really delicious.

I learned several things about Hualien and the Sakizaya:
1. Both the Dutch and the Portuguese made contact with the Sakizaya in the 1600s.
2. Hualien used to be called Kiraya or Kira.
3. The Sakizaya called the region Nararacanan, after raracan, an edible kind of shellfish.
4. The Sakizaya were actually the dominant group in the area (this is according to the museum, so it should be taken with a grain of salt).
5. The Sakizaya were massacred by the Chinese. In 1878, a Ching Dynasty (清朝) army "burned down families [it says this]" and killed all of the young Sakizaya men, beginning "129 years of exile and anonymity".

According to Anew, there are still 15,000 Sakizaya today. She says that they don't really look like other Aborigines, but rather "kind of like Taiwanese". One thing that I found interesting about this museum was that it didn't translate any of the names of places or peoples into Chinese. I kept looking for how to say it in Chinese, but the text would use quotation marks and the romanized spelling instead. Even Sakizaya - I had to look up 撒奇萊雅族 on the Internet. It was as if the curators didn't want it spelled or recorded in Chinese.


The view, running down the street from the museum. Hualien is on a nook in the Pacific Ocean off a towering wall of mountains. To get to it, the train from Taipei traces along the coast, and is practically on the beach before it cuts into town, heading for the Hualien Train Station.

A new museum on Sakizaya culture in Hualien. This is the front gate.

2 comments:

David said...

I see the use of romanization as very positive. Using Chinese characters to represent non-Sinitic languages is very inefficient and inaccurate.

Patrick Cowsill said...

David,

Yes, I agree with you. And I also think there's a political statement here.