Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 13 News List

Love and marriage go together like a hunting knife and hoe

The Tsou Aboriginal's Fona Festival will begin tomorrow and traditional wedding ceremonies in Alishan can now be undertaken by the general publicby derek leestaff reporter


``You may kiss the bride.''


The maidens of Alishan are as beautiful as the water, the young lads of Alishan are as strong as the mountain," is a traditional love song called The Ode of Green High Mountain (高山青), which has been sung for generations in Taiwan.

Everyone, but particularly newlywed couples are attracted to the magnificent mountains of Alishan in Chiayi County to appreciate the sea of clouds, the beauty of the sunrise, its scenic railway and forest of giant trees.

Starting from tomorrow, the Tsou tribe's Fona Festival (鄒族生命豆祭) traditional wedding ceremony in Alishan is open to the outside world for the first time. (Another of the Tsou festivals, the twice-a-year Mayasvi or war festival (戰祭), however, is still private.)

Tribespeople from Dabang (達邦), Tefuye (特富野) and six other villages, around 4,000 in total, are extending an invitation to married and would-be couples nationwide to participate in their wedding ceremonies.

At least 15 Tsou couples will be married tomorrow morning, but the weddings will be restricted to Tsou pairs only. Starting next week, a wedding ceremony will be held every Saturday morning for members of the general public who would like to experience the excitement of a collective marriage in the Tsou tribe's traditional manner.

At the opening ceremony, a Tsou warrior will make a formal announcement by shouting from a 10m-tall lookout tower. Subsequently, a number of tribal elders and warriors will swing a unique wooden instrument, called a wind-whistle, in the air.

It gives out a monotonous booming sound, as a way to summon the gods and goddesses to give their special blessings to the wedding couples. Male and female Tsou tribe members, dressed in bright red or blue costumes, then sing and dance, hand-in-hand, to celebrate the happy occasion.

Jackie Chen (陳澤琪), an official from the Alishan National Scenic Area Administration, explains that, accompanied by singing, an elder leads the bridegroom, accompanied by his parents and close relatives, to the would-be bride's home to ask her parents' permission for marriage.

Three traditional gifts, including millet wine, sticky rice and pork (arranged in a round bamboo basket) are offered to the future parents-in-law. When the marriage proposal is granted, the bridegroom will then undergo an adulthood ceremony.

The tribal elders will perform the ceremony by beating the would-be bridegroom, one-by-one, on the hips with a large wooden stick. This is done either lightly or heavily, depending upon the elders' judgment of the to-be-married man's past behavior and also as a reminder to lead a better adult life.

When the moment of exchanging marriage vows comes at last, the bride's mother takes her daughter to the groom's house. The groom will offer 12 pieces of fona, the "bean of life" (羽雀豆或稱生命豆), a perennial trailing plant which is fruitful and grows well in barren soil and in adverse circumstances. It is a symbol of holiness and fertility to the bride and, in return, she will give the groom fona flowers to show her appreciation.

With the elders' blessings, the couple drink millet wine from a cup that is joined together and then begin a group dance. At the closing ceremony, the elders furnish the bridegroom with a hunting knife and the bride is given a hoe in order to help them, symbolically, build a family with courage and an abundance of food.

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