Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 13 News List

Monkeying around in Beinan

Beginning tomorrow, teenage men from the Puyuma tribe will participate in a ritual hunting ceremony to mark their coming of age

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Young Puyuma men take part in coming-of-age rituals.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BEINAN TOWNSHIP

According to Puyuma tradition, when a teenage male reaches puberty he should spend half a year, every year until marriage, preparing to be a man. In the past, teenage boys from the Puyuma Aboriginal villages would leave their families to live and study together under the watchful eye of an elder. The exercises, mostly aimed at perfecting their hunting ability and house building skills, were necessary requirements of becoming an adult and providing for one's family.

At the end of their half-year training, the young men would return home and take part in one more test: the ceremonial slaughter of a monkey. In addition to the Harvest Festival held at the end of the summer, the Monkey Festival is organized and attended by the entire village. Although it has been modified greatly over the years, the ritual is still of major significance to the Puyuma and it is also open to the public.

The songs and dances during the ceremony are the same as those used traditionally to simulate the behavior of a monkey. The major difference in the ritual comes after the singing and dancing when the boys come to the center of the circle and use spears to stab a monkey to death. After the persistent lobbying of animal rights groups, real monkeys are no longer used in the ritual killing and in their place are grass dolls. After the killing ritual is re-enacted, another rite is performed to mourn the spirits of the monkeys.

Visitor involvement in the ceremony is left up to the discretion of each individual, said Shu Jan-mei (許真妹) one the organizers of the festival. People have been coming to watch these ceremonies for years, so the villagers are comfortable with it. And most of the time, they even try to encourage the public to participate in the activity, she said.

A week after the boys return from their manhood training, a three-day Hunting Festival takes place when the men retreat to the nearby mountains.

Visitors do not normally attend the hunting excursion but there is a ceremony open to the public honoring the men upon their return home. The women and children serenade the men as they enter the village and treat them to a showcase of song, dance and food.

The Hunting Festival is a joint celebration with several of the villages taking part. It will be held in front of Beinan New Station in the Cultural Park on Dec. 31.

Dec. 31 also marks the Burial Festival for village ancestors and is followed by New Year's celebrations on Jan. 1 and 2 to give thanks to the gods in anticipation of an abundant summer harvest. Marked with singing and dancing competitions, Shu said this is the liveliest of the winter festivals.

The Monkey Festival begins tomorrow morning at 6am and continues until mid to late afternoon. There are 10 villages throughout Beinan Township, Taitung County, that will be performing the ritual and each is open to the public.

Public transportation, however, will not be available and it is recommended to rent a scooter or hire a taxi for the day, depending on how many villages one wishes to visit. The Nanwang village is a five-minute walk north from the train station.

Event Information:

What: Puyuma Monkey and Hunting Festival (卑南族猴祭)

When: Dec. 18 to Jan. 4

Where: Beinan Township (卑南), Taitung County

Cost: Free

Contact: For more information in Chinese contact the office administration in Beinan at (08) 9381368. For further details in English and Chinese on places to stay and where to eat in Beinan and Taitung city check online at http://tour.taitung.gov.tw.

This story has been viewed 3773 times.
TOP top