Sun, Oct 22, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Return my true name

The careless assigning of Chinese names to Aborigines in 1946 resulted in clan and family members taking different surnames, leading to weakened familial ties and in the worst case, unintentional incest

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Faracung Piday presents his new ID card in March 2006 after being the first person in New Taipei City’s Tucheng District (then Tucheng Township) to revert to his Aboriginal name.

Photo: CNA

Oct. 23 to Oct 29

It may be strange to hear that the Ispalidav Clan Association was founded in 2015 to prevent incest, but for Aborigines, it was and remains a sad reality of Han Chinese domination.

“Our clan is dispersed across Taiwan,” association head Lanas Sokluman told Taiwan Indigenous TV during its first meeting. “In Nantou, their [Han Chinese] surname is Lu (呂). In Taitung, they are Yen (顏) and Yu (余). If our descendants meet and don’t know about their ancestry, they might start a relationship.”

An tragic example is featured in the 2002 documentary, What’s Your Real Name? (請問貴姓) by Mayaw Biho, where two Bunun lovers with different Chinese surnames learn that they are relatives and face familial pressure to end their relationship.

It was exactly this problem that led 12 Aborigines to stage a protest on Oct. 27, 1985 in front of the Wushe Incident Memorial (霧社事件) in Nantou, requesting that the government return them their true names (還我姓名). The date was not a coincidence: it was the 55th anniversary of day when hundreds of Sediq warriors descended on an athletic competition at the local elementary school and killed 134 Japanese. The Japanese retaliated and quelled the rebellion in two months with about 600 Sediq dead.


While Aborigines had been adopting Chinese names since the Qing Dynasty through the government’s assimilation policy, the name issue really began as the Japanese forced all Taiwanese to take Japanese names starting in the 1940s.

In May 1946, the newly-arrived Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) gave Taiwanese three months to revert to their original names after few people heeded their earlier attempts. Of course, this did not include Aborigines, who were forced to “revert” to a new Chinese name. Many of these names were assigned to them at random by household registration officials. Possible incest was not the only problem — the weakening of family and clan ties caused many Aboriginal societal functions to deteriorate.

According to a 1962 National Chengchi University field study report on Aboriginal communities in Yilan County, they “were assigned names by household, meaning each household received one surname, paying no attention to their extended family relations. Therefore, siblings who had already established their own families ended up with different surnames … For example, Peng Hsi-yue’s (彭細月) father is Peng Han-tang (彭漢黨), but his paternal grandfather is Chen Nai-kan (陳乃干).”

The report added, “Fortunately, the Aboriginal population is low, their household registration data is still relatively complete and they live in concentrated areas. It’s not too late yet. It wouldn’t be too monumental a task to remedy this situation, and we hope that the government can address this issue.”

Unfortunately, nothing would be done for several more decades.

Neqou Sokluman details his complicated relationship with his identity in a 2002 article for the Liberty Times. (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) Born in 1973, he used his Aboriginal name at home — but to everyone else he was Chuan Chen-jung (全振榮).

“There are very few people surnamed Chuan in Taiwan, so everyone thought I was Korean. I couldn’t be bothered to explain and told them that [former] South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan [who shares the same character] is my uncle.”

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