One of the most secretive and least publicized of Taiwan’s myriad folk festivals will take place tomorrow in a rural village in Pingtung County. The Makatao, one of 10 remaining Pingpu (平埔) lowland indigenous tribes, will reenact its Tale of the Sacred Egg (仙蛋傳奇), an annual ceremony that falls on the same day as the Lantern Festival and celebrates the beginning of the new year.
The festival begins at 5pm at the Temple of Immortal Maidens (仙姑廟) in the isolated farming hamlet of Jiapaolang (加匏朗, or Gabulong in Hoklo, also known as Taiwanese) and pays respect to the Celestial Grandmother Goddess (仙姑祖). It also marks the Makatao community’s ritual of rebirth as symbolized by their Tale of the Sacred Egg, from which the tribe believes their ancestors originated.
The “eggs” are represented by sticky rice that is fashioned into oval shapes and then eaten in the hopes of a bountiful harvest for the coming year. It ends when the eggs are washed down with fiery fermented-rice liquor.
Still retaining the matriarchal social customs from the ancient Austronesian Pingpu culture, the main rituals, ceremonial worship service, chanting and traditional dance are all led by female shamans — an important role passed down from mother to daughter within the matriarchal line.
After the ceremony ends, visitors are invited to sit with tribal members for a banquet and toasting of rice liquor to ensure good fortune and happiness for the coming year.
If you go:
Address: Temple of Immortal Maidens (仙姑廟), Jiapaolang Hamlet (加匏朗), Sincuo Village (新厝村), Manluan Township (萬巒鄉), Pingtung County; tel, (08) 783-5127
On the Net: old.tncsec.gov.tw/wks/pt10/home.php?page=page4.php&a01=0101&c03=&wks=pt10&page_key=1810
By Car: Take National Highway No. 3 to Pingtung and take the Linluo (麟洛) exit to Provincial Road No. 1 to Neipu (內埔), County Road No. 187 to Wanchin (萬金). From there take the local Jiansin Road (建興路) to Sincuo Village (新厝村) and to Jiapaolang (加匏朗) Hamlet
Public Transportation: Opposite the Pingtung railway station is the bus depot. Take buses (8212, 8235 or 8236) going to Wanchin (萬金) and Gazao (佳佐) and get off at Gazao, or go to Wanchin Holy Mother Basilica (萬金聖母聖殿) and take a taxi to Jiapaolang. Buses depart at noon and in the early evening.