Thu, Nov 05, 2015 - Page 10 News List

Youth and elders revive the art of bow-making
傳統弓箭工藝漸失 耆老傳授撇步

Chen Chih-wei, a young man from Tjavualji Village in Taitung County’s Taimali Township, learns traditional bow- and-arrow-making techniques from village elder Wang Cheng-yang on Oct. 23.

Photo: Chen Hsien-i, Liberty Times

The popularity of traditional Aboriginal-style archery has inspired Paiwan people in Tjavualji Village in Taitung County’s Taimali Township to revive the art of making bows and arrows by hand. The elders are not keeping their knowledge to themselves; relying on their childhood memories, they have been exchanging ideas with the youth. No step in the process is taken lightly — from choosing the raw wood through shaping it, drying the bow, treating it with preservatives and stringing it, all the way to the finished product. It is an astonishing reminder of the ancestors’ bountiful knowledge.

Picking up an arrow made by young villager Chen Chih-wei, Wang Cheng-yang, one of the elders, points at the arrowhead and tells him that the join cannot be too thick, otherwise it will not be very easy to bind it with string or shoot the arrow. Chen accepts Wang’s lesson humbly. Wang says that in the past only hunters made bows and arrows. Traditional bows and arrows were not brightly colored like modern ones, nor did they come in such a variety of shapes, and they were not primarily for competition. They were made of laminated bamboo strips and were relatively short, which made them easy to carry, and their sole purpose was to shoot prey. When Wang was little, his grandfather had two bows. The steel arrowheads were all hand-wrought from steel plates. In ancient times, there were no steel tools available, so the ancestors chipped and ground slates into a triangular shape and bound them onto the shafts to make arrows.

Wang says that in the past he never thought about making traditional bows and arrows. Only this year, when Legislator May Chin was planning to hold a national traditional archery competition, was he inspired to do so. He has done it by relying on his memories and swapping ideas with young people, and then making corrections by referring to other people’s methods.


1. archery n.

射箭 (she4 jian4)

例: Archery and wrestling are very important competitions in aboriginal communities.


2. humbly adv.

虛心 (xu1 xin1)

例: David listened humbly to his uncle’s advice.


3. grind v.

磨 (mo2)

例: Kathy ground the coffee beans with an electric grinder.


Chen says that when he was little he saw a bow hanging in the chief’s house, but the adults did not pass on the handicraft knowledge that was left to them by their ancestors, so at first he could only try making bows based on his impressions. Because he did not know how to treat the wood with preservatives, he had a lot of failures in the course of trial and error, but he did not lose heart. When a bow cracked, he made another one and asked the elders for tips on how to heat-treat the wood. Making bows and arrows by hand gives you a feeling of “unity of man and bow,” he says, and when you pull the bow to shoot an arrow it feels very smooth and comfortable.

(Liberty Times, translated by Julian Clegg)






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