In many fairy tales, a handsome prince and a beautiful princess fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. For Taiwanese Aborigines, the romantic love between a warrior and a tribal princess can also be the basis of a romantic story, although it comes with a little extra effort.
Chen Chin-yu (陳靳豫) and Lai Chien-yi (賴謙誼) met each other when they took part in the “Aboriginal Ambassador Princess and Warrior Competition,” an annual event organized by the Taitung City Government which started in 2007.
After entering the competition, Chen, an Amis Aborigne, began to date Lai, a woman from the Paiwan people, and their relationship blossomed sufficiently for the young couple to decide to marry.
After registering their marriage at the local district office, they officially became husband and wife, at least in the eyes of the law.
Keen to follow traditional Paiwan customs, Chen has to wait until March next year before going to Lai’s house and taking her away as his wife. This is because Lai is a Paiwan princess and her family has ruling royal status in the local community. For a man to marry a Paiwan princess he has to carry her away on his back, and so must have the physical strength and stamina to manage the task.
Lai’s home is on Chinchen Mountain (金針山) in Taitung County’s Taimali Township (太麻里).
When he visits next year, Chen must carry Lai from her home and down the mountain for 3km to a ceremonial wedding site at Dawang Elementary School.
“According to Paiwan tradition, the groom must carry the bride on his back from her parents’ house to the site of the wedding ceremony,” Lai said.
“The groom must place both of his hands behind his back so the bride can kneel on his palms while being carried. This is the traditional way to do it,” she added.
“From my home to Dawang school is about 3km and is downhill all the way. As it is easier to carry someone uphill than downhill, it is a real challenge for my husband,” she said. “However, it should not be too hard for him because he serves in the military and is used to heavy physical exercise.”
Chen, who is enrolled in the air force’s officer training program, said: “We perform routine physical workouts everyday and I’m getting good training for my strength and stamina. If I keep this up until next year, I should be able to successfully complete my most important mission — to carry my wife to our wedding.”