The rituals performed at the lowland Pingpu Aborigines’ autumn harvest festival in Greater Kaohsiung should be officially recognized as one of the nation’s national folk heritage celebrations, cultural historians and officials said, adding that they would apply for the classification.
The “Pingpu Night Festival” in Siaolin Village (小林), Jiasian Township (甲仙), which is an important annual cultural and spiritual event for the region’s Tavorlong (大武壟) people, was held last weekend.
The Tavorlong people of Siaolin Village have through the ages held a night festival on the full moon of the ninth month of the lunar calendar — the traditional date for their autumn harvest festival.
It is a time of celebration for the Tavorlong community, who bring offerings to the Pingpu worship temple, which they call Gong Gai (公廨), to give thanks to their guardian deity, who they call A Li-zo (阿立祖) or Huan Tai-zo (番太祖).
According to age-old customs the ritual ceremonies are held at night, while celebrations featuring singing, dancing, a running race for youngsters and a feast are conducted during the day.
Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) attended this year’s events as the residents of Siaolin, many of them descendants of Tavorlong people, try to rebuild their lives and revitalize their cultural heritage after the village was devastated by flooding and a landslide, resulting in more than 400 fatalities, caused by Typhoon Morakot in 2009.
“The Greater Kaohsiung Government attaches great importance to the revitalization of the Tavorlong Pingpu culture and rituals. They are some of our most valued cultural treasures. Siaolin’s night festival retains the most complete celebratory rituals and cultural elements of all the Pingpu people,” Chen said.
She added that her government would this year prioritize helping the people of Siaolin apply at the Ministry of Culture for official recognition of their night festival as one of the national folk heritage celebrations of Taiwan.
After the tragic events of 2009, the residents of Siaolin were relocated to a safer site at Wulipu (五里埔). Local cultural historians helped them in their efforts to revitalize their culture by providing rare documentary footage and recordings of the Tavorlong autumn harvest celebration, filmed by Japanese ethnologist Asai Erin (淺井惠倫) in the early decades of the previous century.
If the application for official recognition of the festival is successful, it will become the second Pingpu Aborigine cultural event to be included, after the Siraya Night Festival of Kabua-Sua Village (吉貝耍) in Greater Tainan was officially recognized and designated a national folk heritage custom earlier this month.
The central government’s Council of Indigenous Peoples only recognizes 14 Aboriginal groups, who used to be classified as “high mountain compatriots” (高山同胞), by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime.
The Tavorlong are one of the 10 Pingpu Aborigine groups of Taiwan. They are well-known in the ethno-cultural field and their rights as indigenous people are recognized by the international community and protected under UN conventions.
The other Pingpu Aborigine groups incvlude the Babuza, Hoanya, Ketagalan, Kaxabu, Papora, Pazeh, Siraya and Taokas.