Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Formosan Aboriginal Village!

I wonder if this is how she feels about
being married to me?
I don’t know how much you know about Taiwan, but before visiting here last year all I knew was that the Big China hated them, we liked them, and that they spoke Mandarin.  Well, other (very cool) history aside Taiwan is a complicated place.  It turns out that over the years Taiwan has been home to Aboriginals who are closely related to Polynesians and other islanders, ancient main land Chinese, Japanese imperial forces, and then political refugees from modern China.  Well, there are still a lot of aboriginal tribes in Taiwan and they regularly hold festivals and events to show off their unique cultural heritages.  Most of these tribes now live on the lightly populated East Coast but there is a “village” of them at Sun Moon Lake.

Before I tell you about the village itself I should tell you that for the most part, Taiwanese Tourist attractions are kind of janky and falling apart.  It seems that most of the attractions were built about 20 years ago and through neglect, lack of maintenance, and a tropical environment have fallen into disrepair.  Also, they tend to border on the flamboyant, and cheap, rather and authentic and beautiful.  This was not the case with the “Formosan Aboriginal Village”.

Superman Pose for Blowdart Archery!
The Formosan Aboriginal Village was located on the other side of the lake of us nestled between two mountains.  You could take a long and windy road to the park, or you could take a cable car that passed over the mountains and dropped you right at the parks doorstep.  We chose the cable car.  When we first arrived at the village it was quite empty.  I found out that a legitimate theme park with real rollercoasters was attached to the park and that most people were headed there rather than the aboriginal village so we strolled right in free of any major crowds.

Calling it a single village is somewhat of a misnomer since in reality it contains representations of 7 different Taiwanese tribes including little recreated huts, displays, and a lot of explanations in English.  We walked around for a couple hours and explored all of the huts and learning about these people.  I think a little bit of my mom’s love of anthropology bled through as I compared this natives with ones I was used to from her knowledge of American Indians and found a lot of similarities.  There were also a lot of similarities with the Polynesians I know which was also quite cool.  Anyway, there was a lot of interesting stuff to see but the highlights were the giant phallic organs adorning many surfaces, the wall of fake skulls where village warriors would display the heads of slain enemies to both respect their skill and also warn enemies (I wonder how that tradition began and also if that meant it was really scary to start a new village without any vanquished heads.  Perhaps some entrepreneurial aboriginal could go around selling severed heads like a shady APX security salesman), (yes this sentence is stilling going on even though I’m sure there was supposed to be a semicolon somewhere and this is the second parenthesis)(speaking of semicolons; there) and the highlight was the blowdart archery shown below!  The blowdart archery was so much fun although I resent the fact that my target was twice as far away as Jade’s target.  I will say that I successfully hit the offending villager and since I know that my darts were poisoned I am sure that he is going to have a hurt ear for days to come.  The best parts of the village, like every cool park, were the shows.

There were two shows we attended and the same group did both but the second wasn’t really worth mentioning and was just a way to stay of the rain.  The first show, however, was in a beautiful covered amphitheater with a mote between the performers and us. The show highlighted many different tribes and had beautiful music, cool costumes, and interesting dancing.  Everything from war to weddings were described and throughout the performance I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the dancing, sound system, and show in general.  We liked it so much we even bought a CD of the Aboriginal Songs that is quite the interesting soundtrack while studying.  It was amazing and much more similar to Native American and Polynesians dances than I was expecting (it was very reminiscent of Living Legends from BYU).

The Formosan Aboriginal Village was an awesome experience and well worth spending a day wandering its semi deserted pathways.  If you ever visit Taiwan, make sure to stop at Sun Moon Lake and visit the village, you’ll be grateful to learn a little more about Taiwan and have fun away from (most) tour groups. 

P.S. Every time my wife reads my blog post she says that I need to spell check and all that nonsense.  I figure I barely have enough time to write these posts so editing is never going to happen.  However, if some day I were rich enough to afford and editor I would definitely get them.  All of this is just to say that I’m sorry for the unintentional writing errors.

Some of the very cool architecture.
I told you they had a wall of heads!

Never leave a spear lying around.
I will pick it up.

Playing a mouth harp remarkably similar to that
found in the US Appalachia

The sweet stage and costumes
P.P.S. I forgot to mention that I learned one thing very clearly while watching the shows at the village, that Chinese people always think they are the funniest people in the room.

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