Henry Westheim © 2001
Discovering the Roots of Taiwan's
Earliest People at
the National Museum of Natural Science
1, Kuan Chien Rd., Taichung.
Museum hours are Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm.
By Cheryl Robbins Translated
by Sharon Yang
Long before the first Chinese settlers arrived
on these shores, Taiwan was the exclusive domain of the
Despite this fact, there is little public
knowledge of where these earliest settlers themselves came
from. As it turns out, Taiwan's Aborigines--with nine recognized
tribes today--are considered part of the Austronesian people
As early as 6,000 years ago, these native
people were already excellent canoe builders. Groups of
Taiwanese Aborigines set out to explore the seas and migrated
first to the Philippines, with some settling as far away
as Madagascar and New Zealand. These isolated groups then
began to develop different lifestyles and customs.
The newest special exhibit of the National
Museum of Natural Science, entitled "The Austronesian
Family: Past, Present and Future", explores the similarities
and differences of the native peoples of Taiwan, the Philippines,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Polynesia (a group of islands in the
Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand and Hawaii), Melanesia
(a group of South Pacific islands northeast of Australia)
and Micronesia (a small Pacific island group east of the
Philippines). These native peoples speak the same type of
language and are all referred to as Austronesians.
This exhibit includes canoes, masks, carvings, clothing
and models of meeting halls and homes of various Austronesian
groups. In another special addition, members of the
Tsou tribe (from the Alishan area) have built a "kuba"
in the courtyard area adjacent to the Chinese Science
Hall. In the Tsou language, "kuba" (pronounced
koo-ba) refers to a men's meeting hall. This hall
is very important to the tribal culture, as it the
place where young males are trained in tribal customs
and traditions, and where they learn tribal legends
passed on orally from generation to generation.
Henry Westheim © 2001
During weekends, on the first floor of the
Global Environment Hall, museum staff and volunteers will
be performing dances of the Amis tribe. This tribe is located
along the coastal plains of eastern Taiwan. The public will
have the chance to join in, to learn first-hand some of
the ceremonial dances of this aboriginal tribe. Contact
the museum for exact show times.
(The exhibit runs until February 28, 2002
and is located in the 4th Special Exhibition Gallery in
the basement of the Chinese Science Hall. The National Museum
of Natural Science is located at 1, Kuan Chien Rd., Taichung.
Museum hours are Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm. Call (04)2322-6940
for more information.)