Taiwan Studies

Taiwan Studies

HOW I EARNED A MASTER'S DEGREE IN TAIWAN STUDIES WITH A BACKPACK AND VIDEO CAMERA

Going to work on my thesis in Laipunuk, Taiwan | Nei Ben Lu 內本鹿

Backstory

In 2003, I studied at Minghsin University of Science and Technology (MUST), and at the National Chengchi University (NCCU) Mandarin Language Center in Taipei, Taiwan. Soon after, I applied to study a Master's degree at the graduate school at NCCU. I also applied for, and received, a Taiwan Scholarship which helped me fund my course in Taiwan Studies.

The next four years of my life alternated between the classroom in Taipei and the remote mountains of southern Taiwan. I spent most of my life savings on travel, camera gear and mountaineering equipment.

My studies led me to a high-mountain watershed named in Chinese Nei Ben Lu (內本鹿), or Laipunuk in the local Bunun language. The Bunun, one of Taiwan's 16 ethnolinguistic groups, had moved to remote Laipunuk to hide from the Japanese army which had taken control of the island and the indigenous peoples beginning after the1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Bunun rebels (front row) after their capture by the Japanese Police during the 1941 "Laipunuk Incident" which led to their forced removal from the mountains.

The story behind this rare photo of 'Haisul' (center) and other Bunun warriors has recently been published in Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics: "The Last Refuge and Forced Migration of a Taiwanese Indigenous People During the Japanese Colonization of Taiwan – An Ethnohistory"; and featured on my 'Laipunuk Incident' webpage.

Laipunuk 內本鹿

Laipunuk, in the southern mountain highlands, was the last refuge of the Bunun, remaining unconquered by the Japanese until just before the end of WWII. It remained the only unmapped location in all of Taiwan. Bunun youth at that time grew up with traditional culture – until the arrival of the Japanese field police.

A few of these children survived, and at the time of my graduate research, they ranged in age from 70 to 90 years old. I found that they were eager to share their personal experiences and unique culture.

Below, is the map I developed for publication marking the location of Laipunuk.

Location and geography of Laipunuk 內本鹿 Taiwan © Steven Martin

If you find this topic interesting, watch the video playlist below and continue reading to learn more about this unforgettable topic.

Taiwan Studies Playlist | YouTube | 12 Videos

Graduate Studies at National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan

The Laipunuk project formed part of my post-graduate studies and ultimately my MA thesis at NCCU, and in 2006, I received my Master's Degree in Taiwan Studies. If your interested in studying in this program, follow the links here for the International Master's Program in Asia-Pacific Studies (IMAS).

2006 | Receiving my Master of Arts diploma from the president of National Chengchi University, Taiwan, ROC

Tommie Williamson

Within a few months of starting my graduate program at National Chengchi University, I was lucky enough to meet filmmaker Tommie Williamson. He was the key person who invited me to Taitung on the southeastern coast of the island and opened the door to the Laipunuk oral history project.

Tommie provided me with technical support, office space, and lodging at the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation (Bunun Village).

American Filmmaker Tommie Williamson (1955-2017) | Bunun Village

Austronesian Taiwan | The Big Picture

Having lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for twenty-five years, I immediately felt a personal connection to Taiwan and the native culture, naming it the other Big Island. The two islands share the ancient and mysterious Pacific Ocean legacy of Austronesian-speaking peoples.

Little did I know when I first came to study in Taiwan, but the island was the source of the centuries-long process of the peopling of the Pacific, the so-called “Pacific Rainbow” that maps the migration of peoples, materials and languages across the islands of the Pacific, from Taiwan all the way across to Hawaii (see Figure 1 below, Distribution of the Austronesian Language Family, ECAI Pacific Language Mapping).

Distribution of the Austronesian Language Family and Major Subgroupings | ECAI Pacific Language Mapping

Neolithic Austronesian Prehistory | Stone Pillars of the Peinan Culture | c. 3000 BP

My Master's Thesis

My Master's thesis focused on the last living members of the Istanda family, elderly Bunun who were born in or near Laipunuk.

The research was made possible through my Taiwan Scholarship and friends like Nabu Istanda at the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation (BCEF), Taiwan's first charitable body created by indigenous people, for indigenous people.

Developed by Pastor Pai Kwang Sheng in 1995 based on his vision to build the Bunun Village, BCEF is managed by Laipunuk descendants and their families.

Nabu Istanda (left) interviews his uncle (right) about his experience in Laipunuk | Bunun Village | Taitung, Taiwan

My research was ethnohistorical in practice, that is, recording oral history and comparing it with existing written documents. In order to do this, I lived with the Bunun tribespeople for four years, recording their ways of life, their music, their traditions and their histories.

Tama Biung Istanda 1917–2007 | Bunun Elder from Laipunuk 內本鹿 Taiwan

Tama Biung's story has recently been published in the Sage Journal of Ethnography: "A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range"; and featured on my Tama Biung ethnography webpage

Significant challenges to the ethnohistorical approach included my limited language skills, and although I understood basic Chinese, the Laipunuk elders mainly spoke Bunun and Japanese, and historical documents were for the most part in the Japanese script of that era.

With the support of the Bunun Village, Tommie Williamson, and my translator and guide, Nabu Istanda, I was able to develop my skills in ethnographic filmmaking and face the challenges of translating these heart-felt stories of the Bunun and their mountain home.

I was also invited by Nabu to participate in several mountaineering expeditions in order to see Laipunuk for myself (see photos, videos, and the links provided). I quickly learned the trekking to Laipunuk was serious business, akin to mountain climbing without the safety of climbing ropes -- the most dangerous adventures of my life!

Nabu Istanda and Viliang | 2006 Laipunuk Expedition 內本鹿

For four years, I lived with and listened to, the Bunun people. I recorded films of the tribal elders sharing oral histories of events such as the arrival of Japanese forces in Laipunuk, the last region of Taiwan to be officially subjugated, a forced and tearful resettlement of the Bunun in 1941 from their high mountain homes to the malaria-infested lowlands near Taitung on Taiwan's east coast.

Their story was as fascinating as it was tragic. Once I got to know this family, including Tama Biung Istanda (pictured above), one of the last living Bunun with personal knowledge in old Laipunuk, I found myself deeply involved in the project of recording and translating their stories.

I fulfilled the commitment I made to share their stories with future generations.

2006 Laipunuk 內本鹿 Expedition across Taiwan's Central Range

Bunun youth program at Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nabu Istanda center with yellow bandana

Rare photo of a young Bunun leader in Laipunuk

Research note: Supporting this work, I was able to locate this rare photo of a young Bunun leader (center) in Laipunuk, apparently cloaked in Leopard skin and adorned with Paiwan (one of the 16 Taiwanese indigenous peoples) style headdress adorned with boar teeth. The photo attests to the eclectic nature of the Bunun who adopted cultural traditions for other tribes, likely through trade and the practice of marriage exchange, and was likely taken in the early-mid 1900s.

Bunun Chief in Laipunuk, Taiwan | Photo by Sagawa (Japanese Researcher) (n.d.)

According to Nabu Istanda: “Bunun normally don’t wear Leopard skin cloaks; only Rukai, Paiwan, and Puyuma nobles may wear this; nor was it common to wear headwear decorated with wild boar teeth like those of the Rukai or Paiwan; normally the Bunun only have one knife, yet the man pictured two knives like that of the Rukai and Paiwan; also the Laipunuk Bunun had brass bracelets and armbands, which likely came from Paiwan or Chinese; it may show good relations” (Istanda, N. 2006 interview).

The Last Refuge of an Indigenous People

In my research, I refer to Laipunuk as the last refuge of the Bunun. Their history is that of a marginalized people who experienced rapid and forced integration into a dominant foreign culture – spelling the end of the life the Bunun and neighboring tribal peoples had known for centuries.

Nevertheless, the remoteness of the region, coupled with the relatively late arrival of Japanese forces compared to the rest of Taiwan, afforded the Bunun children of the 1930s a traditional indigenous way of life. The boys learned hunting skills from their fathers, and the girls learned weaving and food-gathering from their mothers.

They are the last of their kind, and it is an immense privilege to have the opportunity to document their stories.

– Steven Martin

2006 Expedition team posing in front of a Taiwan yellow cypress | From left, Nabu, Haisul, Viliang, Steven, Biung | Photo 石头 Shítou

UNIVERSITY NEWS

Faculty of International Studies Press Releases

20th Anniversary of Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines

In 2014, Dr. Steven Martin was invited to Taipei to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines in cooperation with Academia Sinica, the foremost research institute in Taiwan, ROC. The Museum offered Steven a place in their upcoming publication, a book to commemorate their 20th anniversary: Religion, Law and State: Cultural Re-invigoration in the New Age. After three years of communication and collaboration, the Museum’s book has been published and is now available to English and Chinese readers.

Opening Ceremony of the 2014 International Conference on Formosan Indigenous Peoples | Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines

Papers and Presentations

Thank you for visiting my Taiwan Learning Adventure page.

I hope you enjoy the photos, videos, and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about my Taiwan Research, or other Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Cornerstone webpages, photos, and videos

 

Bunun Music Download | Taiwan pop star 'Buing' (wma files)

At the request of Nabu Istanda, Bunun pop star 'Biung' composed the modern jam 'Laipunuk Song' to represent the dynamic sense and danger of going to the mountains.

Taiwan Photo Journal - Laipunuk - Steven Andrew Martin

Laipunuk 內本鹿 2006

Ethnohistorical Research

Ethnohistorical Research

AMONG THE HEADHUNTERS OF LAIPUNUK  內本鹿  LAST REFUGE OF THE TAIWAN ABORIGINES

Rare 1932 photo of a young Bunun couple in Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu, Taiwan

How it began

In 2003, I met David Blundell, an anthropologist who studied aesthetic and visual anthropology at UCLA and was teaching a course at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan. The course was called Culture and Ethnic Structure of Taiwan, and several students were making a film for their class project. David and the students invited me to learn more about the course and the film project, which focused on the Bunun, an indigenous ethnolinguistic group.

The film is named Rendezvouz with the Moon.

One night, I received a phone call from Tommie Williamson (1955-2017) (see my Taiwan Studies page), a producer from the US who I had met from one of the students in the class. Tommie explained that he was planning to videotape the original stories of a particular Bunun family who had once lived in a remote jungle valley, high in the mountains of southern Taiwan.

They were among the last headhunters of the Formosan Aborigines.

Interview set up | Bunun Educational and Cultural Foundation in Taitung, Taiwan | Tommie Williamson (1955-2017), left, and Langus and Nabu Istanda, right

My first film project

Before long, I was making films with Tommie, conducting ethnographic research, and writing my MA thesis. In 2004, I made a short, six-minute film about the research for my history class project, which I named In Our Hearts and Minds (posted here and on the University Filmworks YouTube Channel).

In 2006, I earned my Master's of Arts in Taiwan Studies (currently Asia-Pacific Studies) based on the video tape recordings and their translation to English.

2004 | In Our Hearts and Minds | Taiwan Studies

Cornerstone webpages and photos

  • Taiwan Studies | webpage
  • Ethnographic Film | webpage
  • Ethnohistorical Research | webpage
  • 2005 Bunun youth program | photos
  • 2006 Laipunuk expedition | photos
  • 2017 Shung-Ye Museum (Book Chapter) | webpage
  • 2020 Tama Biung ethnography (Publication) | webpage
  • 2021 Neibenlu Incident ethnohistory (Publication) | webpage

The Bunun and Laipunuk

Tama Biung Istanda (1917-2007) Bunun Culture, Taiwan | Key Informant for the Laipunuk 內本鹿 Nei Ben Lu Ethnographic Research Project

The Bunun are one of the 16 indigenous groups recognized by the Taiwan government and have a rich history of living in the high-mountains.

The mountainous region of Laipunuk, pronounced Nei Ben Lu (內本鹿) in Chinese, was once a group of Bunun villages, and was among the last frontier areas to be annexed into Imperial Japan in Taiwan (see Maps below).

The remoteness of the region, coupled with the late arrival of Japanese forces, afforded the Bunun children of that time to have a traditional lifestyle and observe their indigenous way of life.

To learn more about this story, please visit my Taiwan Learning Adventure page.

Interview with Tama Biung Istanda 1917-2007 | Bunun Educational and Cultural Foundation | Taitung, Taiwan

The region of Laipunuk 內本鹿 Taiwan | Among the last frontier areas to be annexed into Imperial Japan © Steven Martin

Laipunuk 內本鹿 Map showing the Japanese trail and police stations, and our 2006 cross-island expedition © Steven Martin


2006 Master of Arts in Taiwan Studies

In 2006, I earned my Master of Arts in Taiwan Studies, from National Chengchi University 國立政治大學 (NCCU). The research was based mainly on the translation of my ethnographic films from the Bunun language to English, and the interpretation of meaning and content. The abstract and full thesis are available below for English readers.

Thesis Title: Ethnohistorical Perspectives of the Bunun: A Case Study of Laipunuk, Taiwan [ 台灣原住民之民族史觀 : 以布農族內本鹿為例 ]

National Chengchi University (NCCU) | Institutional Repository | Author: Steven Andrew Martin  石倜文

Field research in Laipunuk during the 2005 expedition

Abstract

This thesis is a compilation of ethnographic narrative and ethnohistorical research in the form of a case study of the Bunun people of the Laipunuk geographic region of Taiwan. The research encompasses the life experiences of three members of the Istanda family, with cross verification of narrative history from extant documentation where possible. Informants were videotaped, audio taped, and where not possible, extensive and detailed notes were taken. Some informants also served as translators for others; one particularly valuable source is conversant in the Bunun language, Japanese, Chinese, and English, providing invaluable material and insight. This report begins with an overview of indigenous peoples, their prehistory, and their relationship with the greater Austronesian culture. This is followed by a brief survey of each indigenous culture’s social organization, with emphasis on the Bunun. Included is a political survey of major transformational and developmental periods in Taiwan’s history, beginning with the Dutch East India Company period, and ending with the modern Democratic Reform period. I have concluded, based on my extensive work with these indigenous peoples and my examination of available historical documentation, that Taiwan’s indigenous people have endured constant pressure from external forces and, as a direct result, have undergone acute social and cultural degradation from the loss of their native homelands. Nevertheless, vast knowledge is still available from elderly informants born into a relatively pristine Bunun culture. This knowledge contributes to the field of Taiwan Studies by providing an objective survey across the history of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, offering a view through a previously closed window into the richness of Taiwan’s full history. It is recommended that such studies continue and expand.

Keywords: Bunun, Laipunuk, Austronesian, Taiwan, ethnohistorical, indigenous


2011 International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies | The Last Frontier of the Taiwan Aborigines

In 2011, I published a section of my MA thesis in the International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies (IJAPS), featuring the oral history of one of my informants, 84-year-old Langus Istanda. Born in 1926, Langus remembers the arrival of the Japanese police and experienced the forced extradition of her family from their region. Her childhood memories include stories of games, adventures, a safe and comfortable environment, and a sense of wonder for the modernity of the Japanese culture. She remembers the forced relocations and the period of illness and death of friends and relatives.

Below, I have provided a reference for the journal, an abstract, and a sample video tape used in developing the paper.

Martin, S. A. (2011). Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu)—The last frontier of the Taiwan aborigines during the Japanese occupation on Taiwan: Ethnographic narratives of a Bunun elderThe International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies (IJAPS), 7(1) 123–142.

Oral history of Langus Istanda | Ethnographic narrative

Abstract

The Bunun are one of the indigenous groups of Taiwan that have a rich history of living in the high-mountains. The region of Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu) was once a group of mountain villages and among the last frontier areas to be annexed into Imperial Japan in Taiwan. The remoteness of the region, coupled with the late arrival of Japanese forces, afforded the Bunun children of that time to have a lifestyle, where they participated in and observed their indigenous way of life. This research is an oral ethnography of Langus Istanda, born in 1920, remembering firsthand the arrival of the Japanese police and experienced the forced extradition of her family from their region. The research finds that the informant’s childhood memories are generally positive, inasmuch as she tells stories of games, adventures, a safe and comfortable environment, and a sense of wonder for the modernity of the Japanese culture; yet her memories move to a negative tone regarding the forced relocations and the period of illness and death of friends and relatives. The research indicates that the Laipunuk Bunun have endured constant pressure from external forces and, as a direct result, have undergone acute social, cultural, and linguistic degradation from the loss of their native homelands. This study contributes to an understanding of the value of cultural resource management by providing an objective and comprehensive record for future generations; it opens a pathway to Laipunuk and Bunun epistemology in the English language. Ultimately, the study proved to be mutually beneficial to both researcher and participant, offering extensive source of information as well as a sense of reconciliation to the Bunun elders; it represents the resilience of Bunun heritage.

Keywords: Laipunuk, Bunun, Taiwan, Central Range, heritage, indigenous, oral ethnography


2011 Journal of International Studies | Rebuilding A Bunun House

Martin, S. A. (2011). Rebuilding mama’s house—An ethnohistorical reconstruction and homecoming of the Bunun on Taiwan. Journal of International Studies1(2) 61–78. Phuket, Thailand: Faculty of International Studies, Prince of Songkla University.

In 2011, I developed a section of my MA thesis for publication in the Journal of International Studies. Ethnohistorical methods served to conceptually reconstruct an abandoned Bunun house located in the remote mountains of southern Taiwan. The house was reconstructed in 2008 based on my 2005-2006 videotaped oral history of three informants, a 19-day expedition to the house site (see videos at the bottom of this page), and the development of drawing and architectural design videos.

Below, I have provided a some background and materials employed in the research.

2006 Takivahlas Bunun House Site | 1,365 meters above sea level

1. | Original kalabatune bark house

2. | Tagnas reeds reconstruction

3. | Slate house reconstruction with window

Mama's Laipunuk house floor plan based on site visit and interviews

Abstract

This study is the ethnography of three members of an indigenous Bunun family on Taiwan. In 1941, during the Japanese occupation era, the family was forced to abandon their home. The research moved to conceptually reconstruct their domicile through in-depth interviews followed by a 19-day mountaineering expedition to the remote village of Takivahlas in the Laipunuk region. The research reveals four stages of indigenous adaptation and reconstruction over time as access to knowledge and new resources became available. Ultimately, the study pinpoints the severity and outcome of foreign cultural incursion and sheds light on the cultural revival and homecoming of the Bunun with the house as a point of contact with the past; it serves to reconcile the past with the present to produce a lasting story and insight to Bunun epistemology and heritage for English readers.

Keywords: Taiwan aborigines, Austronesian, Bunun, Laipunuk, Ethnohistorical

Ethnohistorical house reconstruction 1

Ethnohistorical house reconstruction 2

Mama's house reconstructed in 2008 based on the research

Biung Istanda (1917–2007)

Langus Istanda (1926 – 2015)

Nabu Istanda (1964 – )


2017 Book Chapter

Cultural continuum among the Bunun of Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu), southern Taiwan (Ch. 8)

Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2017). Cultural continuum among the Bunun of Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu), southern Taiwan (Ch. 8) (pp. 215–246). In H. Chang and A. Mona [C. Tsai] (Eds.), Religion, law and state: Cultural re-invigoration in the new age. Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines and SMC: Taipei.

Abstract

Over the past century, the Bunun people, an Austronesian-speaking indigenous culture of Taiwan, have withstood acute marginalization resulting from outside incursion, particularly from the Japanese (1895–1945) and the Nationalist Government (since 1945). However, in recent years democratic reforms ushered in opportunities for cultural conservation and new sustainability through cultural resource management. This research is focused on a particular group of Is-bukun Bunun speakers from the high-mountain villages of Laipunuk, Yen-Ping Township, Taitung County, Southern Taiwan. It seeks to identify aspects of intersystem cultural continuum amidst acute social change induced by external pressures. The research employed the translation of rare Chinese documents and interpretation by scholars in the discipline, the recordation of oral history through video and audio devices, by in-depth interview, and through participant observation. The study found that the Bunun have demonstrated profound cultural resilience in the contexts of ritual dance, marriage, hunting, religion, and the identification of place. Cultural traditions and behaviors were often modified and adapted to fit within the cultural norms and expectations of dominant cultures, yet deep intrinsic meanings were carried forward, crossing spiritual and generational gaps. The research offers a window to Bunun epistemology and cultural systematics, exploring how indigenous peoples perpetuate their beliefs and values through internal cultural transformation; it serves to document the home-grown cultural resource management of a Taiwanese human treasure for English readers.

Keywords: Southern Taiwan, Bunun, Laipunuk, Formosan indigenous, Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation, historical cultural continuum


2022 Journal of Ethnography (Sage)

A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range

Martin, S. A. (2020). A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range. Ethnography, 23(2) 153–180. doi.org/10.1177/1466138120937037

Abstract

This paper offers an ethnographic life history account of a Bunun hunter, Tama Biung Istanda, from Laipunuk, Taiwan, based on academic research and fieldwork. Audio-visual tapes recorded by the author in Taitung County, Taiwan, were reviewed and translated alongside extant Chinese, Japanese and English sources. The study constructs a remembered life into readable coherent sequences on behalf of an indigenous peoples, many of whom now seek international recognition as part of their struggle for essential entitlements such as land rights, access to traditional hunting grounds, and other natural, legal, and cultural resources. The testimony of Tama Biung Istanda, translated into English and summarised here for future generations, provides a compelling new source of data on the Bunun heritage that can help to assist knowledge for the local and scholarly community and cultural resource management practices.

Keywords: Bunun, ethnohistory, hunting, Japanese Colony of Taiwan, Laipunuk or Neibenlu (內本鹿), Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples


2022 Journal of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics

The last refuge and forced migration of a Taiwanese indigenous people during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan – An ethnohistory

Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2022). The last refuge and forced migration of a Taiwanese indigenous people during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan – An ethnohistory. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics28(2) 206–231. doi.org/10.1080/13537113.2021.2011545.

Abstract

Through ethnohistorical studies, this paper explores social and political perspectives during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan which led to the forced resettlement of an entire indigenous society. Ethnographic life histories and translations of official Japanese police announcements are used to explore the 1941 Neibenlu (Laipunuk) Incident (內本鹿事件), a critical event in the oral history of the Bunun, a Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous people of the southern mountains of Taiwan. We examine the reopening of Neibenlu’s Japanese mountain trail and its police stations offering new access to Bunun heritage to inform present and future generations. The study offers an innovative account of a neglected topic of indigenous resistance to imperialism, combining oral ethnography, and historical textual analysis.

Keywords: Bunun; forced migration; Japanese colonization of Taiwan; Laipunuk; Neibenlu (內本鹿); Taiwanese (Formosan) indigenous peoples


DVD | Indigenous Music of Taiwan

In 2005, as part of my coursework in Taiwan Studies, I made several films on the musical traditions of the Bunun based on audio-visual recordings made at the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation in Taidong, Taiwan.

Overview

As European powers contacted and influenced ethnolinguistic Austronesian-speaking groups in Southeast Asia, vocal folk songs were influenced by percussion instruments. In contrast, Taiwan aborigines held on to acappella traditions, and vocal music retained rich and complicated style and content.

Acappella styles range from the most primitive to the most complicated of all modern vocal music. With songs for nearly every occasion of life, content includes those for religious ceremonies, worship, nature, work and recreation.

Indigenous Music of Taiwan | Part 1

Indigenous Music of Taiwan | Part 2

Synopsis of the film

The Introduction is a newly created song for the kids to sing on the Bunun Buluo stage. The music was composed by Daganau, from the Paiwan and Rukai ethnic groups, and illustrates a variety of cultural influences. It is intended to be song by the younger generation, capturing the spirit of today’s young indigenous people and inspiring them to come together in harmony. The lyrics is Chinese and includes: “Come everyone sing… Join us to sing… May this never change… Black and white come together – no matter where you’re from – Taidong, Kaosiung… Think globally and act locally…”

Macilumaha. A newly created piece for the Bunun Buluo show. The very beginning of the song may be rooted in the Bunun tradition to call ahead to the village when returning from the hunt or from time away. In such case, the voice should be that of a familiar member of the village and signal that there is no reason for alarm.

Pasibutbut. Often called the "Harvest Prayer Song," it expresses hope for the millet to grow and provide a bountiful harvest. It features an 8-tone harmony in the chromatic style unique in the entire world. Good harmony is important for a good harvest. Today this song has evolved to represent good harmony for good luck. Gathered in a circle and holding hands, the group’s movement is counter-clockwise. According to one version of Bunun oral history, a long time ago a hunter went to the mountains and after hearing the sound of honey bees, he brought this sound home to his family group or clan.

Pisilaiya. Traditional hunting song. The music features the shaking of the reeds and is usually sung before the hunt. The music is used to worship the animal's spirits and calls them to come. The lyrics include… "May the cooked meat come to our basket…" and the performer calls the name of animals, such as goat, bear, deer, and flying squirrel.

Malastabang. Traditional Bunun announcement song or the “Report of events”. This ritual was originally used to announce the triumph or details of headhunting, as if a forum for bragging rights. During the Japanese period, when headhunting was outlawed, the significance changed to focus only on the events of hunting animals, such as how, when, where, or how many animals were killed. During the Kuomintang period, hunting was outlawed and the song fell into decline. Today, the Bunun are allowed to return to various mountain areas, and the ritual has evolved to report the events of exploring ancestral villages and tribal mapping.

Featured in this video, a young man announces which village he has actually returned to in recent years. Before drinking from the gourd, three drops of millet wine are sprinkled as an offering to heaven, earth, and spirit. The report is traditionally done by men, and when announcements or actions are favorable, his wife will enter the circle and dance to show her support.

Malastabang is also a method of identification when clans came together, revealing who you are, where you’re from, and serves as an indication of eligibility for marriage. For example, the performer states: “Taki-Luvun” meaning his mother’s clan came from "Luvun".

I was fortunate to have the experience of participating in several expeditions to Laipunuk with friends from the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation, also known as the Bunun Village or Bunun Buluo. The videos below were taken in 2006, when our party crossed the Central Range of Taiwan from west to east during a 19-day expedition (view map).

Clip 00:21 | Crossing a stream near Shou, Laipunuk (內本鹿)

Clip 00:19 | Crossing a landslide near Madaipulan, Laipunuk (內本鹿)

Expedition Video | 07:31 | Laipunuk 內本鹿 2006 | Takivhalas, Laipunuk, to Ten Thousand Mountain God Lake, Central Range

Thank you for visiting my Ethnographic Research page.

I hope you enjoy the photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about my experience in ethnographic film or Taiwan Studies, or would like to arrange for me to give a public presentation, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Cornerstone webpages and photos

  • Taiwan Studies | webpage
  • Ethnographic Film | webpage
  • Ethnohistorical Research | webpage
  • 2005 Bunun youth program | photos
  • 2006 Laipunuk expedition | photos
  • 2017 Shung-Ye Museum (Book Chapter) | webpage
  • 2020 Tama Biung ethnography (Publication) | webpage
  • 2021 Neibenlu Incident ethnohistory (Publication) | webpage

Bibliography | Papers and proceedings

Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2022). The last refuge and forced migration of a Taiwanese indigenous people during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan – An ethnohistory. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 28(2) 206–231doi.org/10.1080/13537113.2021.2011545.

Martin, S. A. (2022). A Taiwan knowledge keeper of indigenous Bunun – An ethnographic historical narrative of Laipunuk (內本鹿), southern mountain range. Ethnography, 23(2)153–180doi.org/10.1177/1466138120937037

Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2017). Cultural continuum among the Bunun of Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu), southern Taiwan (pp. 215–246) (Chapter 8). In H. Chang and A. Mona [C. Tsai] (Eds.), Religion, law and state: Cultural re-invigoration in the new age. Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines and SMC: Taipei.

Martin, S. A., & Blundell, D. (2014). A new trial for the journey home to the Bunun villages of old Laipunuk, Taiwan: Contextualizing island Formosa through cultural heritage, digital mapping, and museologyProceedings of the 2014 International Conference on Formosan Indigenous peoples: Contemporary Perspectives (p. 89). Taipei, Taiwan, ROC, September 15–17.

Martin, S. A. (2011). Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu)—The last frontier of the Taiwan aborigines during the Japanese occupation on Taiwan: Ethnographic narratives of a Bunun elder. The International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies (IJAPS), 7(1) 123–142.

Martin, S. A. (2011). Rebuilding mama’s house—An ethnohistorical reconstruction and homecoming of the Bunun on Taiwan. Journal of International Studies1(2) 61–78.

Martin, S. A. (2010). Laipunuk (Nei Ben Lu)—The last frontier of the Bunun during the Japanese occupation on Taiwan: Ethnographic narratives of an Isbukun elder. Scholarly presentation [PowerPoint]. 3rd Annual PSU Phuket Conference: Multidisciplinary Studies on Sustainable Development. Nov. 17–19. Prince of Songkla University, Phuket, Thailand.