July 15, 2009

A remote mountain village with artistic spirit-Wutai

Wutai is a small remote mountain village, located in the southern area of Taiwan, Pingtung County. Wutai is about 1000 meters above sea level and has the largest Rukai Tribe in Taiwan.It is frequently shrouded in swirling white mists and fog in early mornings, adding an air of mystery to its already enchanting scene.

To get to Wutai, there are bus services to Sandimen at the Pingtung train station. At Sandimen, you can ask the Wutai Homestay host to pick you up. You can also drive or rent a motorcycle from the Pingtung train station to Wutai. It is an about 30 km drive on Tai.# 24. The mountain road condition to Wutai is excellent with astonishing scenery.

We rented a 100 cc motorcycle at the Pingtung train station. There were many motorcycle rental stores available near the train station. After an hour riding, we arrived at the Wutai Scenic Area Climber Service Station where we needed to fill out the mountain entrance permit. Right after we passed the entrance, we were attracted by all the colorful Rukai tribe art sculptures (Totem) on the walls. Totem can also be seen on the houses in the villages, all have rich design presenting fascinating atmosphere. Taking time to see all the details of the Totem was the most reward moment during the trip.

"Sabau” is the greeting word when greeted by the friendly Rukai people in the villages. “What are you shooting?” said the head of the neighborhood. She was telling us that the purpose of the stone slab house in the yard is to bake and dry the taros. From there, we were taken to her house, and she showed us all her handmade dedicate Rukai dresses, and head dress in her closet. The Leopard teeth head dress represented the experience of hunting. Once the male hunters hunted several leopards or wild hogs, they had lily placed on top of the head dress with permission from the chief.

Women also wear the head dress with laruzuruzu (wild Bracken) around it which is supposed to relieve headache and keep cool.

Lily is a very important symbol in Rukai culture.It is also Rukai’s tribal flower. Besides the chiefs of the tribe, only the brave hunting men and women of chastity are qualified to wear lily. This is a very strict social norm in Rukai tribe. The lily can be removed if the women were found to commit to adultery after or before marriage. A man is also allowed to wear a lily on his headdress during special ceremonies if he proves himself a good hunter. We met a darling couple in Shenshan located about 15 minutes from Wutai. They told us a Rukai story and I will post the article on the later blog…

There is a legend about ‘Hundred-pace snakes” in Rukai- A brave hunter found two eggs and stored them in the pottery jar. Hundred-Paces Snakes were placed outside the pottery jar to protect these two eggs. After many years, a men and a woman were born from the eggs, and they were believed as the ancestors of the Rukai Tribe. Rukai people treat Hundred-Pace snakes and lilies with the respectful manner. In each family house, walls and lintels are adorned with totemic symbols, Hundred-pace snakes, lilies, ceramic vessels, eagles, and glass beads.

Millet can be seen everywhere in the township of Wutai and is also the primary food beside potato and taros that Rukai tribe consume daily. Now is the time that beautiful millet is picked and dried by the sun.During August each year, a harvest festival is held, symbolizing an end of a year and welcome of a coming new year.

The Rukai is also famous by their Stone-Slab houses which were built with pieces of stone slab with no cement or nails. Stone-Slab can be seen on the walls, floors, ground, stairs, and even on the bed top.There is also a custom that, when someone in the family passes on, he/she is buried in the ground under the Stone-Slab house.

Wandering in the Wutai villages, we enjoyed and left with a lasting impression of the art sculptures, friendly people, and facinately culture atmosphere. Rukai are blessed with the artistic gift among all the Aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.There is no better way to see the beauty of Wutai and experience the true culture of Rukai than spend your days there....

Please click to see the below photo slideshow, and listen to a tribal song-南王系之歌

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