Sunday, September 28, 2008

We have not disappeared! The Siraya people of Tainan County (

Tainan County, where there are few mainlanders and even fewer Hakkas, is usually thought of as a Hoklo stronghold. It does seem, at first glance, to be a place dominated by families of Han Chinese descent who have lived on the island for two or three centuries, and who at home speak the language variously called Taiwanese, Southern Min, or Holo.

The leaders of the Siraya Culture Association (SCA) think otherwise. They say that many Tainan people are in fact of aboriginal descent - even if they do not know it.

Jimmy Huang, a US-based linguist working to revive the Sirayan language, is one of those who did not understand his true ethnic background until recently.

In 2004, Huang moved to University of Florida to begin work on a doctorate in linguistics. In the summer of 2005 he returned to Taiwan to see his family, and also to visit the National Museum of Prehistory in Taidong County.

In the museum he saw a display of traditional Siraya implements. "They included things like fishing equipment, bamboo utensils, and a cradle," he recalls. "I realized that these things were common in my own home. I was confused because back then I only thought of myself as simply 'Taiwanese' - ethnically speaking, Southern Min or Hoklo."

"I called my home in Jiali Township, Tainan County, to ask about my identity. Surprisingly, the elders told me, 'Oh, yes. Our family is actually 'fwan-a' (barbarian). That's when I first learned I was in fact a Sirayan aborigine..."

The complete article, together with photos provided by the SCA, is here.

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