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  • The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma; From Headhunting to the Modern World
  • Serge Dunis
The Aborigines of Taiwan: The Puyuma; From Headhunting to the Modern World, by Josiane Cauquelin. English translation by Caroline Charras-Wheeler. London: Routledge/Curzon, 2004. ISBN 0-415-31413-5; 277 pages, maps, figures, photo-graphs, tables, appendixes, notes, bibliography, index. US$125.00.

Here is a solid book! It is the work ofa lifetime, living up to the expectations of Georges Condominas, who pens its foreword. The author, JosianeCauquelin, is a distinguished linguist and ethnologist of the Southeast Asia and Austronesian World Department at the Centre National dela Recherche Scientifique in France. She offers us a thorough analysis of the Puyuma, one of the ten Aboriginal communities of Taiwan, whose land holds such important landmarks as the Peinan archaeological site and the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung.

In her introduction, Cauquelin presents the rich background of Taiwan (the name means, literally, "the high peaks"), the very first Austronesian stepping-stone between Mainland China and the Pacific. This event occurred some 4,000 years ago, before the Portuguese found it beautiful ("formosa" in Portuguese), and before the Dutch and Spaniards vied with one another for its colonization. Koxinga, son of a Japanese mother and a Chinese merchant-turned-pirate and then admiral, was eventually forced to Taiwan by a drastic Manchu evacuation of the Chinese coast. Once on the island, Koxinga ousted the Dutch in 1661–1662 and drove the west-coast natives to the mountains of the lofty central range and the narrow strip of the east coast. Then, following the French intervention in China in 1884, the Ch'ing dynasty turned Taiwan into its twenty-second province. Cauquelin appropriately highlights the lasting influence of Japanese rule that followed, from 1895 to 1945. The book's last chapter also briefly reminds us that the Taiwanese Aborigines are emerging from the Sinicization (process of making things Chinese), first implemented by Chiang Kai-shek's government in 1949, which lasted until the early 1990s. "For 40 years, aborigine children were forbidden to speak their mother tongue at school" (227). "Inthe village of Puyuma, the young people under thirty years of age do not speak the language of their ancestors at all, their education having been entirely in the Chinese language. The generation between the ages of thirty and sixty speaks Puyuma and Chinese, whereas the very old speak Puyuma peppered with Japanese expressions" (20).

The Aborigines of Taiwan is coming out at a very opportune time indeed. Against a background of loss of language, loss of land, rural exodus, alcoholism, prostitution, and suicide, young intellectuals founded the Alliance of Taiwan Aborigines in 1984. Their fight for recognition led them to Geneva in 1991, and in 1997 the Council of Aboriginal Affairs was established. Thus, the book's active acknowledgment of the original aboriginal culture and the later Japanese imprint on the island helps the Taiwanese today to assert their very special identity in a unique context ofinnovative economic development and democratization.

Chapter 1 is devoted to Puyuma [End Page 459] linguistics and myth, chapter 2 describes the village, and chapter 3 shows us how "religion is the key element of Puyuma identity" (49). Inchapter 4, "Birth and Death," we learn that "until the beginning of the twentieth century, the dead were buried in the house" (77), as in the vast archaeological site of Peinan. Inchapter 5, devoted to kinship, Cauquelin confidently asserts that "there exists an 'unspoken rule' regarding the preferred choice of a wife, ie, any second, third or fourth cousin on the mother's side, or a cross-cousin on the father's side" (100). "Let us remember that the Puyuma practiced horticulture and slash-and-burn agriculture and that only women tilled the fields. They did away with the need for permanent tenure and uxorilocal residence rules [in which the man moved to the woman's home to live] then developed. But with the prohibition of hunting [by the Japanese colonial administration in 1895], farming was taken over by men, and under the stress of land distribution problems, residence became patrilocal [the woman moved to the man's home], following...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 459-461
Launched on MUSE
2006-07-27
Open Access
No
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