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The humanity of Pingpu

The people dance under the stars

To commemorate the Makatto people living around Dakau, Kaohsiung City Government renamed a road into Makatto Road. Makatto is a clan of Siraya Pingpu tribe, living in Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County now.

The Makatto are living in different settlements in Pingtung County dispersed in Pingtung City (Agao clan) Wandan Township (Upper Danshui and Lower Danshui clans), Linbian Township (Fangsuo clan and Jiateng clan), Kanding Township (Lili clan), and Likang Township (Talou clan and Wuluo clan). During the regime of Emperor Kangxi of Qing Dynasty, they were administered under Fengshan County; therefore, they were called 8 Fengshan clans.

Now Rueipu clan, famous for its night rite, at Gaoshu Township is generally believed to be a settlement of Talou clan. Meanwhile, Jiapaolang at Jiahe Village, Wanluan Township is also a settlement of 8 Fengshan clans.

In 1885, the Qing Dynasty governed Taiwan. Independent from Fujian, it became a province. In the same year of becoming an independent province, it alerted the aspiration for governing Taiwan as an independent state. In 1874, 11 years before the establishment of Taiwan as a province, Mudan Incident broke out. People were aware that the Qing Dynasty had no incentive in ruling Taiwan; therefore, they established Liang Kiau City, with the major function of defense, in Hengchun Peninsula.

Soon, Liu Ming-chuan, the first Governor of Taiwan promoted the policy of assimilating the barbarians in 1888, and suspended the Aborigines Guarding with Farming Policies, converting them all into civilians. The households of barbarians living and farming along the roads in Pingtung County now for years disappeared overnight.

Therefore, the chief of the indigenous clans living in Hengchun Peninsular for generations had to be renamed "head" or "director." Even the chief of the Pan Wen-jie family of the 18 Liang Kiau clans that had been living in Hengchun Peninsular for centuries had to give up his title of the chief and call himself the head.

For the academy in Taiwan, the so-called civilized barbarians referred to the current Pingpu tribe. The earliest systematic census survey of Pingpu tribe was conducted by the "Temporary Land Investigation Bureau", established by the Taiwan Governor-General Office in 1898 during the Japanese rule. When surveying the land, it also conducted a native places survey.

At that time, according to the survey of native places conducted by the Taiwan Governor-General Office, there were only three options: Fujian, Guangdong, and civilized (civilized barbarians and Pingpu tribe). It also drew the birthplace map of Taiwan with the administration districts of jhuang and li (village and borough).

According to the distribution map of civilized barbarians in Pingtung drawn in 1900s, the coastal areas and plains were mainly explored by Fujianese and Hakka. Likewise, the civilized barbarians had to move to the land at the foothills. These were also the areas of farming and settlements by the civilized barbarians, who were guarded by the soldiers during the Qing Dynasty.

At that time, the civilized barbarians were distributed around the Rueipu Napu clan at Gaoshu Township now. Along the foothills of Dawu Mountain, there have been traces of Pingpu tribe along the areas down south, including Gaolanglang, Sinailiao, Fanzaicuo, Laopi, Wanjin, Chihshan, and Sinkai clan at Fangliao. In addition, Pingpu people also settled in Hengchung Peninsula.

Now, there is no official statistics of the population of Pingpu people in Pingtung County mainly because the renaming of Pingpu tribe, headed by Siraya tribe did not get the government's consent. Although the local government holds an open attitude towards the matters, the Central Government still does not regard Pingpu tribe as a branch of indigenous people in Taiwan. Unable to establish itself as a tribe, it cannot conduct any accurate statistics on them.

The most important ceremony for the Pingpu tribe is the night rite and the most essential offer is betel nut. In other word, betel nut is also a necessary bridal gift in Pingpu weddings. In social intercourse, betel nuts are also a social lubricant. In Pingpu sanctuary—Kuwa, people must offer betel nuts to the ancestral spirits. Such tradition is retained among the Pingpu settlements in Pingtung County.

In the night rite, hosted by a mu (witch), people mainly worship god Ali. In Pingpu tribe, a mu is equivalent to the father in the Catholic Church, pastor in the protestant church or psychic or spirit medium in a temple; she is responsible for communication between people and deities. In the tribe, she is a sage, and must be respected by people.

In Pingtung County, the most famous night rite is the one held in Jiarueipu in Gaoshu Township. Jiarueipu and Siaolin Village in Kaohsiung is separated by Kaoping River. The night rites held by Pingpu people in these two places are both very famous in Taiwan. The night rite in Jiarueipu is held on the 15th day on the 11th lunar month.

In the night rite, the most important event should be the "jumping game," in which people join into concentric circles around the tree in front of the temple. They dance to the rhythm of Pingpu music. In each year, many foreign visitors join the night rite. It is tranquil but vivid. What a special ceremony.