Due to a lack of opportunity in the Huatung region, youths move away when alternative prospects arise. This is part two of the Huatung Youths Returning Home feature. It covers the story of two youths who returned to the Jiqi (Jici) Village of Fengbin, Hualien and their initiatives to preserve the village culture and to keep traditions alive.
Gao Shan Forest Center: Ma Zhong-Yuan
When Ma Zhong-Yuan first returned to the Jiqi Village, he dreamt to start an organic bamboo farm. After discovering the land not suitable, the idea of the Gao Shan Forest Center was inspired.
The Bunun tribespeople are known to be mountain people. Ma’s ancestors originated from the Central Mountain Range, and migrated to Huatung during the Japanese invasion. At a young age, he recalls being left alone in the mountains for hours in the day by his father for days, training to overcome his fear of loneliness, of the dark. He remembers senses heightening, hearing more distant sounds, being able to watch animals pass by in darkness. Bunun ancestors believe that before one takes the bow and arrow, one must understand loneliness. In this wisdom, Ma feels for people to appreciate the Bunun culture, one must experience it in the mountains.
The Gao Shan Forest Center offers several excursions with experiences ranging from a walk through the hunting trails, tree climbing to camping. In each of its tours, it emphasizes the spirit of the Bunun culture to respect nature and to live alongside its animals and plants. It also shares the taboos of hunting – to never hit one you cannot catch, to never hit a mother or baby, to never hit one that is pregnant.
Village elders praise Ma’s method to preserve its environment and tribal culture. Ma believes not all native experiences need be understood through song and dance, the Gao Shan Forest Center shares culture in nature and harmony. Website: www.gs-forest.com
Hatila: Emas Amis Tribe Emas, an Amis native, made the decision to return to the Jiqi Village after a conversation with his grandfather, sharing concern of the village heritage fading once the elders passed away. Hatila is a space built by Emas’ great-grandfather over 100 years ago. Carved on the walls of Hatila is a historical map which traces the migration of Amis ancestors. In not having written language in their culture, the history of Taiwan aboriginals is written by the Han Chinese. Emas was inspired to uncover a more authentic history, and worked with the National Dong Hwa University conducting field research, interviewing village elders to piece together the Amis territory, landmarks and transportation trails reflecting how the ancestors once lived.
Hatila as an organization offers five excursions where tourists are guided to harvest wild vegetables – an important element of the Amis food culture. Emas believes that in harvesting and holding the produces by hand offers a complete different connection to the food one eats. Tourists learn that in every meal, to take only what one needs because the Amis understand there is a limit to what nature can offer and one must value it.
Together with his tribespeople, Emas works to learn and record traditional methods of hunting, handicraft, cooking and music. They learn from the village elders, to bring back their traditions. In learning traditional songs, they are able to learn their mother tongue. They were able to collect recipes, and create a guide to wild vegetables from an 80-year old village elder just before she passed away. Emas hopes to eventually record all traditions passed down by village elders to give life to the traditions, to keep the traditions alive. Website: www.facebook.com/hatilainkaluluan