Birthplace of Austronesians is Taiwan, capital was Taitung: Scholar

Taiwanese scholar proposes that nexus of ancient Austronesian culture was eastern Taiwan's Taitung

Solomon Islanders pilot a replica of an Amis bamboo raft. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A growing number of scholars from various fields both domestically and abroad are coming to the conclusion that Taiwan is the birthplace of the Austronesian people and language family, and Academia Sinica scholar Liu I-chang (劉益昌) has taken this a step further by proposing that the nexus of this ancient culture 4,000 years ago was Taitung, reported CNA

Liu yesterday participated in an experiment which demonstrated the seaworthiness of a replica of an ancient Amis bamboo raft that the indigenous Taiwanese tribe may have been capable of building 4,000 years ago. The boat was built based on records of such vessels prior to Japanese colonization in Taiwan and similar craft found in the Philippines and Vietnam half a century ago.

His hypothesis is that the Amis started a "South Pacific Sea Jade Road," in Taitung 4,000 years ago that traded Taiwan's unique jade ornaments on similar such vessels to destinations such as Luzon, Borneo, and Indochina. 


Solomon Islanders and Taiwanese sail the bamboo raft in Taitung. (CNA image)

Liu said that 4,000 years ago indigenous people transported jade from Taiwan's Hualien to Fushan and Shanyuan in Taitung where the gemstone was crafted into jade ware.  Ancient Austronesian people then traded these jade adornments throughout the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.  According to Liu, "Austronesian people not only originated from Taiwan, but Taitung was the capital of the island. 4,000 years ago Taitung could have been even more bustling than it is now," reported CNA.

Based on linguistic studies, archaeology, and DNA research carried out by both Taiwanese and foreign scholars, many signs point to Taiwan as being the origin of not only the modern-day peoples of nearby Hainan, southern Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Malay Archipelago, but also areas as far east as Easter Island, as far west as Madagascar, and as far south as New Zealand.  


Academia Sinica scholar Liu I-chang (2nd from right) in front of replica of Amis raft. (CNA image)

In 1983, Australian archaeologist Peter Bellwood gave a speech at the National Museum of Prehistory in Taitung, where he first proposed the "Out of Taiwan" theory which postulates that Taiwan is the origin of many of today's Pacific islanders based on carbon dating of materials used by Austronesians, such as pottery, adzes, spindle whorl, etc. Those artifacts found in Taiwan were the oldest, followed in succession by the Philippines, Indonesia, and then Oceania. 

Bellwood argues that jade tiles excavated in Bataan of the Philippines and in northern Vietnam closely resemble those made in Taiwan and that there is no evidence of the fashioning of similar jade items elsewhere in the South Pacific. Furthermore, the jade itself can be traced to Taiwan's Hualien. In addition, pottery unearthed in the Philippines closely resembles the the shape and patterns used by the people of eastern Taitung.  

In 2007, Taiwanese archaeologist Hung Hsiao-chun (洪曉純) published research showing that the oldest known prehistoric site in Southeast Asia is in Luzon, the Phillipines and dates to approximately 4,000 years ago. The items found there closely resemble cultural sites found in eastern Taiwan. In addition, Taiwanese jade has been found in excavation sites in both Luzon and Vietnam. Thus far, the Taiwanese jade found in South Pacific islands points to a one-way movement pattern from Taiwan to nearby regions.