Asian ecotourism delegation explores Tsou villages in central Taiwan

The tour is part of a program to promote Taiwan's ecotourism

A delegation from the Asian Ecotourism Network take a group photo in front of a Kuba (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)

A delegation from the Asian Ecotourism Network take a group photo in front of a Kuba (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)

CHIAYI (Taiwan News) — A delegation from the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) embarked on a three-day tour Monday to Alishan mountain where they visited three villages to explore the traditions and culture of the Tsou indigenous people.

Sixteen representatives from twelve nations across the Asia-Pacific, along with members of the Taiwan Ecotourism Association, started the tour to Alishan National Scenic Area and a number of Tsou villages, even though a cold air mass arriving the previous night brought intermittent rain and caused mercury to dip sharply in the mountains Monday.

► The chief of the Dabang village (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)

The group was first welcomed by the chief of Dabang, one of the eight Tsou villages in Alishan. The chief, along with a couple of his village members, were dressed in traditional Tsou attire featuring leather pants and vests, embroidered tops and accessories, as well as hats with bird feathers.

The hat with different bird leathers and accessories reflect different positions and experiences wearers have as members of the Tsou community, according to a Dabang villager.

► A Dabang villager demonstrates the traditional attire of the Tsou people (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)

It is estimated that the Tsou people currently have a total population of about 6,000. Two of the major villages are Dabang and Tfuya, where the Kuba, sacred structures for the Tsou people, are built.

The Kuba is a two-floor pavilion made of wood, bamboo, straw, and other materials accessible in the mountains, and is where men of the Tsou tribes have meetings, learn hunting skills, and hold their most important ritual, Mayasvi, every year.

► The Kuba in the Dabang village (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)

Once a ceremony held only to celebrate the victory of battles, Mayasvi is nowadays transformed into a cultural tradition where the Tsou people gather together every year to pray, to dance and sing with music, and to celebrate their shared sense of identity.

Ayavi, who has worked for the past eight years on a cultural development council to preserve and promote the culture of the Tsou people in Tfuya village, said Mayasvi is an important event for villagers, especially for young people, to prepare themselves for an indigenous upbringing and to foster solidarity.

► Ayavi shows how the Tsou people use plants commonly found on trails as herbal treatments (Photo: Teng Pei-ju)