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Tattoo mistranslation turns Taiwanese tempers

Tattoo mistranslation turns Taiwanese tempers

An Taiwanese official says the island's indigenous people are furious over a government brochure in English that mistranslated a description of their elaborate facial tattoos as being a ritual about "adultery" rather than "adulthood."
The Chinese language version of the brochure refers to "adulthood," the widely understood meaning of the aboriginal tattoo ritual. But the English-language version erroneously used the word "adultery" instead, lawmaker Chen Ying told reporters.
Aboriginal standing in Taiwanese society is a sensitive issue, reflecting the perceived discrimination that many in the 500,000 strong community feel comes from this island's majority Han Chinese population of 23 million.
Aboriginals migrated to Taiwan from south Pacific islands thousands of years ago. With the arrival of hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese beginning in the 17th century, they became economically marginalized, gradually relocating from the island's rich agricultural lowlands to its hardscrabble mountainous spine.
Tong Chun-fa, head of the government-run museum that published the flawed brochure, condemned the translator's mistake.
"The error was most regrettable," said Tong, himself of the aboriginal Paiwan tribe.
The photographic exhibition, in the southeastern city of Taitung, included pictures of several of the last surviving tribal men and women with facial tattoos.
The practice of tattooing was once widespread among Taiwanese aboriginals.
But it began to fade after Japan took Taiwan from its imperial Chinese rulers in 1895, a trend that continued in the immediate wake of the Nationalist Chinese arrival on the island at the end of World War II.
Now, says Tong, it is beyond the point of restoration because "the social environment for (tattoos) has been largely destroyed."