Indigenous Tribe of Taiwan: Atayal of Wulai

Indigenous Tribe of Taiwan: Atayal of Wulai

Few months ago, I went to a university to study the course of Chinese Language. I met a lot of foreign classmates and became friends with them. Then one day, our university held an activity for foreigners to see the beauty of Taiwan by introducing us to one of Taiwan’s recognized tribe, the Atayal of Wulai.

Wulai is a mountainous place in the southern part of New Taipei. From our university to this place, it took us an hour to reach the location. An hour would be better if you don’t have motion sickness. But anyway, as we finally arrived, tribes wearing their traditional colorful attire warmly welcomed us as they guide everyone to the camp to present what will be the activities on that day.

Cutting Bamboo & Making Sticky Rice

This would be easy if there’s no competition who’s the fastest person to cut the very long bamboo. But that’s what makes the activity more exciting. It became their tradition to use bamboo’s culm as a plate to put the sticky rice inside. With the right amount of food and water, this will achieve the great taste of the Atayal’s traditional food.

We did mix a lot of ingredients and put all together inside the bamboo and place in an old metal pot, heat it in a very traditional open fire cooking. While we’re waiting for the sticky rice to be cooked. We proceed with the next activity.

How to make a Mochi?

They have a special rice prepared already for the activity and pour it in a big wooden mortar. Each one of us partnered together by twos and start pounding it with a huge and heavy wooden pestle. Each partner needs to synchronize and alternate, avoiding to stop pounding the mochi. They have a special technique to mix all the ingredients well. Our guide put sugar and other stuffs, I’m unsure what it was since it was explained in Chinese language, but what I can recall it really has a fragrant smell. Pounding it several times caused both of my arms ache, but the first bite of our very own work through perspiration and hardship. The sweet aroma of mochi lightens up our spirit.

Archery (Bows and Arrows)

Have you ever watched Hunger Games or Robin Hood? If it is, well let me tell you one thing. I feel like I’m one of the casts of those movies I’ve mentioned. We all know, tribes always have weapons to hunt edible animals or to scare away enemies along their way. 

As I tried to carry the bow, it was quite heavy. I thought my body is strong enough to endure due to my previous work of carrying heavy load of trays, well in this case, you need to make a strenuous effort to practice. Honestly, it wasn’t easy to focus to the target especially when your arrow keeps on wiggling side by side. Having said that, no one’s an amateur archery to shoot the arrow well at that time, so just simply enjoy as a first timer to experience this awe-inspiring activity.


We had a little barbecue picnic in a not-so-small cottage. We were grouped into four in accordance to where you are much more comfortable to hang out with. I had a small talk with my classmates. Share each other’s food and of course, they gave us a taste of a special bottle of liquor, only Atayal tribe has.
Singing Atayal Song

 As a foreigner I’m not quite familiar with other languages aside from the frequently used Chinese Mandarin Language. But since, it’s fun to learn something different. We started to sing the songs of Atayal tribe. After we memorized few, we then stood from our sits, created a circle, held each other’s hand and danced. The longer we sing, the faster we need to speak with their language.


Each of us were marked in our forehead. It is said that the mark stands for men who have skills as a hunter, while women who have these, have the skills for weaving yarn or thread.
Women who don’t have facial tattoos weren’t allowed to get married.

We were also introduced to the species they hunt. I’m not quite educated for all those different kinds of mammals but I’m very much entertained with the re-enactment; on how the Atayal tribe survive, how was their everyday living and so many interesting topics

It was a magnificent field trip. The history still imprints in the modern generation. It wasn’t washed away; it was treasured and will be. The place, the smell of the breeze as it lingers down my skin, soothes my inner mind as I will always cherish and love the exposure I had. With the stupendous mountains in the range of my vision, it will always in my heart.

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