中文

The Paiwan

The Myth of the Heavenly Eggs

Paiwan legend has it that in the depths of time, a yellow and a green egg took shape high up in the firmament. They slowly floated down from heaven to descend upon Mount Tawu. The yellow egg was emanating a golden glow as it gradually reached its destination, and when it touched the ground, it turned into a delicately handsome young man. Meanwhile, the green egg, which was emitting a beautifully gentle and mellow radiance as it came gliding down, turned into a lovely young woman as it made contact with the earth. The two fell in love with each other, became a couple and had many children and grandchildren.

The Kunaljau Myth

Another origin myth, which is still orally transmitted among the Kunaljau Paiwan, describes how the tribe’s ancestors came from across the sea. It tells of a small island called Marairai situated in the southeast of the big ocean. The island was richly endowed by nature and the landscape was beautiful. But one day the people found that the happy lives they had all been leading were suddenly being disrupted by all kinds of ghosts and demons that had begun to haunt the island. A bright young lad came up with a way of fighting the demons: a fire was made in a furnace, around which the people of the island formed a big circle. The women and children, and the weak and old, were in the center, protected by the strong young men who formed the outer ring of the circle. In this fashion, they tried to expel the demons with the help of fire. But it turned out that the demons were too strong, and the people had no other choice but to flee from the island on wooden rafts. After their precipitous flight, they drifted about on the ocean for quite some time. Eventually, some of them came to Taiwan and landed near what is today Kaohsiung’s Hsiatanshui River. According to this legend, these were the forefathers of the Kunaljau Paiwan.

The Myth of Millet Stalks and Fire

In ancient times, the Paiwan called themselves “Adeedan”, which means “Friends of the Earth”. Back then, people had an agreement with the Spirits, which they followed faithfully: every day they would burn little stalks of millet inside their homes, and through the smoke that rose to heaven, they let the Spirits know about their needs and prayed for blessings from above. In the beginning, Paiwan society had no aristocratic class and knew of no tribal organization or hierarchy. All there was was the primeval bond between a people and the earth they lived on.

But at some point, greed gradually raised its ugly head, and people no longer believed in the natural powers of wind and thunder, or sun and rain.

Consequently, heaven and earth began to slowly spin out of control. Sudden thunderstorms would alternate with long periods of drought. Sometimes a terrible wind would start to blow at dusk, thunder would roar and lightning strike and burn the wide earth to a cinder. Not long after that, sudden floods would sweep away all the crops, fruit and vegetables the Paiwan were growing.

But some were instructed by the Spirits to bundle Chinese silver grass into sheaves, fill them with taro, sweet potatoes and dried provisions, and store them in a safe place.

Then another thunderstorm devastated their homes and flooded all the land. Those who had been chosen now took the sheaves they had prepared and bound them all together to make a floating home. On their little artificial land, they lit a fire.

When the flood finally receded, the survivors on the raft returned to their lands and their old ways. As before, the Paiwan always kept a fire of millet stalks in their kitchen stoves to communicate with the Spirits and pray for their blessings.

Once, though, the Spirits revoked the use of fire. That’s because the wisps of smoke ascending to heaven had suddenly carried a strange smell. What had happened? Someone had peed on the stove! That’s why to this day the Paiwan teach their children respect for the fire in the kitchen stove, and frequently admonish them to let the fire go out on its own.