中文

The Rukai

Origin Myths

The Rukai have several different stories to explain the origins of their own tribe:

The Ancestors Came from across the Ocean

The Rukai living in Taitung County’s Beinan Township (in a small area called Tehlumake) believe that their ancestors came from across the sea, landed on the shore of Taiwan’s eastern plains and from there entered the Central Mountain Range, where they made camp for a while. They didn’t stay there permanently, but kept looking for the ideal abode, migrating this way and that. According to this legendary account, under the leadership of the two chiefs Clouded Leopard and Eagle, the Rukai ancestors eventually settled on the Eastern and Western side of the southernmost extension of the Central Mountain Range. This version would dovetail nicely with the fact that today the Rukai are still divided into two subgroups, the “Western Rukai” and the “Eastern Rukai”.

The Birth of the First Ancestor and The Pact of the Sacred Lake

This legend is told among the Rukai of Kaohsiung County’s Maolin Township. It revolves around the Big Ghost Lake (Dagui Hu) and Small Ghost Lake (Xiaogui Hu) and claims that their ancestors originated in Maolin.

The two Ghost Lakes are situated on the Tawu Mountain Range in Taiwan’s largest connected natural forest area. The Rukai refer to the double lake as the “Sacred Lake”. It is considered to be feminine in nature, blessed and mysterious. Even members of the tribe are strictly forbidden to enter “her” area without a good reason, and anybody who violates this taboo will be punished. The primeval tropical forest surrounding the lakes, remote and free from human habitation, is a window on the original appearance of Taiwan’s natural environment, and today it is being protected as a nature reserve area. This includes birds and animals within its boundaries, which may not be hunted. The Rukai treat the Ghost Lakes with utmost respect and awe, and hikers or mountain climbers all agree that the routes in this area are both difficult and full of surprises.

In the language of the Rukai, these two mystical high altitude lakes are called Taluomalin (Great Ghost Lake) and Payoutsu (Small Ghost Lake). The legend says that the ancestors of the Rukai lived in the dense woods around the Ghost Lakes, and made a pact with the leader of the local Hundred-Pacer Snake tribe to live next to each other peacefully. To show their sincerity, the Rukai carved the Hundred-Pacer Snake totem into the ancestral pole in front of their doors so that future generations would continue to revere the totem and honor the pact. In exchange, the Hundred-Pacer Snake tribe granted the Rukai access to the inexhaustible water resources of the Ghost Lakes.