Saving Culture from Extinction

By An Xiao Ming (Anmo), Alishan, Taiwan

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On October 25, 2011 the Zhou Tribe held its most important Mayasvi ceremony. That night I received a phone call from Miss Dai Suyun. She said someone wanted to see me the next day. That was the first time I met Ah Fang, a native of central Taiwan and a longtime friend of CERS.

I took her to the old capital of the Zhou Tribe to show her the hunters’ shed which was built for the students. This was meant to be a temporary resting place for hunters of the Zhou Tribe when performing hunting work in the wild. Ah Fang spent quite a while checking the shed. After that she asked me if I would help build similar sheds, but six times larger. When I agreed, she asked me to estimate the costs for building them and notify her in due course.

That was the first time I came to know about CERS. About a month later, the Society’s President, Wong How Man, also came to visit the shed. A month after that, I received the Society’s remittance of US$20,000 for the building work. Very soon afterward, construction of the traditional Zhou Tribe houses started.

The agreement was for three such houses to be built. The site for the first one was on my family’s ancestral land. My elder brother had previously used it for a fish pond, so the place had now become a dry hollow. I therefore needed first to fill up the hollow on the land and wait until the fill had settled and hardened. In October, when these requirements were met, I then purchased the necessary building materials to start the actual construction.

I had studied and accumulated knowledge on my tribe’s traditional building methods and techniques for more than twenty years, and I had long dreamed of putting my knowledge into practice. For lack of financial resources, I had never before been able to fulfill my wish. I was so grateful that CERS had helped make my dream come true.

When the building work was in progress, the question of what these traditional Zhou houses should be used for had frequently come to my mind. After some thought, I decided that they should be used for promoting knowledge and understanding of our tribe by people both local and foreign. This noble idea prompted me to give it the best of my efforts to ensure that the construction work was done well.

Construction work for the first house was completed in six months’ time. Construction work for the second house followed on immediately. This second house had more and better facilities than the first, including kitchen, toilet and bathroom, and water and electricity. Construction of the second house took two years to complete. Throughout this period, I received funds continuously from CERS on time.

The third house is still under construction. On completion, it will be like a kuba, the traditional building for tribal gatherings and ceremonies such as the Mayasvi. It will be used as an education and training venue. The three houses together will completely fulfill the purposes I intended for them.

Shortly after completion of the first and second houses, I began to receive invitations to give talks at schools on subjects relating to the Zhou Tribe and its culture. As time went by, there were more and more such invitations, not only from schools but also from other organizations. I was really amazed by the success that I had achieved.


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There were many visitors to the two houses, including members of commercial sight-seeing tours who had genuine interest in the Zhou Tribe and its culture. Many foreign visitors also came and we were getting more and more well-known. I always endeavored to personally receive these visitors.

A German professor who taught physics at a university in Australia visited and stayed for three days. I accompanied him throughout his stay. He was so impressed by the visit and the stay that he vowed to come again in future. Other foreign visitors I received included a German couple and their kids, and a French man. They were all interested in the Zhou Tribe and its traditions and culture.

In constructing these Zhou traditional houses, I kept a low profile throughout. I learned this from a conversation with How Man. In our chats, he mentioned that if one pursues a goal intelligently and diligently, at the same time keeping a low profile, one is sure to succeed.

In the course of the construction, many youngsters volunteered to help out. They performed manual and sometimes physically demanding work. They were glad to perform these jobs, as this enabled them to experience firsthand the traditional Zhou method of constructing houses. These youngster included many youth from the Zhou Tribe.

Earlier, the houses were visited by some senior staff of the Ali Mountain National Park for a study of the Zhou building methods and techniques. I understand that they are planning to construct similar houses in the Park to attract tourists.

Programs now held in our houses include practice courses on traditional Zhou skills and techniques for making earthenware ceramic, and rattan and bamboo ware. These skills and techniques would have been extinguished had I not gathered and learned them from the tribe’s elders. Products made in these courses are sold and the proceeds are used to fund students’ graduation picnics.

I am glad that the houses and the projects have successfully saved the Zhou traditions and culture from extinction. I am also glad that many young members of the Zhou Tribe who have migrated to the cities have come back to attend courses under the program.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to CERS for its help in enabling these good deeds to happen.


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