The Sediq people are distributed in the mountainous areas in central Taiwan. Characterized by their weaving culture and facial tattoos, Sediq people uphold Gaya (the ancestral rules) as their code of living; and they value the worshipping rituals of ancestral spirits. Currently, the Sediq population has about 10,452 people (as of January 2020).
According to the Sediq legend, the Sediq people, as well as so-called Seediq and Sejiq, originated from Pusu Qhuni/RmdaxTasil (the Central Mountain Range), nowadays known as Mudanyan. After migrating from this place of origin, Sediq’s ancestors settled and populated in Deluwan (Truwan, called Plngebung by the Toda subgroup, located in Hezuo Village of Ren’ai Township in Nantou County today).
After living in Truku Truwan (Deluwan) for some time, the Sediq people gradually moved out of Deluwan around 18th century due to population growth and space insufficiency. After this migration, different groups adopted different names. The group that migrated to lower Deluwan - Wushe (the mountainous area across from Chunyang today) called themselves Tgdaya. The group that migrated to Tpwqo (Dadebuge), Kbayan (Gubayang), and Browan (Bulowan) across Mt. Qilai called themselves Truku. The group passed through the north peak of Mt. Hehuan to Shangmeiyuan (Zhu Village) called themselves Toda.
After migrating to Tgdaya, Toda, and Truku, each subgroup formed individual group identities. Therefore, they distinguished themselves as Seediq Tgdaya, Sediq Toda, and Sejiq Truku. The distribution of each subgroup is as follows:
1. Seediq Tgdaya
According to the historic documents of the Qing dynasty and Japanese colonization, the territory of Seediq Tgdaya covered the Wushe (Nantou) and Mugua (Hualien) Communities. Seediq Tgdaya in Nantou: This community was distributed in the Zhuoshui River and Mei River drainage basins between Wushe and Lushan in Ren’ai Township. After the Mushe Incident during Japanese colonization, Seediq Tgdaya people living in the east of Wushe were forced to migrate to the Qingliu and Zhongyuan (Huzhuo Village in Renai Township today) at the midstream of the Beigang River. Those settling deep in the mountain in the east of the Mei River migrated to the river valley around the Nanshan River (Fengjing Village in Ren’ai Township today). Currently, most of them settled in Huzhuo, Nanfeng, and Datung villages in Ren’ai Township, Nantou County. Seediq Tgdaya in Hualien: This community distributed in the Mugua River drainage basin. Due to the expansion of the Truku people in the late Qing dynasty, they migrated to Xikou Village in Shofeng Township and Mingli Village in Wanrong Township, Hualien County. Around 1945, they further migrated to Jiamin and Fushi Villages in Xiulin Township, and some migrated to the south in Jianqing and Wanrong Villages in Wanrong Township.
2. Sediq Toda
When migrating to Nantou in earlier times, the Sediq Toda people mainly settled in the Pingjing mountainous area in the north of Seediq Tgdaya. In the 18th century, they crossed over the north peak of Mt. Hehuan to the upstream and midstream of the Taosai River in the Hualien mountainous area, thus calling themselves Toda (also Daoje or Taosai). Currently, they mainly settled in Jingying and Chunyan Villages in Ren’ai Township, Nantou County; and Lishan and Lunshan Villages in Zhuoxi Township, Hualien County.
3. Sejiq Truku
In earlier times, the Sejiq Truku settled around Jingguan in Ren’ai Township, Nantou County. After migrating to Hualien, they mainly stayed in the Liwu River drainage basin. Currently, the Sejiq Truku mainly distributed in Songlin, Lushan, and Jinghuan Communities in Ren’ai Township, Nantou County; and Xiulin and Wanrong Townships in Hualien County. Some communities settled in Lishan in Zhuoxi Township, Qingfeng in Jian Township, Nanhua and Fuxing Villages.
In the 18th to 19th century, the Sediq people developed their territories in Nantou and Hualien on both sides of the Central Mountain Range. During Japanese colonization in the early 20th century, as the colonial government reckoned that the Sediq territory was government property, and due to the racism of the colonial police, Mona Rudo, chief of the Mahepo Community of Seediq Tgdaya, led the Mushe Incident that shocked the world in 1930. It was the last armed resistance against Japanese colonization in Taiwan. The incident shocked the Government-General of Taiwan and the international community and is significant in the history of Taiwan.
In consideration of ethnic identification, the Seediq Tgdaya, Sediq Toda, and Sejiq Truku subgroups requested ethnonym rectification as “Sediq Balay, Sejiq Balay, and Seediq Bale” respectively from the government in 2000. In 2008, the government thus recognized the ethnicity of the whole indigenous group as Sediq.
1. Industry and Food
The Sediq people used to mainly practice agriculture and hunting. Sweet potatoes, taro, glutinous millet, and common millet were the common crops and staple foods, while gourds, beans, and wild edible plants were the non-staple foods, and began growing upland rice in the modern times. Sediq people acquired meat by hunting for animals in between farming, including flying squirrels, wild boars, and Formosan sambar deers. They smoked and roasted meat for easier and longer preservation.
The Sediq people make clothes with ramie linen. Sediq clothes are characterized by their red color. Traditionally, both men and women wore linen capes. Men’s clothing commonly seen includes a white long-sleeved long top with red banded patterns. Women’s clothes are characterized by the long-sleeved short top with thin red stripes and a one-piece long skirt. Since the Japanese colonization in the 20th century, printed cotton fabric began gaining popularity. The long top is mainly made from red cotton cloth, with blue calico sleeves and shoulders, Mandarin collar, and small copper bells are sewn at the hem. In recent years, these features have been promoted through improvement of traditional attire to singularize Sediq cultural elements.
The Sediq people call weaving “tminun”, including weaving crafts and cloth weaving. The former is the traditional skill of men, while the latter is the traditional skill of women. Men weave daily life implements with the Formosan supplejack (Berchemia formosana), bamboo peels, and ramie yarn. Tools they make include back baskets, net bags, clothing baskets, fish nets, fish cages, fish baskets, and circular sieves. Cloth weaving plays an important role in Sediq culture. Women usually weave with the ramie yarn made from ramie fibers. After dyeing, they become fabrics for making clothes, accessories, and bedsheets. Common colors include green, red, yellow, black, and white.
4. Patasan (Facial Tattoos)
The facial tattoo culture is extinct. As a sign of adulthood in Sediq culture, apart from being a cultural value, facial tattoos served as an embellishment and a method to avoid evil. The same culture is also found in the neighboring Atayal and Truku peoples. Sediq men could get a facial tattoo after decapitating an enemy or passing the hunting test. Women had to earn the elder’s recognition in weaving and farming before they could tattoo their faces. Sediq people believed that when people passed away and joined the ancestral spirits, ancestors would judge if a person was of Sediq descendent based on the facial tattoos. Therefore, the facial tattoos had religious meanings. The positions of tattooing included the face, the chest, the abdomen, hands, and feet, with the face being the most important position. In general, men tattooed vertical stripes on their chin, while women usually tattooed parallel or cross stripes symmetrically on both cheeks. Both men and women tattooed the forehead. Traditionally, men tattooed one horizontal stripe at a finger’s width across, while women had five to seven horizontal stripes. The Sediq facial tattoo culture was banned during Japanese colonization, thus disrupting the facial tattoo custom and habit.
The Sediq people make three types of traditional buildings by their functions: family houses, auxiliary buildings to the family house, and public buildings (watchtowers). Sediq family houses have two styles: sunken-bottom wooden houses and ordinary bamboo houses. The former is the traditional Sediq family house mostly found in Nantou. The latter is a convenient house developed after migration and mostly found in Yilan and Hualien in eastern Taiwan. The traditional sunken-bottom family house is supported by a column from the sunken bottom. In other words, half of the family house sits below ground, thus called the sunken bottom family house. In general, the site of the family house is rectangular or squared. The quantity of columns around the site varies based on the building size. There are two stoves in the house, one in the center and one by the wall. The center stove is a tripod stove for warming up the house. The other stove facing the wall on the inside of the house is for daily cooking.
The Sediq society is a patrilineal society. On job sharing within the community and families, except heavy laboring works and hunting are carried out by men, there are no gender specific limitations in general tasks and jobs. Sediq people practice monogamy. According to gaya’s (ancestral rules) code of marriage, cohabitation, infidelity, and unwed motherhood are strictly prohibited.
The chief is the community leader of the Sediq community. The chief is elected among intelligent and righteous people to represent the community in foreign affairs, negotiations, and settle disputes and maintain community harmony and peace. The heredity of the chiefship from the father to the son and the elder brother to the little brother is allowed with the recognition and trust of community members. In addition to competence, community’s recognition is also the key. Mona Rudo, chief of the Mahepo Community of Seediq Tgdaya, who led the Mushe Incident in 1930 is a good example. He was elected as the chief for this intelligence, excellence, and courage and he earned the appreciation of former chief Temu Robo and the recognition from members of the Mahepo Community. After taking up his chiefship, Mona Rudo was invited to visit Japan by the colonial government. Although he knew that Japan was advanced and powerful, due to the prejudice and exploitation of the colonial police, he decided to rebel after many conflicts. On October 27, 1930, Mona Rudo led the resistance against the colonial government on the sports day of Wushe Public School. The incident shocked both the colonial government and international communities.
3. Gaya (Ritual Group)
“Gaya” is the important code of conduct and code of ethics in Sediq culture. As ancestral spirits will bring bad luck to the community for violating “gaya”, Sediq people follow these rules very carefully to avoid group endangerment. The context of “gaya” is the same in Sediq, Truku, and Atayal cultures. It refers to the systems and rules established by ancestors. Any gaya member who breaks the rules or disobeying taboos will affect all gaya members. Therefore, other members will request for redemption. A gaya group is formed by one or two close relatives as the core member(s), other distant relatives or relatives-in-laws, as well as friends without any lineal relationships can also joint the gaya group. Members of the same gaya group must farm and hold rituals and obey the taboos together; “gaya” intergrates religious, geographic, and lineal relationships. Studies of Sediq gaya found that the relationships between a gaya group, the community and a clan is comparatively clearer due to the well-defined geographic groups of Sediq people.
The Sediq people believe in supernaturalism, with utux (ancestral spirits) being the most important belief. Believing that ancestral spirits will affect fortune and misfortune in daily life, Sediq people strictly follow gaya, (the ancestral rules and code of conduct). Therefore, worshipping ancestral spirits is very important to them. After accepting Western religions in the 1960s, mostly Christianity, Sediq people have stopped almost all traditional rituals and ceremonies. With the rise of cultural awareness in recent years, some Sediq communitiess have resumed the ritual of ancestral spirits.
To the Sediq people, ancestral spirits and gaya (ancestral rules) are very important. Such a culture is also reflected in the annual rituals and ceremonies. In rituals and ceremonies relating to agriculture and hunting, thanksgiving for ancestral spirits is an important part. Apart from worshipping ancestral spirits privately, the Sediq people also worship ancestral spirits in the community. The Ancestral Spirit Ritual is held after the millet harvest, and the actual time is determined by the chief or elders after discussions. When presenting offerings including wine, millet rice cakes, crops, fruit, and fish, the Sediq people tie them on bamboo, and elders call the ancestral spirits to consume them. After the ritual, they eat all offerings onsite. When leaving the ritual venue, they leave food waste onsite and cross over the fire to symbolize separation from the ancestral spirits. On the way home, they do not look back. The Ancestral Spirit Ritual was banned during Japanese colonization and has been held again in recent years.