1. Industry and Food
Rukai (Drekay) economic activities include agriculture and hunting. In agriculture, foxtail millet, upland rice, sweet potatoes, and taro are the major crops. In hunting, the wild boar is the main meat source. The sweet potato and taro are the Rukai staple foods. They often roast dry the taro for preservation. The Rukai people cook dried taro with vegetables and meat in the form of congee. In addition, as the most easily grown and accessed crop, peanut is a common non-staple food of the Rukai. Hunting is the man’s job. Men must capture wildlife before they become adults. A Rukai man is qualified to carry the lily, it symbolizes a warrior’s achievement after capturing six (some villages five) male walisane (wild boars) with tusks. Foxtail millet plays an important in Rukai daily life. Apart from worshiping with the millet in rituals, they make abai (millet cake) for feasts as a symbol of sharing and congratulation. Like the Paiwan, Rukai people also make cinavu (food wrapped in leaves), i.e., they wrap meat covered with powdered taro in the leaf of Khasya trichodesma (Trichodesma khasianum).
Traditional Rukai Clothing
Rukai clothing belongs to the square clothing system mainly made with cotton and linen, with a dark background decorated with sharp-colored (red, yellow, green) embroidery. Men’s traditional clothing is primarily leather. In the past, the men’s dress code includes leather headgear, head scarf, upper garment, baldric, waist belt, deerskin jacket, deerskin breech-less trousers, and decorative headgear as well when dressed up. Women’s casual wear includes the head scarf, robe, skirt, leg covers, gloves, etc. When dressed up, women wear embroidered clothes or clothes with bead accessories, along with various accessories, such as garlands, neck ornaments, and shoulder ornaments. Today, Rukai people dress up for important functions or weddings to show their respects for the hosts and showcase their culture. The Rukai dress code is class-specific. Take the pattern for example; only the Chief can use patterns including the hundred pace vipers, the sun, the human head, and the pottery pot; and nobles can use human-shaped and snake patterns. Commoners can pay tribute to use more patterns on their clothes. Currently, under the influence of the living environment and information development, patterns and themes for clothing have diversified, and the traditional pattern restrictions have been relaxed, except for the headgear, particularly the use of feathers of the Mountain Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus nipalensis) which can only be used by the Chief, and different villages have their own headgear restrictions.
The lily is a symbol of virtue and purity. Rukai Bamboo Comb The hundred pace vipers pattern carved on the wooden knife handle.
◎ Lily In Rukai culture, the lily is associated with the origin of their ancestors, particularly to the Rukai people who settled in the Ailiao River drainage basin. Traditionally, the lily is a symbol of bravery and competence for men. A man is qualified to carry the lily only after capturing six (some villages five) or more male wild boars and the citation and crowing ceremony. The lily is even more important to Rukai women, as it is a symbol of virtue and purity. A true “lily ornament” contains the peacock flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) inside and is exclusive for nobles only. Common women wishing to wear such a “lily ornament” must go through the “kialidrau” (lily authorization) ceremony before they are authorized to wear it.
◎ Carving In Rukai culture, there are wooden, stone, and leather carvings, with the wooden carvings being the most famous. Apart from decorating building components such as large columns, eave trusses, beams, and walls, Rukai people use carvings on daily-life tools such as wooden spoons, benches, double cups, and comb. Connected to the legend of ancestral spirits, the hundred-pacer vipers has a rather important position in Rukai culture and has become a common totem. Traditionally, carving is the privilege of the Chief, because the commoners were not allowed to make, buy, or receive carvings with the hundred-pacer viper pattern. Today, this taboo and restriction have gradually extinguished to give more opportunities for the continuation and development of the Rukai carving art.
Rukai people settled in the south of the Central Mountain Range at medium elevation. As it is hot and humid, they built houses with slate. The western Rukai and the lower three Rukai branches have developed slate house that keep buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. Due to inaccessbility of slates, eastern Rukai people build houses with wood and bamboo, and they build youth assembly halls under the influence of other cummunity groups. Door, Window, Yard, and Seat Layout in Slate Houses The Rukai people only use wood for beams and columns and slate for other parts, the yard, and the enclosure wall. In general, a slate house has a rectangular shape and two doors. The building is divided into three parts. The bedroom and living room are in the middle part, the kitchen and the storage is on the left and right, and the hallway and tool storage are on the sides. As it is difficult to get slate and time-consuming to build slate houses, most Rukai people build their homes with reinforced concrete today, and some will bond slate on the concrete wall to maintain the traditional slate house style. The scale of slate houses varies by social status. Apart from having the biggest house, the Chief enjoys other privileges, such as eave carvings and a more spacious yard. A large rectangular slate sadrengedrenge (column) will be erected at the Chief’s premises as a symbol of leadership. The place where the sadrengedrenge (column) is erected is served as the kalatadrane (assembly plaza). In addition to the family house, the Rukai people build pavilions and workshops with slate, wood, and thatch. The pavilion is for leisure, and the workshop is the place for women to weave.