1. Industry and Food
The Bunun practice slash-and-burn agriculture, with major crops including foxtail millet, corn, and sweet potatoes. Today, traditional dietary habits have been changed to rice and sweet potatoes as staple foods, and wild edible plants and fungi as non-staple foods, with the pigeon pea, mostly serving in soup, as the major non-staple food.
Traditional Male and Female Bunun Clothes: The Bunun make clothes with pelts, linen, and exotic cotton. Male clothes include leather headgear, leather over sleeves, leather shoes, long sleeveless chest coverings (vests) with buttons down the front, leather long sleeveless chest coverings (vests), leather loincloths, chest and abdominal pockets, and leg coverings. Female Bunun clothes are mainly made of ramie fabrics, including tight-sleeve dresses with embroidered piping, knee-long apron trousers, and leggings, with major colors including blue and black. On the white ramie background, the men’s long vest is matched with colored threads including black, pink, green, yellow, red, and dark blue for knitting (pick up and knit) into rectangular, straight strap, horizontal strap, and triangular patterns. On the back there are wide-edge diamond patterns using the pattern of the hundred-pacer viper’s back. This is the most striking clothing feature specific to the Bunun.
Eight-part Polyphony: The Bunun pasibutbut (Prayer of Millet Harvest) earned international fame for its eight-part polyphony. When Japanese ethnomusicologist Takatomo Kurosawa sent pasibutbut (Prayer of Millet Harvest) to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1952, they were shocked by the complex polyphonic structure of this ancient tribal song. The song has also redefined the assumption on music development from one note, two notes, and then to polyphony as suggested by Western musicologists.
Every November to December, the Bunun hold the Sowing Ritual (Minpinan). To pray for a good millet harvest, after the ritual people find qualified male family members to circle around at the yard of the family house to sing the song of pasibutbut (Prayer of Millet Harvest). The Bunun believe that the more beautifully and more harmoniously they sing, the happier the deity is, and the more the yield will be in that year. Therefore, every singer sings devoutly. The song begins with a four-part polyphony, when the pitch reaches to a certain level, the eight different keys appear in the track (recording), that’s why people call it the eight-part polyphony. In fact, this is a unique method of polyphony in the world at present.
Featured Architectural Tradition-Stone-Slab-Block House: Traditionally, Bunun people build houses with slate, wood, thatch, rattan peels, and Taiwanese cypress bark. The application of these materials varies as the locations of settlement differ. Building houses with the slate and Taiwanese cypress bark are the most characteristic Bunun architectural tradition. Bunun people build family houses on a square platform. Their houses have less windows, and the building is short and enclosed to prevent the discovery and intrusion of animals and enemies. Today, slate has been replaced by reinforced concrete.
The stove is very important to Bunun people. It is often located at the corner of the wall on the right-hand side of the door or on both sides of the door. In general, the stove on the right is for cooking and the one on the left is for rituals. To Bunun people, the fire of the cooking stove is very important and cannot be extinguished. Otherwise, accidents will happen to male family members during hunting. Even when it is necessary to expand the family house due to a population increase, the cooking stove cannot be moved.
The “rice storage” is the holiest place of the house and the principal symbol of a family. Non-family members are not allowed to access this place, or the family will be extinguished. In addition, the “rice storage” is also a place of worship. When a boy is born or a wife is married, they must hold a ritual in the “rice storage” and live there for a while before they become part of a family.