The Truku (Taroko) people practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, with major crops including foxtail millet, corn, and sweet potatoes. In addition to agriculture, other economic activities include fishing and hunting.
To the Truku people, foxtail millet, corn, and sweet potatoes from farming are the staple foods, while the food from fishing and hunting is the non-staple food.
The Truku people prefer white clothes with a variety of diamond patterns. The diamond pattern represents the eye of the ancestral spirit, symbolizing protection. The over sleeves and shell clothes are the characteristics of Truku clothing. The over sleeve embroidered with diamond patterns is worn to protect the hands at work, and the shell clothes and shell skirts are decorated with cylindrical shell ornaments. Shell clothes are the formal clothes of the chief, clan chief, or warrior.
4. Tminun (Weaving)
The Truku people make clothes from linen. After spinning and bleaching, the Truku people weave the flax into cloth of different colors, mainly green, red, yellow, black, and white, to make clothes, accessories, and bedding. In the Truku language, weaving is “tminun”, it’s a major work for women in the village. Weaving tools include the loom, clippers, spinning machine, reel, yarning machine, and warping machine. Weaving begins after flax collection, spinning, bleaching, and warping. As it takes quite a while to weave a piece of cloth, most families weave relentlessly. Weaving is very important to women. They must acquire weaving skills before they can have a facial tattoo, get married, pass the rainbow bridge challenge, and reach the homeland of the ancestral spirit. In addition to techniques in making clothes, weaving means maturity and ready for marriage to women, as well being recognized by the community. To Truku women, weaving is an important technique.
5. Patasan (Facial Tattoo)
The Patasan (facial tattoo) plays an important role in traditional culture and is the most characteristic body ornamentation. Truku boys and girls can tattoo their faces at age 14 or 15. Girls must pass the elder’s recognition of their weaving techniques before they can tattoo their faces. The Truku people’s face tattooing tradition was banned during Japanese colonization, and the tradition has since been disrupted.
The Truku people and Sediq people are culturally homogenous. 300-400 years after the eastward migration, each group gradually developed its own style of family houses, including the sunken wooden house in Nantou indigenous townships and the bamboo-walled house in the present locations in Hualien. The Truku sunken-bottom wooden family house is characterized by the horizontally-stacked log walls and the slate roof.
◎ The sunken-bottom house is built primarily with wood. After excavating the ground, Truku people build the walls by stacking logs horizontally and finished off with a slate roof on top.
◎ The bamboo-walled house is built primarily with bamboo from the ground up, with a thatch roof.
◎ The xylophone (tatuk) is a unique Truku musical instrument made from the ailanthus-like prickly ash (Zanthoxylum ailanthoides, sangas in Truku language), sumac (Rhus chinensis, prihut in Truku language), Taiwan cypress (Chamaecyparis formosensis, qulit/byugu/plux in Truku language), tung tree (Vernicia fordii, bruqil in Truku language), and maple (Acer, dgarung in Truku language). Sumac makes the crispest sound and the Tung tree makes the solidest sound. Before making the instrument, wood must be dried in the shade for a long time to ensure no deformation. Truku people play the xylophone to call friends and relatives “to the table” or as the accompaniment to singing and dancing. Men play the instrument by sitting on the ground; while women play it kneel down. Percussionists can play the instrument with a single hand or both hands. The instrument is tuned upon a four-note (Re, Mi, Sol, La) scale: D (Re, 5.5cm round block), E (Mi, 6.5cm round block), G (Sol, 5.2 cm round block), and A (La, 4.8cm round block) from the first to the fourth blocks.
◎ The Jew’s harp is a lamellaphone made with a Makino bamboo slice hollowed in the middle where a metal reed is embedded in the hollow, or a Makino bamboo slice is incompletely hollowed in the middle, leaving a thinned sheet of bamboo as the reed. A fine string is attached on both ends of the Makino bamboo slice. When playing the instrument, the player grips the string on the left-hand side to secure the instrument and puts the instrument in front of the lips, using the mouth and the cheeks as the sound-box. Then, the player pulls the reed with the right hand to make resonance. In Truku culture, the Jew’s harp is used to express emotions and love.