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Hla’alua

1. Craft

The Hla’alua people are good at hunting and tanning and have developed leather crafts and leather products, with leather clothes and leather headgear as standard men’s clothing. Men’s formal dress includes red long-sleeved upper garments and chest coverings, black short skirts, and the goatskin headgear. Women braid their hair with headscarves and wear the cock’s feather as headwear. They wear black skirts with a long-sleeved blue or white upper garment with cross-stitch embroidered patterns as the front ornament. Other crafts are mostly for practical use, such as tools for daily life, hunting, rituals, and children’s toys.

Traditional men’s clothing includes shirts, headgear, and trousers made of the goat or muntjac leather. The Hla’alua people embed shells on the front of the leather headgear and sew five feathers on the side: two eagle feathers on each side and a white tail feather of the Mikado pheasant in the middle. Today, they have red fabric upper garments with five tri-color stripes on the back: yellow, green, white, green, and yellow from left to right, symbolizing familial and ethnic commitments.

Women braid their hair with traditional headscarves and wear the cock’s feather as headwear. They wear black skirts with long-sleeved upper garments, blue or white depending on the tribal origin. Women of the Hlihlala Community in Taoyuan Village usually wear blue upper garments, and women of the Paiciana, Talicia, and Vilanganʉ communities in Gaozhong Village often wear white upper garments. It is said that they make headwear with the cock’s feather and wear it to commemorate the cock helping the ethnic group to negotiate with the sun, according to the legend.

◎ Daily Life Implements The Hla’alua people make daily life tools with various materials in nature, such as rattan, bamboo, shell-flower leaves, flaxen/ramie fibers, and scooped trees. For example, they make back baskets and back racks with rattan; sieves with bamboo; mats with shell-flower leaves; cages with bamboo or rattan; bags and fishing nets with flaxen/ramie fiber; tanks, mortars, steamers, millet containers, feeds containers, sheaths, spoons, or farming tools from scooped trees. In addition, they make hunting tools and alarms, such as bows, arrows, traps, and signalers with bamboo and shaved wood.

◎ Children’s Toys Hla’alua children’s toys include spinning tops, swings, bamboo spears, small bows, and bamboo cannons.

◎ Musical Instruments Hla’alua musical instruments include the jew’s harp and bow harp.

2. Legends

Front Door and Rear Door Gods

In prehistoric times, the Hla’alua people had two main doors: the front door and the rear door. The front door called ararai is located at the cliff at 500m below the checkpoint in Gaozhong Village, Taoyuan District. The rear door called curuvaka sits on the sharp stone across from Qinhe Village, Taoyuan District. Each door is guarded by a Door God: Avisavulangahla at the front door and Hlipurimacu at the rear door. Both Gods have equally strong magic. Front Door God Avisavulangahla takes good care of people and stops enemies from invading the village.

One day when enemies launched a sneak attack to exterminate the tribe with knives and spears, Avisavulangahla used magic to confuse the enemies, lead them to the front door, and disarm them (putting their weapons on the door). All enemies were frightened and shaking, taking to their heels. Although they tried to figure out why they failed after returning to their village, they could not find a clue. Unwilling to let it go, the enemies launched a second attack with more people. When they arrived at the front door, the same thing happened again, and the situation was even worse. In addition to disarming themselves at the front door, they entered the Hla’alua village with bare hands, and all were captured. From then on, enemies were frightened and dared not invade the Hla’alua village again. This is the magical power of Front Door God Avisavulangahla to control the enemies and protect people.

Although Rear Door God Hlipurimacu is also strong, the Hla’alua people don’t like him much, because he likes to tease people. One day, Hlipurimacu kept complaining to himself and negotiated with Front Door God Avisavulangahla, “Why should I always watch the rear door? It’s not fair!” Avisavulangahla replied, “Fine, let’s try catching stones. If you can catch the stone from me, you can get the front door.” Hlipurimacu agreed, and both were ready for the match. Avisavulangahla was at the mountain top, while Hlipurimacu was at the mountain foot. Then, Avisavulangahla shouted, “Stone’s coming down! Catch it.” Hlipurimacu did catch the stone and even threw it upward to Avisavulangahla. Surprised by Hlipurimacu’s skill, Avisavulangahla heated the stone with magic and wrapped it inside a rock before throwing it down to Hlipurimacu. Avisavulangahla shouted again, “Stone’s coming down! Catch it.” When catching the stone again, Hlipurimacu was burned to death.

This legend continues even to this day! No one knows how hot the stone was, Hlipurimacu’s body was printed on the rock. About 70 years ago (the 1950s), the prints of a person and his hands and chest were still seen on the rock. Although the rock also stands there on the platform at the rear door on Southern Cross-Island Highway (Provincial Highway No. 20), the prints have been blurred by long-time weathering. The Hla’alua people still wanted to make the rock a Hla’alua monument, as it is the only surviving ethnic monument, whether or not the prints are still there. Thanks to the testimonies, claiming that they have seen them about 70 years ago, of elders including Yu Chung-Ching, Liao Shui-Sheng, Yu Chin-Tu, Yu Kuei-Yeh and Yu Mei-Nu to prove the existence of the those prints of a person and his hands, and chest, people still believe in the legend today.

◎ The sun-shooting story: The origin of rahli (the chief)

A long, long time ago, an orphaned girl went to the river to do the laundry, and a piece of damaged driftwood in the river kept floating across, getting in her way. After picking it up and throwing it away, she hurried to finish the laundry. Then, the driftwood came again, and the girl picked it up and threw it away. Again and again, she was annoyed. Finally, she picked it up impatiently and put it in her groin, and continued to wash clothes. When she wanted to threw it away after the laundry, the driftwood had disappeared. Then, she went home. A few months later, she found that she was pregnant. Other villagers laughed at her, “How can you get pregnant without getting married?” Feeling embarrassed to be seen, she locked herself up in the house, planning to take good care of the baby in her. Time flew by, and she gave birth to a boy later. He was a big and handsome boy. She named him Hla’ungali and raised him alone. Strangely, the boy grew as fast as the wind and was big enough to play with other boys in the village overnight. Envying the toys of other children, Hla’ungali told his mother about that. No matter how difficult it was, the girl (mother) would get anything that Hla’ungali wanted.

Eventually, Hla’ungali grew up. He was strong and handsome, and began to go hunting with adults. He was a good archer, and only he could catch animals every time. As time went by, adults began to become jealous of him, because only he could catch animals. When he went hunting with the adults as usual one day, the adults deliberately sent him to fetch water. He didn’t refuse this arrangement. Besides, as he was strong, he just did what he was told. In the meantime, the adults opened his bag to see what gear he used to catch animals easily. As they found nothing but a piece of bone, they just threw it away. When he carried water back and found that the adults had searched his bag, he felt very sad and told his mother. The girl (mother) comforted him and said, “It’s all right. Let them take it. They don’t know how to use it.” From that time on, Hla’ungali went hunting alone.

In that time, there were two suns, and it was very hot. As no plant could grow in such hot weather, people could only hunt. Hla’ungali was puzzled, reckoning that he should do something to end this so plants could grow. He wanted to shoot the sun, so he asked his mother to braided a rope for him. “Mother, please braid two piles of ropes for me.” Surprised by his words, “What do you want to do with so many ropes?” asked his mother. “What should we do? No plants can grow in such a hot weather, then what food do we have?” He told her that he wanted to shoot the sun down.

The girl (mother) was happy to hear that and encouraged Hla’ungali to do it. So Hla’ungali found a partner to prepare things for shooting the sun. He put a spear in front of his home and tied one end of the rope to the spear. Then, he told his mother, “We are going out to shoot the sun now, take good care of yourself. If the rope is pulled once after we shoot the sun, this means one of us has survived. If the rope is pulled twice, both of us have survived.” Then, Hla’ungali left with his partner.

They spent a lot of time to get to the place where the sun rose. There, they hid themselves immediately. Hla’ungali told his partner, “When I shoot the sun, hide yourself and don’t look.” Then, he hurried to the ambush position and waited for the sun there. When the sun rose, Hla’ungali shot right at the rising sun and immediately hid himself under the rock. In the meantime, the sun shed its blood over Hla’ungali’s partner who stuck his head out to see what had happened. The partner then fell in the pond and died. Then, the whole world was dimmed. Hla’ungali held tightly onto the rope they brought with them and pulled once. Getting the message of pulling the rope once, the girl (mother) felt very sad, wondering who would come home. With a heart full of sadness, she waited.

As the world turned dim, people cut and burned all the wood, including mortars and pestles, to get some light. What’s next? All the people gathered around, looking for a solution. Even all the animals joined them. All of them decided to make offerings, except the earthworm and the fish, who said, “We don’t need to make offerings, because we live in the water and the ground.” All were angry and said, “Never mind. If you get leave the water or the ground, you will die.” True, both the earthworm and the fish die when they come to the ground.

Every day people made offerings, sang, and danced to attract another sun to come out. For a long time, the other sun dared not coming out. A long time after that, it stuck its head out to see the environment and hid again.

When the people were worried, the cock found a method. It visited and discussed with the sun at the mountain where the run rose. As the sun was frightened to come out, the cock said, “If you are afraid, I will cry thrice tomorrow morning. If I cry for the first time, don’t come out. If I cry again, don’t come out either. Until I cry thrice, then you can come out.” The cock also guaranteed, “I will watch your back.” The sun agreed with the deal, and the cock left. Then, the cock hurried back to the village to find a very strong person to escort it to the place where the sun rose. The cock took this strong person to find a bear skin and tiger skin. After finding them, they prepared everything and went to the mountain where the sun rose. The cock told the strong person, “When the sun comes out after I cry thrice, you put on the tiger skin immediately and block the road where the sun comes out from quickly.” When the cock cried for the first time, it was still dark. When the cock cried again, the strong person got in position. When the cock cried for the third time, the sun really came out from the mountain. Quickly the strong person blocked its way, and the sun kept running down the hill. On the following day, the sun came out from there and ran down the hill again. From then on, the sun rose and set as it did before, and people began to farm again and regained a happy life until now. This is the end of the shooting sun story. When

Hla’ungali returned home, his mother was old. After knowing of Hla’ungali’s return, everyone in the village was very happy, gathered at his house, and elected him the Chief. This is the origin of the Chief of Hla’alua people.

3. Architecture

The Hla’ungali people were a settlement-based community. As many people were killed in an epidemic, they began to live on a separate basis, i.e. one or two households in one spot, to prevent massive death. Today, they live scattered over an area, known as the pararana style. Major building types include the family house and assembly hall.

◎Assembly Hall Built primarily with wood, the assembly hall has a domed roof. It is a stilt building about 1.3m above ground (from the bed’s surface) and about 6m wide. The bed is woven with linen ropes of about 6cm in diameter. There is only one stairway at the entrance. A stove at the center has a wooden bottom for containing ash for burning. The roof covered with thatch has vahlituru on two corners. Bamboo rods for hanging human heads or hair are installed on the four columns in the building.

◎Family House Traditionally, the family house is a rectangular building without interior partitions. The family house has a gable roof covered with thatch, with lower sides of about 2-3 feet tall. As the corners are round, the roof looks like a cone from the facade. The columns and beams are made of hard wood, such as the smoke tree, Taiwan zelkova, camphor tree, bishop wood, Taiwan incense-cedar, and camphor wood. Walls are made of vertically arrayed thatch stalks woven with fine flax. The left-hand side of the entrance is for men, while the right-hand side entrance is for women. There is a third door leading to the barn. Inside the house there are the stove, the bed, and the grave.