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Tsou

1. Industry and Food

Agriculture, fishery, hunting, and gathering are traditional ecomonies of the Tsou people. Foxtail millet, upland rice, sweet potatoes, and taro are their major crops of agriculture. While the meat of wild boars, sambar deers (Rusa unicolor), and goats are the primary sources of protein, the meat of birds and fish serve as the secondary protein sources. Due to tourism development in recent years, service industries have been trending in the tribe, such as the Tanayiku Natural Ecological Parkand tourism mountain villas and guesthouses. Under market and economic influences, the Tsou people have begun growing the Japanese horseradish (Eutrema japonicum), high-mountain tea, jelly fig (Ficus pumila), and peaches. The Cuo bamboo tube rice is rather famous. First, after soaking it in water, glutinous rice is put inside a Makino bamboo tube and roasted. Apart from preventing the glutinous rice from burning, the moisture contained in the perennial Makino bamboo adds an additional aroma to it. When hunting in the mountain in the past, hunters would bring dozens of bamboo tubes with them for dining in the forest.

2. Clothing

Traditional Tsou Clothing

Feathers on leather headgear mark a man’s bravery. Traditionally, male Tsou clothes are made of leather, while female Tsou clothes are made of cotton, silk, or brocade. Common colors include red, white, black, and blue. Particularly, men usually dress up in red. Men’s clothes include pelt headgear, chest coverings, long-sleeve upper garments, pelt vests, pelt leg coverings, and pelt shoes. The headwear carries important meanings. Wear the pelt headgear means adulthood, symbolizing they are ready to assume tribal and family responsibilities. When dressing up, men will put some feathers of the eagle, the Taiwan blue pheasant (Lophura swinhoii), the Mikado pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado), or the condor on the headgear to symbolize their bravery. Women’s clothes include the black headscarf, bosoms, long-sleeved upper garments, dresses, and leggings. The Tsou people dress code is connected with age and social status. Warriors, such as the chief and the marshal, can add a red decorative band with pearls, jades, and shells on the front of their headgear. In addition to the copper bracelets and arm ornaments, those who have hunted the wild boar can wear arm ornaments containing wild boar tusks.

3. Art

◎ Tanning

With mature processing skills, the Tsou people often make leather clothes with pelts. Processes before tanning include pelting, stretching, sun/fire drying, de-hairing, and tanning is the last process. Pelting refers to removing the skin/hide from the animal and maintaining it in one piece as much as possible.

◎ Stretching To dry the pelt under the sun more easily and to prevent folds, the Tsou people stretch the pelt with bamboo or wooden rods. In addition, the grease on the pelt is removed to avoid decay. After stretching, the pelt is dried by the sun or fire to prevent decay. Lastly, tanning is done repeatedly by two people under the beam in the house or a tree. Some may put the pelt in the mortar and tan it with a pestle to make the pelt softer.

4. Architecture

Traditionally, the Tsou people built the kuba (assembly hall), emo (family house), and shed with wood, bamboo, and thatch. Today, most family houses are built with reinforced concrete or steel structures, although traditional construction methods are still used. The kuba (assembly hall) is the center for the Tsou people to disseminate politics, education, and culture.

◎ Kuba (Assembly Hall) The Tsou people call the assembly hall the “Kuba”. It is an elevated building with guardrails for males to learn culture, knowledge, and hunting and combat skills. Columns are primarily made of birch and cedar, the floor is made of cedar plank and bamboo, and the roof is made of thatch. The Tsou people also grow the tallow flowered dendrobium (Dendrobium clavatum) by and atop the assembly hall. It is the ethnic flower for the heavenly god to recognize the Tsou people.

◎ Emo (Family house) The Tsou people build the family house with bamboo and thatch in a rectangular or oval shape. The central fireplace (stove) is the center of the house. There are racks on the upper side for storing articles and pelts. Space in the family house symbolizes both genders. The door facing east is the front door for use by men, and the door facing west is the back door for use by women. The front yard symbolizing men is the storage for firewood and animal bones and the place for drying grains and holding rituals. The backyard symbolizing women holds the chicken or pig sheds, and is the living space for women.

◎ Emo No Pesia (Forbidden Shrine, Ritual Shrine) In earlier times, the forbidden shrine was located on the left-hand side in the family house. There is a fireplace (stove) inside for cooking offerings. The barn is the most important part of the shrine, which is the transitional housing of the goddess of millet. Cooking fish is prohibited. In addition, the Homeyaya (Millet Harvest Festival) is held in the forbidden shrine. It is also the place for the witch/wizard to cure illness and the spiritual symbol of every family. After Japanese colonization, the forbidden shrine is removed outside of the family house and becomes smaller. After the forbidden shrine is moved out of the family house, it also becomes the place for worshipping the god of military and the storage of armaments.