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Tsou

The Tsou (Cou) people settled southwest of Yushan Mountain in central Taiwan, with Alishan Township in Chiayi County as the center. Some Tsou people settled in Jiumei (Luhdu) Village, Xinyi Township, Nantou County, and some even migrated further down south to Namaxia District in Kaohsiung City. The Tsou (Cou) people call themselves “Tsou”, meaning “people”. According to the Tsou legend, after creating the Tsou and Maya peoples with the maple leaf, the Great God Hamo created the plain peoples with the leaf of the bishop wood (Bischofia javanica). Then, the Tsou people gradually migrated to the present location, distributing in the upstream Zhengwen River drainage basin and Zhuoshui River drainage basin in Alishan (Psoseongana) Mountain in Chiayi County. The three major communities include: Tapang and Tfuya in Alishan (Psoseongana) Township of Chiayi County, and Luhdu community in Jiumei Village of Xinyi (Nehunpu) Township in Nantou County.

The historical record of the Tsou people date back to the Tapang and Tfuya records by the Dutch in the 17th century. After the 18th century, the Tsou people interacted more closely with the Qing dynasty. Apart from the symbolic tax payment for the Qing government, the Tsou people leased land to the Han people for cultivation and farming. During the Lin Shuangwen Riot, they even assisted the Qing government to maintain public order in the mountain area. At that time, the administrator-Wu Feng, who held the authority to trade mountain resources was decapitated for exploiting the Tsou people. The decapitation event became government propaganda during Japanese colonization.

During Japanese colonization, the Tsou people maintained harmony with the colonial government for two possible reasons: (1) the Japanese were approved by the tribe before entering Alishan Mountain, and (2) the Tsou people believed that the Japanese were their brother Mayas separated by the deluge. Therefore, they faced the colonial government with acceptance and exchange attitudes. During the colonial period, Tsou chiefs accepted language, medical, and agricultural education and did not resist the colonial government.

After Taiwan’s restoration, elite Tsou people were killed for political reasons in the February 28 Incident and the White Terror period. From the 1980s, the Tsou people have become activists in social movements to fight for indigenous rights, such as the anti-stigmatization movement through demolition of Wu Feng’s bronze statute, and the refutation of the government and society’s over exaggeration and misinterpretation of Wu Feng’s legend. In addition, Kanakanavu and Hla’alua peoples were considered to be southern Tsou compared to the Tsou people in the north in earlier classification. Due to independent ethnic awareness, these two “Southern Tsou” tribes were eventually separated from the Tsou in 2014 and became two independent ethnic groups in their own demonyms.