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Amis

1. Industry Agriculture and fishery are the traditional industries of the Amis, and technical labor industries have been added recently. The Amis started with foxtail millet (Setaria italica, and hafay in the Amis language) and turned to rice (Oryza sativa, and panay in the Amis language) in the Qing dynasty. With increasing popularity, rice became one of the Amis’ staple foods during Japanese rule. Apart from switching from millet to rice as the core concept of the annual ritual, the Amis have adjusted the Harvest Festival to after the rice harvest due to the rise of rice culture, displaying rice’s important influence on the Amis cultural change. As the job opportunities of technical labor have increased after the social transformation from agriculture to industry and commerce, many Amis people have changed their jobs from farming and fishing to labor work, such as inshore and deep-sea fisheries or the service industries in the Taipei and Kaohsiung metropolitan areas.

2. Architecture Traditional Tafalong Houses: Traditionally, Amis people live in a community neighboring one another with the tribal assembly hall as the center and farmlands, hunting grounds, or fishing areas around the community. In addition to the assembly hall, each community has a watchtower to maintain tribal security. A traditional Tafalong house is composed of a residence, a barn, and a pig shed or cattle housing. Traditional Amis houses are cottages. Each is a single rectangular building with a front door. Amis people will replace the grass roof in autumn every two to three years. Inside the house, Amis partition the kitchen, the living room, and bedroom with wood or bamboo, with the stove (paruod in the Amis language) make with three stacked stones as the center. Due to socioeconomic changes in the 20th century, reinforced concrete buildings have increased and become the main type of Amis building today.

3. Food In addition to rice obtained from farming, Amis people gather wild edible plants and catch animals and fish for food in the daily life. Although rice (panay) is a staple food, glutinous rice plays an important role in Amis’ weddings, funerals, and celebrations. After steaming, they pound glutinous rice (hakhak) to make a sticky rice cake (toron). Both the hakhak and the toron are the specialty indigenous foods of Hualien and Taichung respectively. With rich knowledge in farming and plant gathering, the Amis are good at cooking with wild edible plants, thus being jokingly called as the “herbivorous” tribe. Common wild edible plants of the Amis include the betel nut (‘icep), velvet persimmon (kamaya/kafohongay), and the breadfruit (apalo/facidol). Meat and fish from hunting and catching are the major protein sources of the Amis. The unique hot stone pot and cured meat (siraw) is highly culturally special. The hot stone pot is characterized by cooking fish and shrimp in a pot made with betel nut leaves called cifar/kadong by putting hot stones inside, which is a highly indigenous cooking style. The cured boar meat (siraw) for meat preservation is representative of the Amis for its unique aroma and flavor. In addition, the Amis people grow betel nut trees around their homes and consume betel nuts as a kind of snack and an important food in wedding, rituals, and between lovers, it is called ‘icep in Amis.

4. Clothing In the earliest record, Amis people made clothes with cloth knitted with bark and banana threads with bamboo needles. Besides tree bark, early Amis people used wear-resistant linens and pelts for clothes and rattans to make headgear. As material trade (barter) became popular, handcrafted clothes eventually phased out. In the first half of the 20th century, cotton acquired from barter became very popular. Traditional Male and Female Clothing of the Amis in Hualien: The styles of traditional Amis clothing include the Hualien style and Taitung style. Both styles are identifiable from the head scarf, the chest covering, and the skirt. Red, black, white, blue, and green are their favorite colors. By matching the form and the color, Amis clothes are sharp in color and vivid in image. As the chief and the priest enjoy a special social status in the Amis society, they wear robes with a betel nut bag and headgear in important functions and ceremonies. The betel nut bag for carrying the betel nut, limestone, betel, and smoking pipe is made by the mother for their children or a girl for her lover, which is also called the lover’s bag (álufo). The álufo is a very useful and common accessory in both ordinary times and rituals. The headgear is also a symbol of social status. The chief and people of different age classes distinguish their status and social class with headgear.

5. Craft—Betel Nut Bag (‘alufo) With plants in nature, the Amis have developed a range of daily life implements through crafting. Wooden implements include musical instruments like the wooden drum and wooden clapper and utensils like the spoon; bamboo implements include the bamboo water container, bird repellant, and bamboo cannon; rattan implements include the fish cage and fish trap; the shell-flower leaf and alligator weed can be used for weaving mats. In addition, Amis pottery is rather famous. After slapping with wood and cutting with knives, the shaped pottery implements are baked in the open air. The pottery of the Tafalong tribe in Guangfu, Hualien County, is the most famous among the Amis.

6. Singing and Dancing Songs and dances co-exist in Amis culture. Songs are presented in responsorial singing, direct aria singing, and counterpoint in religious ceremonies, friendship-making occasions, and recreation. Alongside the changes in the dance moves and formations, there are plentiful changes. The “Elders Drinking Song” by Amis singer Difang Tuwana became an internationally famous Amis song when it was used in a television advertisement to promote the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.