About Truku
 
The Dream of a Beautiful Land — The Truku Tribe
 
Everyone has a dream. Whenever people face difficulty in reality, dreams give a momentum to flee. Returning to the rainbow bridge (Hakaw Utuxthe) which Utux guards is the beautiful dream shared by the Truku in the high mountains or the riverside…

Long, long time ago, a saying has been passed down in the Truku tribe, “After death, only people who have facial tattoos can step on the rainbow bridge which Utux guards.” Truku people firmly believe that the facial tattoo gives them power to fight in life and is the only way to return to the arms of Utux after death.

As time changes, the representative mark of Truku beautiful tattoos on foreheads, faces and lower lips has gone with history, and yet the strong symbolic meaning is instilled in the spirit of the Truku. Every detail of weaving, craving, celebrating to the living shows the impressive insistence of Truku spirit.



Follow the Footstep of Gaya and Climb Over the Mountain to the Truku

The Truku tribe travelled through deep gullies and valleys and climbed sky-high mountain. Even though they had no idea about what laid ahead, they believed that Utux would protect them in cleaving through the Central Mountain Range and Syue Mountain to the place where clean Liwu river and Papaya river murmurs. The endless magnificent landscape made them naturally exclaim “Truku.”

This happened three or four centuries ago. “Truku” means “a Platform in the Mountainside” or “a Habitable Place” in Truku language. After the development over hundred years, Xiulin Township of Hualien County has concentrated most Truku people and the name of Truku has attracted many international and domestic tourists to explore the origin of the name.

After the Truku settled down in Hualien, they keep the ancestor worship and belief. Under the guidance of gaya, The Truku are a patriarchal society and family property passes on to male descendants. The monogamous society strongly prohibits the cousin marriage. The wedding is generally held in the groom’s home and prepared by friends and relatives. The groom’s family should prepare knives, guns, beaded clothing and farm tools as gifts while the bride’s family needs to prepare necessary textile equipment along with weaving works for the groom's family. They enjoy the pork feast with friends and relatives to pump up the atmosphere.

When the Truku tribe travelled long distances from Nantou to Hualien where they built own unique characteristics, the respect to Utux and the belief on Gaya were the pillar supporting them and building the strong coherence. All activities in festivals and daily life have close connection with Utux, especially the impressive tattoo culture.

Return to the Rainbow Bridge which Utux Guards

An old Truku tale says dead people go to the spiritual world where Utux exist. The access to the spiritual world is the rainbow bridge, guarded by Utux who only allows people with facial tattoos to walk on the bridge which links to the spiritual world of Utux and leave the unqualified roaming in nihility.

Hence, even though it is so painful to pierce row upon row of needles into skin that the Truku tie themselves up to endure the agony and need to suffer a month long recovery time afterwards, they still regard facial tattoos as the highest glory and try every endeavor to perform the “sacred ritual” on the face without any regret.

The Truku develops beautiful tattoos into a system. Only when the male is strong and brave enough to protect tribal members' life and assets are they allowed to have tattoos on jaws and only the female has such excellent weaving skills that they are allowed have tattoos on cheeks. In other words, strong men and skillful women protect the tribe so win respect from other tribal members.

As time changes, the Truku no longer lives the traditional life of hunting and cultivation or hunts for enemies’ heads in order to survive in the precarious environment where enemies surround. However, the brilliant weaving skill, the respect to Utux and the cultural spirit of returning to the rainbow bridge continue to thrive in the Truku in another way.


The Tie Between the Truku and Utux

To walk on the rainbow bridge that leads the way to fulfill the dream of returning to the place of Utux, every Truku woman is educated to pursue the practiced and consummate weaving skill as a lifetime goal since in the cradle.

At their young age, Truku women have watched mothers, aunts and other elder women weaving, kindly reminding them: “Don’t underestimate the grain.” Ru Wen embodies the wish of smooth life. Do Wen means harvest and the diamond grain symbolize the eye of Utux who protect and watch you all the time. Every grain has its special meaning and finally Truku women acquire the full knowledge of grains.

Nonetheless, Truku women will not personally realize how many obstacles they have to get through and how many efforts they have to devote to complete a beautiful work after starting learning.

Truku women will destroy an imperfect work even if it is almost done or the flaw is too small to be detected because Truku women know every work represents not only their skills but also the tie with Utux. Every grain tells the insistence of Truku on traditions and the passionate love to its members.



A Knife and a Handful of Salt in the Simple and Natural Life

Nowadays, Truku men no longer have facial tattoos or hunt, but they still abide by the tradition and stick to the ancestor’s rule. They show respect to the nature in farming, live off the mountain and never waste food that is cooked in a simple way like boiling in water, roasting by fire, stewing with stones or steaming in bamboos. Tableware is made up of local materials by hands. Dining etiquette is highly emphasized. Guests enjoy food first followed by children. Delicious internal organs are reserved for the most elder.

Under the guidance of gaya, Truku men seems versatile. Except for hunting skills, Truku men also have great workmanship to make rattan back baskets for carrying, fish containers and baskets for storage as well as hats. Truku men can create various functional tools or decorations with just a knife, an awl and a wood drill.

The most worth mentioning is the pride of Truku men, the knife. A folk-saying says: “Truku men can live in the mountain with just a knife and a handful of salt.” Knives play an indispensable role in the Truku life regardless hunting, farming, building house or even cooking. The knife, shaped like a crescent and called Tong Men knife is tough, sharp and elegant in design. The Truku knife is still the necessity for the tribal men and becomes an attraction for many tourists.


To Enhance the Cohesion of the Truku with the Help of Utux

The dress and personal adornment of the Truku reflect their persistence in traditional culture. Different patterns, styles, grains and materials are used for the clothes. They can be classified according to the daily life and work. The ramie clothes of solid color, for example, are for daily life, while the clothes made from coarse materials are worn for the work. The clothes for ceremonies are costumes of red, black or white color with glorious decorations; accessories made from seashells and other materials are also used for decoration. The design of the clothes does not reflect the class. The head of the tribe wears the same as other tribe people in terms of dressing.

The most important pattern on the dress is the diamond-shaped grains of different colors, which indicate the "eyes of Utux". The dress for the women is mainly white in color. The two-piece apron for the part of the body lower than the waist is full of the diamond-shaped grain patterns. The lateral grain on the clothes means indicates the return to the rainbow bridge after death.

In short, the Truku keep in mind that they can do anything they want, but may not violate the conscience, do any evil things or spit out curses. Otherwise, Utux can see what they are doing. For this, the pattern of the "eyes of Utux" is widely used in daily life, including the dress, wood sculpture and furniture accessories.

The Truku believe that all happiness and disasters within Heaven and Earth are related to Utux. So they hold Utux Ceremony or Thanksgiving Ceremony in September every year after the millet is harvested. The also hold the "sowing ceremony", "weaving ceremony", "hunting ceremony" and "harvest ceremony". These activities and the special interesting contests, such as the Pig Catching Contest, arranged for the activities are helpful for enhancement of the cohesion among the Truku and for the continuation of Truku's traditional culture to next generation.