Language and Literature
The Paiwan indigenous people are considered to have preserved and revived more elements of their traditional culture than any other indigenous group in Taiwan (Hu 2005: 165), especially symbols from their orature, such as Vulung, the hundred-pace snake, their legendary ancestor. This orature, once regarded as “primitive” folklore, comprised “unique cultural contents and concepts of life” (Poiconu 2012: 361) regulating the people’s social organization, and values ahead of our own “modern” societies in the fields of tolerance, ecology, inclusion, or sex equality. In fact, those values helped them resist assimilation, thus making them a model of resilience.
More recently, through adaptation to the written form, the Paiwan developed a literature rich with indigenous symbols of identity and modalities of resistance against a dominant society, as seen in the works of writers such as Monaneng, Liglave Awu or Sakinu, who strive to restore a cultural sovereignty undermined by colonization. In an era of global conformity, these authors act as a bridge enabling us to enter “tribal philosophies” that “show the modern world ideas that many of its citizens were unable to think before” (Garroutte 2003: 110).
To understand the importance and impact paiwan orature and literature beyond Taiwan’s boundaries, we will devote close attention to Vulung, the ancestor, and Palji, a popular cultural hero, as they can be seen as global symbols of resilience. First by examining how they embody paiwan values, then how they were tools of resistance against colonisers, and, lastly, how they can impart timeless and universal values.