Mountain Compatriots--- The Gaoshan Nationality

Gaoshan NationalityGaoshan, one of the Chinese ethnic minorities, has a population of more than 400,000. The ethnic group is mainly distributed in the middle mountain area, eastern Zhonggu Plain and Lanyu Island of the Taiwan Island. Owing to the differences in area, language, and culture, it is also further divided into several sub-groups, Aimei people, Taiya people, Paiwan people, Bunong people, Lukai people, Beinan people, Cao people (Zou people), Saiya people, Yamai people as well as Pingpu people living scattered all over Taiwan and already basically assimilated by Han people. Besides, nearly another 3000 people live scattered in Fujian, Zhejiang, Beijing of the mainland.

Gaoshan features the oldest nationality in Taiwan, and in history, its people have been successively called "Shanyi," "Daoyi," "Dongfan," "Dongfan," "Fanren," "Gaolizu," "Fanzu," etc. Taiwan authorities call the ethnic group "compatriot of the mountain region"---"mountain compatriot" for short, or "aboriginal group," etc. Gaoshan is a general name called by the Mainland people for all the minorities living in Taiwan.

Gaoshan people have their own language, belonging to the Indonesia linguistic family. The differences within the language are relatively great, so the sub groups do not communicate with each other. Nowadays, there are 15 kinds of languages, which are used in compact communities and families. Without a national written language, they are generally closely linked to Chinese.

Because the clans live in different natural conditions and the influences from the Han culture vary, the level of their social development remains in an uneven state in a long run, close to Han people in the plain areas but comparatively backward in the mountain regions. The economy relies mainly on the rice cultivation, and fishing and hunting act as a complement. As for their diet, millet, rice, potato, taro are taken as the staple food. They like drinking.

There are many kind of varieties for their traditional clothing pattern, including pass- through-head clothing, no-sleeves Jiaoling clothing, corselet, undershirt, long sleeves jacket, skirt, etc. Shellfish, beast's bone, fish bone, and feather are their favorite ornaments. There are many kinds of traditional houses, such as log cabin, bamboo room, thatched cottage, slate building, etc., generally presenting the shapes of rectangle or square.

Gaoshan people generally believe in the primitive religion, preaching that the universe is flooded with spirit, a kind of mysterious supernatural strength. So their holidays are mostly combined with the activities of offering sacrifices, including seeding ceremony, safety ceremony, harvest ceremony, bamboo pole ceremony, hunting ceremony, flying fish ceremony, etc. When celebrating the festivals, besides the feast, singing and dancing, they would launch rich and colorful entertaining activities, such as sports games, itinerant exhibition of the mountain region culture, and recreation programs.

Tracing the History of the Gaoshans >>