The Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines was established primarily to collect artifacts related to the nine indigenous tribes of Taiwan. The museum also conducts research about these Aborigines and sets up programs that do not only educate about their history but also promote the preservation of their culture. As of 2006, the Aborigines comprised about 2% (468,602) of the entire Taiwanese population. They commonly live on the mountainous areas of the eastern part of Taiwan. They are related with the inhabitants of ancient Oceania.
The museum is found near the National Palace Museum. It is impossible not to notice this building because of its unique architectural design. Shaped like a trapezoid with a large glass wall in front, the building’s exterior is very modern in appearance, which is a sharp contrast to the ancient artifacts being displayed inside. Only the wooden tribal carvings on either side of the building give a clue as to what is found in its interior.
When you enter the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, you will be greeted by a large map of Taiwan showing the nation’s important geographical features and markings that indicate the location of the indigenous tribes. You will also see a Yami boat, which is one of the attractions on the ground floor of the museum. This kind of boat was used by the Yami people who occupied Orchid Island on the southeastern coast of Taiwan. It takes a lot of skill to build a Yami boat because different kinds of wood are needed for its parts. The Yami people typically took three years to finish building one such boat.
When you go up to the second floor, the displays you see will open your eyes to the Aborigines’ way of life. You will find a model of a Yami house, a life-sized hearth from the Ami tribe, a model of a Paiwan house, and a model of a Tsou men’s house. On this floor, you will also see different weapons, tools used for hunting, weaving materials, pieces of pottery, pots, and musical instruments.
The next floor of the museum shows the traditional clothing used by the tribes. Aside from these, the displays show indigenous ornaments, textiles, mourning clothes, and embroideries. Among the tribes, only Rukai, Paiwan, and Puyuma use bead works in their clothing designs. Bead works often indicated an individual’s status or rank in society. They also had a religious significance.
Down at the first basement of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, you will learn a lot about the indigenous tribes’ religious beliefs. The cups and other materials used for religious sacrifices and divination are displayed. The tools – mostly spears, knives, and daggers – used by the tribes to drive out evil spirits are also displayed. The Paiwan tribe used bronze knives to ward off evil spirits. This is a significant discovery since bronze was not locally produced on the island during those days.
The Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines is located at 282 Sec. 2 Zhishan Road in Shilin District. You can reach the museum by taking the MRT to Shilin Station and riding a bus to the National Palace Museum. The museum is just walking distance from there.