The National Taiwan University (NTU) and the Vungalid (望嘉部落) community of the Paiwan tribe held a ceremony on Oct. 15 to escort Paiwan ancestral spirits home from their temporary dwellings in an ancient stone pillar preserved in the university's anthropology museum.
The "Double-sided Carved Stone Pillar,” a historic relic symbolizing the spirits of deceased Paiwan members, was discovered by Japanese anthropologist Utsurikawa Nenozo (移川子之藏) during the colonial era and entrusted to NTU in 1929. The human-faced pillar became inaccessible to its tribe and memories of the historic relic also began to fade within the Paiwan community.
When the pillar received designation as a National Treasure from the Ministry of Culture in May 2015, the Bureau of Cultural Heritage and NTU anthropologists visited the pillar's origins - Chunri Township (春日鄉) of Pingtung County - to seek discussion and feedback from the Paiwan community.
Upon the officials revisiting Chunri Township this year, Vungalid members expressed their shared hope of bringing the pillar back home to strengthen tribal identity after having their dreams visited by ancestral spirits.
Thus the museum decided to create a replica of the stone pillar for the tribe to bring their ancestral spirits back with, while the original pillar stays with NTU for permanent preservation and display. Chen Jo-shui (陳弱水), dean of NTU's College of Liberal Arts, also took an oath of fraternity and promised to safeguard the pillar.
The Ministry of Culture is confident that the alliance will help strengthen awareness of aboriginal cultures and empower local communities, as well as foster respect for cultural diversity by preserving the spiritual legacy of such a national treasure.
The Double-sided Carved Stone Pillar (雙面祖先像石雕柱) of the Vungalid (望嘉部落) community of the Paiwan tribe.
Cultural Minster Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) noted that the NTU-Vungalid collaboration on preserving both intangible and tangible assets will serve as a good model for future cooperation among established agencies and grassroots communities.
The female chieftain of the Vungalid community arrives on NTU campus to oversee the escorting & oath-taking ceremony.