As an indigenous member of contemporary society, Vava once expressed "I am the kind of aborigine who does eat at McDonald's and KFC.” Urban life nevertheless aroused his nostalgia for the Bunun tribe, which became a prevalent theme in his literary works. In 1998, "The Hunter (獵人)” earned him the Wu Chuo-liou Literary prize for the fiction category (吳濁流文學獎小說獎), and in 2007 he was awarded the Taiwan Literature Award (台灣文學獎) for "Souls of Jade Mountain (玉山魂)” before his death in the same year.
Reconnection to Bunun roots
Born in the Takimi (龍泉部落) community of Taitung, Vava and his family left the tribe when he wasgrade 10 and relocated to Tianchih (天池), a recreational area of Yushan National Park. While attendingschool at Pingtung County, he only spent summer and winter breaks with his father in remote lodgings. Without participating in any Bunun activities, he was followed by a sense of alienation until moving to Taoyuan District of Kaohsiung, where most of the inhabitants are Bunun people, and the life there reconnected him back to his Bunun roots.
Vava had cultivated a great interest in the Bunun mythology and legends during his college years. After graduation, he taught in an elementary school of a Bunun tribe where the tribal experiences inspired him to seek ethnic identification through writing. Most of his early works illustrate Bunun culture by exploring its myths and rituals, whereas his later works focus on developing the value of Bunun tribe.
Spirit of the Bunun culture
"Souls of Jade Mountain (玉山魂)” is his representative work that tells the story of Bunun people as a whole. Through the protagonist's perspective, Vava began a journey of searching for home and a sense of belonging, reflecting his longing for Bunun identification. It is also the first novel that uses aboriginal language to demonstrate the Bunun terms as a method of preserving their original meanings.
After witnessing the diminishment of aboriginal culture in Taiwan, Vava dedicated his life to promote and preserve Bunun culture. In addition, he bridged his lost bond to Bunun roots throughstory writing, in which the spirit and value of Bunun culture are well demonstrated. In his lifetime, Vava did not only foster the revival of Bunan pride but also found his way home.