A Rukai Aboriginal Wedding

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Aboriginal, blog, Published, Taiwan | 4 Comments
  • SumoMe
Chingye, Sandimen, Pingtung

A Rukai Tribesman wearing traditional clothing at a wedding.

Check out my article on Aboriginal weddings on culture.tw. where I compare the Bunun and Tsou weddings that I usually attend in Namasia to the much more traditional and conservative Rukai wedding that I recently attended in Pingtung.

Below are some excerpts:

Rukai Aboriginal Wedding Dance

Rukai Aboriginal Wedding Dance

“Why is it that some tribes, like the Rukai and Paiwan, wear their traditional clothing to weddings and others, like the Bunun, don’t? According to people at the wedding, they have to; if you are not wearing traditional attire, you are not permitted to dance with the newly-wed couple.”

Rukai Aboriginal Children

Rukai Aboriginal Children pose for a photograph.

“When it comes to Taiwanese Aboriginal tribes’ weddings there are several traits common to all. Marriages are monogamous; there is only one husband and one wife, unlike many polygamous cultures in Asia, and marrying kin is taboo, for obvious reasons. The Bunun naming system lets a suitor know how many degrees of familial separation there is so there will be no chance of falling in love before realizing the person is a distant cousin! Infidelity in marriage is forbidden and dealt with severely, especially by Atayal Tribe Aboriginals. Additionally, remarrying is taboo for all tribes.”

Rukai Bride carried in sedan chair

A Rukai bride being carried in a bamboo chair to her wedding in a traditional ritual called ‘stealing the bride.’

“Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the differences between a Rukai and Bunun Wedding. The Paiwan and Rukai have a very different system of social organization from the Bunun’s simple organization based on respect for elders.”

A bride-price is laid out at the bride's house on her wedding day

A traditional Rukai Aboriginal bride-price is laid out at the bride’s house on her wedding day

“[Rukai] can marry into, or out of, nobility. Marrying into the noble class from a lower class is not easy. First, the family must accept the suitor, next the chief must accept the suitor, and finally, the suitor needs to prepare a suitable bride price consisting of items that only nobles may possess, symbolizing their worthiness to become a noble.”

A Rukai woman in western style dress descending the staircase on her wedding day, Pingtung, Taiwan

A Rukai woman in Western style dress on her wedding day

“Taiwanese Aboriginals do not wear tribal clothing on a daily basis, only on special occasions.”

A Paiwan Aboriginal Tribesman

A Paiwan Aboriginal Tribesman

“The Paiwan and Rukai have a very different system of social organization from the Bunun’s simple organization based on respect for elders.”

A Paiwan Groom, Pingtung, Taiwan

A Paiwan Groom

“The groom said he was going to enact a ritual called ‘stealing the bride’ where he goes to the bride’s house, takes his bride and puts her in a bamboo chair borne by friends. There wasn’t much of a struggle, and the bride seemed quite happy in the chair. This custom of stealing the bride is seen in many tribes”

Rukai Bride and her Bridesmaid dance at wedding ceremony, Pingtung, Taiwan

Rukai Bride and her Bridesmaid dance at wedding ceremony, Pingtung, Taiwan

“The Paiwan and Rukai clothing is as stunning as it is expensive, and the design and degree of embroidered intricacy of the clothing indicate the social class of the wearer. The often hand-woven and hand-embroidered clothing is heavily laden with decorative bones, shells and beads. A set of clothing purchased for a typical wedding will be upwards of NT$80,000. All the tribespeople in their elaborate traditional clothing made for an unforgettable sight.”

Rukai Aboriginal Woman

A Rukai Aboriginal woman poses for a photo

“Beyond these common traits, Taiwan’s Aboriginal tribes’ marriage customs are as interesting as they are varied. Perhaps the most interesting in today’s predominantly patrilineal society is the matrilineal customs of the Pingpu, Amis and Beinan, wherein the family line is carried on by the woman. The Rukai system is not matrilineal nor is it patrilineal, rather the eldest sibling, regardless of sex, carries the royal line.”

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