Special Exhibition: 

"Taiwan Aboriginal"

Formosan Aboriginals is a title given to the tribal people who were the original inhabitants of the island of Taiwan that now comprise about 2% of the population. They are speakers of an archaic form of the Austronesian language, considered by scholars to be the possible beginning point of a great migration of peoples beginning 3-4000 BC that populated islands from Madagascar to Easter Island, including the Philippines, Indonesia, and all of Polynesia.

The most dominant of the tribal cultures is that of the Paiwan Peoples who had a distinct sculptural style in the representation of their ancestors as well as a fabulous weaving tradition. The Atayal tribe was best known for the tiny hand made shell disks that they used on their textiles as statements of wealth and prestige. The Yami (who prefer the name Tao) live on a tiny island to the southeast of the Taiwan mainland known as Orchid Island; their ancestor depictions feature figures with curvilinear projections, thus recalling their proto-ancestor and mythic hero, Magamaog.

The name Formosa came from the Portuguese who first landed in the 16th Century and named the island from their word for "beautiful aroma." The Japanese held it as a territory from 1895 until 1945 and as a result, many of the great collections of tribal Taiwanese artifacts come out of old Japanese collections, as do most of the artifacts presented here.