Rukai (people)

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Rukai Chief (Photograph from the Department of Anthropology of the Imperial University of Tokyo at the time of the Japanese rule of Taiwan before 1945)

The Rukai ( Chinese  魯凱 族Lǔkǎi zú ) are one of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan . With a population of 12,831 people (as of Sept. 2014), the Rukai people are spread over southern Taiwan , namely over the areas of the port city of Kaohsiung and the two districts of Pingtung and Taitung . Like all indigenous peoples of Taiwan, the Rukai are also part of the Austronesian peoples and speak a Formosa language . The traditional Rukai society was characterized by a caste system that was divided into chiefs, nobles, warriors and people.

The social order

The Rukai passed on the succession patrilinear . The first-born son of the first-married woman became the successor. The chief had the greatest power and responsibility for collecting taxes, controlling the tribes, and helping the people in need. The only way to raise the family status was to marry a woman with a man in a higher position.



Every year in mid-August is the harvest festival, one of the most important festivals for the Rukai. After the harvest, each tribe holds a series of festivities to say thanks for the harvest and to ask for security. In addition, war, hunting and wealth are also themes of this festival. Thanksgiving begins in the morning. On the fairground there are many huts with images of the Chinese nosed viper and the sun god. People in traditional clothing crowd around the square. The chief priest recites prayers dedicated to the gods or ancestors. After that, fires are set on the fairground and the warriors must jump over the fires. This symbolizes the expulsion of evil spirits. Further performances and competitions will follow after the opening ceremony.

Tapakadrawane Festival (Black Rice Festival)

Every January the Rukai put on their most beautiful festive clothing and bring parts of the harvest to the chief. This then distributes them to the needy tribal members.


Swinging is a romantic activity for teens. If the girls have a friend, he can swing them . The other people are singing at the same time. The higher a girl swings, the louder people sing. Schwingen emphasizes the importance of the girls in the tribe, and it is also a symbol that the woman is pure and has temperament.


Once upon a time there was a Bunun princess who fell in love with the eldest son of the Rukai chief and married him.

The princess took care of the household and housework every day, so she also took over the cooking. However, she never dined with her new family. Little by little, the family members wore out.

The Rukai chief was watching the girl because of a suspicion against her. As he did so, he saw how she whistled while she was cooking sweet potatoes , attracting a snake, which she killed and cooked. Now, however, the snake was a Chinese nosed viper , which was worshiped as divine by the Rukai. So it's no wonder the family kept losing weight. The chief issued a severe reprimand to the bunun princess and gave her a punishment, namely to carry a tree trunk with a nosed viper.

While traveling from Sanaginaeh to Tsubuli, where she usually met her husband, she ate the nasal viper and wept terribly on a rock. She wished that her husband would come to her. But she waited in vain for him. The bones of the eaten snake suddenly became a living nosed viper again, and the girl wept even more violently. The tears of the Bunun princess ran down the tree trunk that had been dragged along and left her face on the wood. This tribe became a totem . This legend also expresses that there should be eternal conflicts between the Rukai and the Bunun.


If a man had killed six wild boars, he received a lily as a prize at a traditional celebration. The lily was - similar to the laurel wreath among the ancient Greeks - as a symbol of the highest recognition. Whoever received the most lilies from the Rukai was considered a hero.


Handmade embroidered clothing is highly valued by the Rukai. The clothes are decorated with images of the Chinese nosed viper, ceramic vessels or venerated deities. Usually the colors of clothing are black, blue, or red. The lily headwear and the Chinese nosed viper headwear are a focus of clothing. The headwear with the Chinese nosed viper totem and wild boar teeth is for men. The headwear for women is decorated with lilies, wild boar teeth and silver.

Web links


  • 孫大川. (2003). "魯凱 族 - 多情 的 巴 嫩 姑娘" [Baleng and the snake: Stories from the Rukai Tribe]. Taiwan.

Individual evidence

  1. 原住民 委員會. (No longer available online.) Formerly in the original ; accessed on October 6, 2016 .  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  2. a b c 原住民 委員會. Retrieved October 6, 2016 .
  3. a b c 台灣 原住民 神話 與 傳說. Retrieved October 12, 2016 .
  4. 孫大川: « 魯凱 族 - 多情 的 巴 嫩 姑娘 » .
  5. 孫大川: « 魯凱 族 - 多情 的 巴 嫩 姑娘 » .
  6. 台灣 原住民 神話 與 傳說. Retrieved October 12, 2016 .