Sharing the Beauty of Indigenous Attire in 2001
In 2001, Lisin was invited to share her knowledge of indigenous clothing and culture at National Dong Hwa University, where she analyzed the revival of tribal culture through Amis tribal attire. This was a unique experience and her first time as a visiting lecturer at a higher education institution. Lisin often said, "I dropped out of school due to my family's poverty, and I don't know many words. How can I explain things clearly?" However, with the help of her daughter, she completed the class and expressed gratitude to the teacher for translating (as some terms may be unfamiliar to the students). She also encouraged the indigenous students present, saying, "If I can do my best to complete this class, you can also contribute to tribal culture with your abilities!
Before the class started, Lisin dressed her daughter in the traditional attire of early Amis women. The color scheme of this outfit was the black clothing that Lisin remembered from her childhood. The hair was tied up, and a simple embroidered border was added. The "S" curve (on the chest and waist) later incorporated traditional motifs. Lisin explained, "Back then, most people were poor, and only slightly wealthier families could afford more decorations. The majority of the material used was black, dyed with carbon powder. This is how traditional women used to dress."
During the class, as a representative from the Kiwit tribe in Ruisui Township, Hualien County, Lisin talked about the traditional Amis women's headdress ("top shell" in the Amis language). It didn't have the fancy bows and ornaments seen today; instead, it featured white feathers and traditional beaded tassels. The entire headdress was secured with metal sheets and wires, making it quite heavy. Over time, the hats became lighter and more elaborate, with improved craftsmanship and materials. The wreath symbolized the prime of a woman's life—being able to sing, dance, and take care of the family. It was hoped that a suitable husband would be attracted to her. Additionally, in the traditional Amis male initiation ceremony, when a young man passed the various tests set by the tribal elders, he would wear his mother's headdress on his head and apply pig oil to his face. Symbolically, he would lightly tap his perineum, indicating that he had reached the age for marriage and could be chosen as a son-in-law by tribal women(Note 1).
Each tribe has its representative male headdress. For example, the Cikaso'an tribe in Hualien City is known for a cap consisting of seven large feathers, with the center one being the longest, resembling a warrior's lightning rod. The representative headdress of the Kiwit tribe, on the other hand, is a warrior cap adorned with eagle feathers. As Kiwit is located on the mountainside of Mount Qilai, eagles often soar and hunt there. Before reaching the age of marriage, young men in the tribe must be responsible for defending the tribe. This responsibility rests on these warriors, and the tribal elders hope they possess an eagle's physical strength, endurance, courage, and intimidation abilities. Thus, the warrior cap uses eagle feathers as a symbol, hoping that the tribe's warriors can have the courage of an eagle, traversing the tribe to provide protection. The boar's tusks on the forehead also symbolize the basic hunting abilities of tribal warriors, who can provide for their families and are on the verge of adulthood.
- Note1: As the Amis people follow a matrilineal system, if a woman remains unmarried, her mother will select a prospective husband for her during the Harvest Festival. When a man intends to become a son-in-law, he will have his mother place betel nuts in the woman's lover's bag. After the festival, the man's parents and tribal matchmakers will visit the woman's family to propose. If the man does not meet the requirements set by the woman's family, the woman's family still has the right to divorce him. This may seem like a form of marrying into the woman's family. However, it is not entirely the same, as some indigenous tribes still primarily follow a matrilineal system.