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Old 20th June 2011, 10:38 PM   #1
yuanzhumin
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Default Two Atayal knives from Taiwan/Formosa

Well, as a passionate collector of Taiwan aborigines art, I was lucky enough in the last months to be able to find few more Taiwan knives.
Nothing had came up for months, and then all of a sudden, many opportunities appeared.

I’ve just shown on the forum a Rukai knife
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=13933

Now, I’m happy to share with you two Atayal/Seediq (Sedeq)/Truku knives. I write here Atayal/Seediq/Truku because the Atayalic group of Northern Taiwan is made of 3 distinct groups: the Atayal, the Seediq and the Truku. Before, they were all labeled under the Atayal name but only recently the Truku and then the Seediq were able to be recognized officially as distinct tribes. Their blades are looking alike, and it is very difficult to distinguish one from the other. Still there are sometimes few tips that helps make a difference.

One of these two knives was obtained recently through this forum swap section (Thanks Roy!), and the other one through online auctions.

First, here is a very nice and quite complete Atayal/Seediq/Truku knife, with its fabric belt and rattan handle (Total 67cm, blade 45x16cm, handle 15x3,5cm, blade 45,5x6,5cm). Old collection labels can be seen. some pictures are in the swap section: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=13645

Here are few additional pictures.
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Old 20th June 2011, 10:42 PM   #2
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I also found this other Atayal/Seediq/Truku knife, more basic and in a little lesser shape (crack along the sheath). Because of the red color of the sheath (for protection against the evil spirits), I would risk labeling it Truku, but not sure. The handle is in the more basic socket shape to fix it on the top of a shaft (wood) and improvise a pole weapon useful when hunting wild boar (Total 72cm, blade 46x5cm, handle 17x3cm, sheath 56x6,5cm)
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Old 20th June 2011, 10:50 PM   #3
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I am almost jealous of you!

Very nice laraw yuanzhumin! It seems with most Atayal (Dayan?), Seediq, and Truku blades, the sheath is the most artistic part of it, with the higher status individuals having nicer sheaths -- since the blades all seem relatively similar (some straighter, some more curved, some a little rough finish, some finer, some wooden handle, some metal socket, etc.)... the sheaths are very graceful looking, like a fish, no?


Saisyat blades (malat?) seem to be stylistically very similar to, but distinct from Atayal/Seediq/Truku knives... I wonder why they preferred straighter pointed blades and sheaths without wide flares at the end.

but maybe I haven't seen enough blades to make a good judgement... ?
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Old 21st June 2011, 12:41 AM   #4
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Smile An Aside ...

I have to wonder when these peoples first reached the Philippines .

I think the connection is undeniable .

Great examples Nicolas .

Best,
Rick
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Old 21st June 2011, 01:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yuanzhumin
I also found this other Atayal/Seediq/Truku knife, more basic and in a little lesser shape (crack along the sheath). Because of the red color of the sheath (for protection against the evil spirits), I would risk labeling it Truku, but not sure. The handle is in the more basic socket shape to fix it on the top of a shaft (wood) and improvise a pole weapon useful when hunting wild boar (Total 72cm, blade 46x5cm, handle 17x3cm, sheath 56x6,5cm)


Nicolas, after viewing your website a while back, I am happy this has gone to a very good home. There was a little more help by another in the journey to you too, you know who you are
The examples and information you provide to the forum on items such as these are invaluable and I am also sure cultural apprection has grown on many readers quite a lot too.

Thanks for sharing all that you do.

Gav
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Old 21st June 2011, 02:29 AM   #6
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Beautiful pieces, Yuanzhumin! Congratulations! I really like the solid one piece blade...no worries about a handle breaking down on you, and the more cone shape handle would grab well in your hand when swung. Thanks for sharing with us your interests in Taiwanese aboriginal culture and craft
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Old 22nd June 2011, 02:26 AM   #7
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Hello all,

To Kukulza,
You pointed at the fact that the Saisiat have similar knives, except they are straight. In fact, despite similarities, the Saisiat are a very different ethnic group, distinct from the whole group of the Atayal, Seediq and Truku. It is said that they were initially plain aborigines that were pushed up in the lower mountains where they had to deal with the Atayal. What better solution than adopting part of their culture to avoid the clashes and survive ? That’s what they did - it seems. They adjusted themselves to the Atayal culture while remaining different. In consequence, that can explain why their knives have also the wood scabbard open on one side with metal staples, looking like Atayal’s ones, but their blade is straight and therefore quite distinct. I have one knife in my collection that I attributed to the Saisiat, but I’m not 100% sure and any other opinion would be welcome (I have seen Amis with very much looking like knives). See here:
http://www.formosatribal.com/show.php?item_id=100

To Rick,
Always good to hear from you! They reached the Philippines around 5000 years ago. In fact, it was one of the earliest places where they migrated coming from Taiwan, before going further down South through the Pacific. Other populations were already in the Philippines. The Austronesians mixed with them and mostly brought their Formosan languages. A theory now is that trading jade was one of their first motivation – may be with religious purposes behind. What made possible this Austronesian migration on the seas is the discovery first in Taiwan of the outrigger, and then of the discovery of the catamaran – by the same people.

To Gav,
Thanks for your support and for your very nice comments. It is a pleasure to “deal” with you!

To Nathaniel,
I do agree with you. The solid one piece blade with the socket shaped handle is my favorite. It is so cool! And also very devastating in the hands of someone that know how to use it.

Best wishes to all of you.

Nicolas
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Old 23rd June 2011, 02:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yuanzhumin
To Kukulza,
You pointed at the fact that the Saisiat have similar knives, except they are straight. In fact, despite similarities, the Saisiat are a very different ethnic group, distinct from the whole group of the Atayal, Seediq and Truku. [...] I have one knife in my collection that I attributed to the Saisiat, but I’m not 100% sure and any other opinion would be welcome (I have seen Amis with very much looking like knives). See here:
http://www.formosatribal.com/show.php?item_id=100
Thanks for the reply! Sad to think how much of the Formosan tribal cultures were lost over time, after-all, the Plains peoples were more numerous and possibly more diverse than their mountain-living cousins. Also the possibility of Austrolasian peoples having been on Taiwan, which I am assuming is what the Saisyat are referring to when they mention little black people in their legends... since other places such as the Philippines also had such ethnicities who appear to have settled SE Asia long before even the Austronesians....

Quote:
Originally Posted by yuanzhumin
The solid one piece blade with the socket shaped handle is my favorite. It is so cool! And also very devastating in the hands of someone that know how to use it.

Owning one, and having used it extensively, I most definitely concur - the metal socket style of handle is for hard use, and it takes getting used to but is a very good working handle.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 07:59 AM   #9
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Default atayal knife

This is an Atayal knife, not a pingpu knife! (Please check the informations Yuanzhumin gave about cooked aborigenes)
It is old, possibly nineteen century.
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Old 23rd June 2011, 12:57 PM   #10
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I have seen pictures of those! Though I had heard that sheaths with those designs are pingpu, but perhaps I heard wrong? I wonder what time period or group within the Atayal had handles like that.... they are definitely not common today.
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Old 24th June 2011, 12:40 AM   #11
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Hello Varta,

Can you share your sources, please ?

If I wrote somewhere that this kind of knives may have been Atayal, I was wrong. I definitely think it is Pingpu.

Anyway, I collected some of these knives, but I don't have them anymore: I sold them to refocus on less "cooked" aborigines items. But I can tell you that these are considered Pingpu.

A little explanation for the other readers: 'cooked' and 'raw' aborigines were terms used before to qualify Taiwanese aborigines following their degree of sinicization. The 'cooked' ones had integrated the Chinese/Han culture, and they were mostly plains aborigines (for example, Amis are the biggest plain aborigines tribe recognized today). The 'raw' aborigines were also called 'savages' by colonial power, and were mostly the mountains tribes that resisted colonization/integration till the 30s for the last ones.

Best

Nicolas

Last edited by yuanzhumin : 24th June 2011 at 12:51 AM.
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Old 24th June 2011, 09:44 AM   #12
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Default atayal versus Pingpu

Pity that you did not sell your Pingpu knives to me! This, above, is the only knife of this shape I have.
The same shape do exist for Pingpu, you are right.
In fact, it is the inverse, I think that the Pingpu had these shapes before and some Atayal used them. From sea level to high montains, the direction of the trade makes sense as the blades were imported, no?
Anyway the decoration is very different when considering Atayal's or Pingpu's scabbard. Atayal use abstract drawings, the same one could observe on tatoos, weaving, bambou earring etc when the Pingpu use flowers, chinese words, in brief, sinizised ornements, sometimes coloured. See below; unfortunately I have no other pictures with me, to show examples with the same curved shape as mine, but for Pingpu people.

(These two are not mine. I would love to have them… any tip?)

In the case of my Atayal knife, the decoration is made of crosses, bars, dots they call "eyes" etc (you could see one example in the" Chen-Cheng Ching collection" as far as I remember, or at the University of Taipei)

When we speak about Atayal, we make a generalization and we gather under the same name a variety of villages with different habits, different weaving, different patterns, different rules. For example, headhunting was a practice which required no ID: an Atayal could cut the head of another Atayal, from another village. It would be romantic to consider each tribe as a coherent identity. From Ylan to Mioli, there are many differences and we should try to find out the geographical origin of items when it is possible.
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Last edited by varta : 24th June 2011 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 24th June 2011, 12:35 PM   #13
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Hello Varta and all,

That's the problem with the Pingpu: are we talking only about the plain tribes or also the sinicized aborigines ?

Depending on the definition, we will considere your knife, Varta, as an Atayal knife or as a Pingpu one. Usually, the answer is that all the sinicized aborigines and their items are considered Pingpu -- but as I already said, there could be different interpretations.

For what concerns me, as soon as an item is in between, mixed partly with Chinese/Han influence and aborigines/austronesian influence, I considere it to be Pingpu. And that’s what I feel when I see your knife.

Whatever, if your knife as some special signs on it, I would be interested to see closer pictures, if it doesn’t bother you, Varta.

For this reason -- because Pingpu is very difficult to understand and not clearly defined --, I preferred few years ago to sale all my early collection of Pingpu items.

But afterward, as I was keeping on seeing nice Pingpu pieces coming up and because I had second thoughts, I started once more to collect these items. And the few items forming now my second Pingpu collection are visible here:
http://www.formosatribal.com/all.php?group=5Best

Varta, here is my tip ;-) : without knowing it, you already have seen two of the items from my first and sold Pingpu collection. These are the 2 knives you just showed as an example in the previous post.

Yes, these knives were mine at once. I bought them earlier from a dealer that is still a member of this forum, if I don’t make a mistake. I collected these 2 knives, and few others that I all sold to a Taiwanese private collector. As a collector, I needed the money to buy more stuff from the ‘raw’ mountains aborigines, which I focused on.

I know where these knives are now, and I still see them sometimes with the others I sold, when I go back to Taiwan. Were mine all the Pingpu knives that have been exhibited in 2007 in the prestigious National History museum of Taiwan, Taipei, during an important exhibit about Koxinga (also known as Cheng Chen-kung), the adventurer that drove the Dutch out of Taiwan in the 17th century. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koxinga)

Here are the pictures taken from the catalogue of the exhibit (GPN 1009601014 - the catalogue cover is also pictured here after).

Varta, you can clearly recognize the 2 knives that you just showed us in your previous post, and other knives that were also mine at once. I considere all to be Pingpu, and they are described as such by the museum (see the museum Chinese comments).

Best,

Nicolas
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Old 24th June 2011, 12:49 PM   #14
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There is no doubt that the two knives which were yours are Pingpu, I never discussed the point!
I took them as an example of Pingpu knives if you read me properly.
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Old 24th June 2011, 01:19 PM   #15
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Sure, that's what I understood.
May be it's the last sentence of my post that bothered you. It was a long post and taken in the dynamic of writing, I may have not chosen the good words. So let's forget this sentence!
Hope to see your next post.
Nicolas
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