In honor of the Little Black People
The Saisiyat tribe of Hsinchu and Miaoli will perform a solemn rite this weekend to commemorate a race of people that they exterminated
By Jules Quartly
Saturday, Nov 27, 2004, Page 16
Xiangtian Lake is one of two places to see the ritual.
PHOTO: TAIPEI TIMES
Drinking, singing and dancing are expected to take place deep in the mountains of Miaoli and Hsinchu when the "Ritual of the Little Black People" (矮靈祭) is performed by the Saisiyat tribe once again this weekend.
For the past 100 years or so, the Saisiyat tribe (賽夏族) has performed the songs and rites of the festival to bring good harvests, ward off bad luck and keep alive the spirit of a race of people who are said to have preceded all others in Taiwan.
In fact, the short, black men the festival celebrates are one of the most ancient types of modern humans on this planet and their kin still survive in Asia today. They are said to be diminutive Africoids and are variously called Pygmies, Negritos and Aeta. They are found in the Philippines, northern Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra in Indonesia and other places.
Chinese historians called them "black dwarfs" in the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220 to AD 280) and they were still to be found in China during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911). In Taiwan they were called the "Little Black People" and, apart from being diminutive, they were also said to be broad-nosed and dark-skinned with curly hair.
After the Little Black People -- and well before waves of Han migrations after 1600 -- came the Aboriginal tribes, who are part of the Austronesian race. They are thought to have come from the Malay Archipelago 6,000 years ago at the earliest and around 1,000 years ago at the latest, though theories on Aborigine migration to Taiwan are still hotly debated. Gradually the Little Black People became scarcer, until a point about 100 years ago, when there was just a small group living near the Saisiyat tribe.