Kaohsiung, May 28 (CNA) The 2009 national Bunun Malahodaigian festival opened Thursday in Taoyuan township in the southern county of Kaohsiung, with 1,000 Bunun aborigines participating in the annual event.
The Malahodaigian -- a ritual piercing of deer's ears with bows and arrows -- was launched this year with a ceremony at which Kaohsiung County Magistrate Yang Chiu-hsing and Taoyuan township chief Hsieh Chui-yao presided.
The 1,000 Bunun tribal representatives who attended the opening were from Hualien, Taitung, Nantou and Kaohsiung counties.
The ceremony began with a performance by students from Taoyuan Junior High School, and this was followed by a ritual firing of gunshots by Hsieh to ask for blessings.
The Malahodaigian, the Bunun tribe's largest and most important annual event, is usually held around April or May to pray for good hunting and a good harvest, Hsieh said.
The ceremony is also a coming-of-age event that focuses on passing on hunting skills to Bunun boys.
Although the Bunun view hunting primarily as a means of obtaining food, to them it also denotes life values and skills, Hsieh said, explaining the origins of the festival.
The ceremony, designed traditionally to encourage skilled hunters, usually begins with a chant by the shaman as he sprinkles the dregs of millet wine to bless the hunt, Hsieh added.
The ear-shooting ceremony usually takes place after the Bunun men return from the hunt to share their game with the other villagers.
After the ceremony, the men would be treated to millet wine made by the women who had been waiting for them to return from the hunt.
Traditionally, the ears of the Formosan barking deer would be hung on a wooden frame and all the men in the village would try to pierce them with their arrows. The boys would also use the deer's ears as targets to practice their shooting skills so that they could one day become good hunters, Hsieh said.
According to Yang, aboriginal culture forms an important part of Taiwan's cultural resources. Most aboriginal people have the gift of being able to sing well and they contribute greatly to tourism in the county, he added.
Thursday's festival included several other activities, such as tilling the soil, sowing seeds, cutting grass, harvesting and storing crops. Rituals associated with New Year's were also performed and there was an evening party.
The festival will continue Friday with a pig hunting and catching competition, and other traditional contests to test skills in areas such as wood-chopping, wood-sawing, and rice-husking.
The festival is rotated each year among the nine Bunun villages in Taiwan.
(By Y.L. Kao)