A Brief Introduction to the Changing Ceremonies of the Saisiat

  “The Changing Ceremonies of the Saisiat” is a project dealing with the collection of information dealing primarily with Saisiat ceremonies. It has been headed since 1986 by Hu Tai-Li, a research fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. For this project, light and handy video recorders, including VHS, V8, and DVs, and digital voice recorders were used to collect field audio-visual data. 255 video recordings, 70 audio tapes and 1266 photographs have been accumulated.

  What makes this audio-visual data most special is the Pasta’ay ceremony for the legendary little people , a splendid ritual of the rites performed by the Saisiat, recorded over a long period of time by researchers. The Saisiat Pasta’ay ceremony takes place once every two years with a grander ceremony being held once every ten years. Recording for this project began in 1986. Coincidentally, that was the same year of a major once-a-decade ceremony. The filming crew was divided into two teams with one responsible for filming the Pasta’ay ceremony at the northern tribe of the Saisiat residing in Wufeng, Hsinchu and the southern tribe of the Saisiat in Nanzhuang, Miaoli. After 1986, researchers recorded continually primarily at Pasta’ay ceremonies in Wufeng, Hsinchu (sometimes extending to Nanzhuang, Miaoli). Since 1986, the ten-year Pasta’ay ceremonies in 1996 and 2006 have also been recorded. In audio-visual classification work for this project, therefore, the major once-a-decade ceremonies are used to mark the beginning of new sections, such as “Saisiat Ceremonies 1986-1995,” “Saisiat Ceremonies 1996-2005,” and “Saisiat Ceremonies 2006~” to facilitate longitudinal studies of changes in Saisiat rituals when carrying out comparative research.

  In addition to the large variety of Pasta’ay rituals and songs recorded for the “Changing Ceremonies of the Saisiat,” we also filmed “the prayer to heaven ritual” from Nanzhuang, Miaoli, the rituals in the newly developed Saisiat Wu Fu Dragon Temple, the bride returning to the home of her parents ceremony, the sowing ritual, funerals, and shaman divining rituals of the Toufen Saisiat, harvest songs, weeding songs, and general songs of the Saisiat, as well as public performances of the Wufeng Saisiat. Video tapes of this project include complete performances of Pasta’ay ceremonial songs. These audio-visual data represent the essence of Saisiat ceremonies and culture. The writing exhibition portion includes a few articles dealing with Pasta’ay ceremony written by Hu Tai-Li and can be compared with audio-visual data to further enhance understanding of Saisiat culture.