Taiwan Fun Magazine, September 2004


An Amis master keeps bamboo beauty alive

By Cheng Lishea Translated by April Lin


     The Hua Tung (Hualien-Taitung) area, homeland of the Amis people, is closed in by rows of mountains and the ocean. Surrounded by these barriers, the tribe has become rather dependent on their natural neighbors as providers for their daily needs, developing the knowledge and ability to live off of nature by hunting and fishing. This has become an important part of their culture that has been passed down from generation to generation.

     As the world around them becomes more developed, the convenient lifestyles of the modern world inevitably invade and replace more traditional ways. Thus, it's very rare nowadays to find someone like Liu Lin Liang Fa, who still treasures and practices the traditions of his ancestors.

     Liu Lin Liang Fa is well known for his bamboo creations. He single-handedly designed and built a watchtower using bamboo, earning him first prize at the National Aborigine Arts and Crafts Contest. Some of his other works include the 25 bamboo cupboards and the three-floor-high bamboo watchtower that he specially built last year for the Amis Cultural Festival held in Cheng Gong Township in Taitung County.

     In the Amis society, kinship is matrilineal. Male spouses and children bear the family name from the female spouse's side, thus the Liu has been added in front of his original name, Lin Liang Fa. This 67-year-old Aborigine is a man with a bold personality and a well-built physique. He has kept the lifestyle of his ancestors, living independently off of the natural materials provided by his environment. With his own skills he hunts in the mountains for food and built his own shelter out of bamboo.
In his earlier days, he spent most of his time learning traditional craft making skills from his elders. After six or seven years of being a professional fisherman at sea, he decided to retire. His restless personality now leads him to spend most of his free time up in the mountains where he takes these raw materials, combined with his natural talents, to create traditional Amis-style crafts. His work ranges from delicately woven bamboo containers to small wooden cabins, most being functional items that he uses in his daily life. He also uses some leftover materials to create a recycled sculptural piece that has the appearance of a motorcycle. Although this caught a buyer's attention, the artist refused to sell it because he considered it an experimental model with lots of room for improvement.

     Going back to the traditional lifestyle of his ancestors, his retired life has been fulfilling for him for the most part. He keeps himself rather busy, spending the majority of his time up in the mountains living with nature. He often worries that his ancestors' knowledge and skills will slowly become a mere legend for the younger generations, and uses his talents to make traditional Amis-style crafts as an effort to prolong the original spirit of his tribe.

     See that man wearing the straw hat? That would be Liu Lin Liang Fa, an artist and exceptional member of his tribe dedicated to maintaining the true Amis spirit.