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Alishan's Tsou Tribe's Mayasvi
Last Change Time:2017-12-05Published by:Planning Section
Alishan’s Tsou Tribe’s Mayasvi_Title Picture
Mayasvi – War Festival, can be known as the most well-known annual festival of the Alishan Tsou tribe. It compounded a number of rituals, with a very rich content, and a deep meaning of praying for victory and strengthening the tribe. In Tsou tradition, the elders will choose the date after the annual Homeyaya (millet harvest festival), considering factors such as hunting results (hunting human heads, known ), whether the kuba needs reconstruction, and situations that affect the tribe like natural disasters or other incidents. Besides being a ceremony held by individual tribes, it is also a pillar of strength, spirit, and ethics that connects the Tsou tribe. No matter how big the tribe is, if they tribe cannot maintain the Mayasvi ceremony, it means that the tribe is now equal to nothing, losing the ability to fight with others. Recently however, due to many factors such as social environment and tribal life changes, the Dabang and Tfuya have been taking turns to hold the major event. The date is now mostly around February 15.

A few days before Mayasvi, young men of the tribe will start to organize sacred objects in the kuba (tribal center), maintaining the kuba, and cleaning major roads of the tribe. Women will prepare sacrifices needed for the ceremony, such as wine and sticky rice cakes. On the day of the official event, the warriors of the tribe will rise early, and wear bright red or leather traditional clothing. They will also pin on red tree bark slips to protect from evil and flickingeria on their leather hats to let the god of war identify them. The leader will also talk about the main meaning behind Mayasvi to the tribe members attending the ceremony, lecturing them on things to notice during it.

The whole ceremony started with a welcoming god ritual. First, the warriors will move the sacred fire that signifies the life of the tribe to the center of the square, gathered in front of the sacred tree (red banyan tree). Two women will then bring a little pig in front of the tree, and with an order from the elders, the crowd will use knifes to stab the pig. Then they will raise their knifes stained with pig blood towards the tree leaves, and wipe the blood onto the scared tree as a sacrifice for the god of war. A few warriors will then climb up the sacred tree and repair the foliage. The sacred tree serves as a staircase for the god of war during the welcoming god ceremony, so after cutting down the branches, three will be left, pointing towards the kuba and the highest elders home, symbolizing a road cleared for the god of war.

Next, under the leadership of the elders, the crowd will hold hands into a semi-circle formation, singing a solemn welcoming god tune. After singing twice, the men will go onto the kuba, and the other tribe members will run back to their house and bring back other offerings such as millet wine, sticky rice cake, and boar meat. On their way, they will shout continuously as a way to report to the gods, then return back to the kuba for more rituals. Besides the warriors in attending the ceremony, others are strictly prohibited to enter the kuba. These tribal gathering rituals include:

※Unity Ritual: First offer wine to the god of war, asking for strength, then mix all the wine and offerings of all tribes together, sharing among all the unions symbolizing tribal unity.
※Boy’s kuba debut: Newborns of the tribe will be taken to the kuba by his mother, then will be taken up onto the kuba by his uncle (or father) while offering a small cup of millet wine to the gods. After this ritual, the boy official gain the right to enter the kuba.
※Men’s Rite of Passage: Tribal boys about the age of 16 will have to go through this rite of passage, being hit on the buttocks by the elders with a vine and then wearing a leather hat, drinking some wine. This symbolizes the passage from a teenager to an adult, when he is finally able to drink wine while taking more responsibility.
※Chanting triumphal text: The elders will lead the crowd into chanting the triumphal text, lecturing warriors and talking about past stories of victory and war.

After all the rituals in the kuba, the warriors will walk into the square again, engaging in the sending god ceremony. Everyone will gather in front of the sacred tree again in a semi-circle, singing four songs. In the middle, women of the tribe will also enter the formation with torches, signifying the unification with the tribal fire and the kuba’s sacred fire. In the end of the song, they will send the god through the sacred tree back into the sky.

Later, the home and road ceremonies will be led by each leader and clan elders to their respective offering house. At the door of each house, there will be a small cup of millet wine and each elder and men will have to touch the wine with their hands and wave it in the air. This is to pray for their clan, but also symbolizes the power given to them by the god of war. Road ceremonies, on the other hand, are led by warriors into the offering site in the rural of the community. On the way they will tie lalangs together, and then offer the wine god with flower and boar meat, praying deliverance from evil and plague.

At evening, the elders will lead the tribe members into a dance festival with all kind of songs, praising the god of war and the heroic deeds of their ancestors. Young tribal members can learn the historic culture, social ethics, and ancestor’s wisdom through the process; each clan will also compliment and gift each other, signifying their close ties together. The festival usually lasts the whole night, a period of two ~ three days, until the midnight of the last day. All the men attending, with the leadership of elders and heads, will chant the four songs, then putting out the fire in the square. The Mayasvi ceremony will then be officially ended.
  • Activity location
  • Alishan Township, Chiayi County
  • Organizer
  • NO
  • Activity time
  • From 2Month to 2Month ever year
  • By Car
  • National Highway 1: Chiayi Interchange →follow Beigang Road (County Route 159) into Chiayi city →Cross over Jiaxionglu Bridge to Minzu Road →right turn on Wufeng South Road to Provincial Highway 18 (Alishan Highway) → Stone table (48.8 K) right turn to County Route 169, remain straight to Dabang. Follow directions to Tefuye.
    Second South Freeway: Zhoungpu Interchange → Provincial Highway 18 (Alishan Highway) → Stone table (48.8 K) right turn to County route 169, remain straight for Dabang.
  • By Bus
  • Public Transportation: Get off at Chiayi Train Station and take the bus to Dabang. The final stop is Dabang, follow directions to Tefuye.
  • Remark
  • The details for each events are different each year. The specific details are accurate only through the organizers' announcements on time and location, please note the website for update.
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