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Rukai people

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The Rukai Chinese: 魯凱族; pinyin: Lǔkǎi zú are one of Taiwan's aboriginal peoples They consist of six communities residing in southern Taiwan Budai, Labuan, Maga, Mantauran, Tanan, and Tona, each of which has its own dialect of the Rukai language As of the year 2014, the Rukai numbered 12,699,1 and is the seventh-largest of the 13 officially recognized indigenous groups in Taiwan The Rukai were called Tsarisen, which means "people living in the mountain"

The Rukai people honor the clouded leopard and the hundred pacer, which they believe to be the spirit of their ancestor2


  • 1 Traditional dress and textile
    • 11 Cloth making and dyeing
    • 12 Four manufacturing techniques
    • 13 Patterns
  • 2 See also
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links

Traditional dress and textileedit

The traditional dress of Rukai people has many similarities with that of the Paiwan people, probably due to the similarity of their geographical distribution and hereditary aristocratic social structure3 The traditional dress and textile of the Rukai people also possesses original and distinctive qualities and characteristics Rukai people’s dress include both ceremonial attire and casual wear4 Men's ceremonial attire includes headwear with insignia, headscarves, tops, skirts, shawls, and leggings, while women wear garlands, headscarves, earrings, necklaces, lazurite necklaces, bead bracelets, arm rings, long gowns, skirts, girdles, leggings, and shoulder ornaments4 In terms of casual wear, men wear leather headgear, headscarves, tops, shoulder straps, girdles, leather raincoats, deer hide coats, deer hide leggings, tobacco bags, and gunpowder bags, while women wear headscarves, long robes, skirts, leggings, gloves, mesh belts, leather raincoats, and cloth bags4 Rukai social structure, hereditary aristocracy, is reflected in every facet of their lives, including attire Generally, only the nobility are permitted to dress up and the commoners dress plainly and simply, although commoners can buy jewels from the nobility, usually bartering with pigs, millet, and pots The nobility used to buy cotton, silk and woollen from the Han people to make clothes4

Cloth making and dyeingedit

Like the traditional dress of all other indigenous groups in Taiwan, the traditional dress of Rukai people uses cloth made by the squared cloth system5 The main tool is the horizontal loom and the traditional material of the Rukai dress is linen, but under the influence of the Han people they have also begun using cotton and wool5 Rukai people make linen from flax and use a horizontal loom with a strap to weave the linen into exquisite and beautiful cloth, and then sew pieces of cloth together to make garments6 Making cloth is a duty particular to women in Rukai society, and when women are making cloth in a little house, men cannot enter5 The cloth is usually dyed red, yellow, brown, dark blue or green with dyes made from herbs or plants5 The red colorant is extracted from the root of a specific vine by chopping the roots into pieces and soaking them in water5 The yellow colorant usually comes from ginger root juice5 The brown colorant comes from the Dioscorea matsudae, and is extracted with the same method used to make the red dye5 The dark blue dye comes from the leaf juice of a plant called danadana, and the green colorant comes from the leaf juice of a plant called rasras5

Four manufacturing techniquesedit

Traditionally, the Rukai people’s dresses were made entirely by hand, which required the meticulous and lengthy hand work of fine craftsmen Even though nowadays it is becoming more and more common to use computer scanning programs to design the cut and style of the clothes, and apply the embroidery and other details mechanically, handmade embroidered garments remain the most valued kind of attire among the Rukai7

There are four essential manufacturing techniques:

  1. Inlay Inlay is a technique that using different colors of linens as weft to knit through the other linens as warp in order to create geometry patterns in the cloth8
  2. Stitch embroidery Traditionally, Rukai people use needles made of bamboo for stitch embroidery, but since the Han people introduced the metal needles into Taiwan, like the other indigenous people in Taiwan, Rukai people use metal needles instead8 In the old days, the stitch lines used by Rukai people came from the colorful cloth brought from the plain and they got the stich lines by tearing the colorful cloth apart, until period of the Japanese colonization could they directly brought the stitch lines8 There are five methods of embroidery used by the Rukai people, cross-stitch embroidery, chain stitch embroidery, straight stitch embroidery, circle stitch embroidery, and satin stitch embroidery8 Among them, the satin stitch embroidery is the most delicate technique, requiring the most meticulous hand work, and the technique can only be found in Rukai traditional dress8 There is no restriction of direction while embroidering, but every stitch line, whether long or short, should be placed side by side tidily8 Overlapping and gaps between them are forbidden8 If the embroiderer makes one mistake, she has to undo it and embroider it from the beginning8
  3. Pearl embroidery Traditionally, Rukai people used glass beads with a single color to design a pattern and then embroidered it on the cloth Nowadays, plastic beads are more commonly used9
  4. Patch embroidery Rukai people usually cut the black cloth in a particular pattern and then sew it onto the white or blue cloth; or cut the white cloth in a particular pattern and then sew it onto the black cloth9


The patterns of the Rukai people's traditional dress include the sun, hundred pacer, snake, human head, human figure, string, pig, rhombus, and deer patterns, but the sun and the hundred pacer pattern are the most popular ones10 The rhombus pattern, which Rukai people regard as the symbol of the hundred pacer, is usually made with satin stich embroidery 8 The anise star pattern, signifying holiness, is usually made with cross-stich embroidery8 Two sun patterns, considered a sign of the aristocracy, are normally embroidered on the breast area of the nobles’ dresses9 The snake, human head, and human figure patterns are usually made with patch embroidery9

See alsoedit

  • Demographics of Taiwan
  • Taiwanese aborigines


  1. ^ "Indigenous population distribution in Taiwan-Fukien Area based on gender and ethnicity in Chinese, PDF format" The Council of Indigenous Peoples, Executive Yuan, ROC Taiwan Retrieved 5 February 2014 
  2. ^ Chinese Wikipedia article on the Rukai People
  3. ^ Saalih, Lee 1998 Culture of clothing among Taiwan Aborigines Taiwan: SMC Publishing INC p 240 
  4. ^ a b c d "Rukai Costume" E-leaning Huayu of Taiwan Retrieved 14 April 2013 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Saalih, Lee 1998 Culture of Clothing among Taiwan Aborigines Taiwan: SMC Publishing INC p 241 
  6. ^ "The Clothing of Taiwan's Indigenous People– Men and Women's Clothes" Digital Taiwan--Culture and Nature Taiwan E-learning and Digital Archive Program Retrieved 14 April 2013 
  7. ^ "The Rukai Myth and Garments" Myths and Legends of Indigenous People in Taiwan The Ministry of Culture Retrieved 14 April 2013 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Saalih, Lee 1998 Culture of Clothing among Taiwan Taiwan: SMC Publishing INC p 242 
  9. ^ a b c d Saalih, Lee 1998 Culture of Clothing among Taiwan Aborigines Taiwan: SMC Publishing INC p 243 
  10. ^ "Rukai pattern--Hundred Pacer" Duo Na 多纳 Retrieved 14 April 2013 

External linksedit

  • The Rukai People Council of Indigenous Peoples, Executive Yuan, ROC Taiwan

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