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Main pillar

Tags: aborigine | architecture | Paiwan

Ethnic group: Paiwan
Cultural area: Austronesian
Collector/handler: Cheng Hui-ying
Province/collected in: Taiwan Province
County/collected in: Pingtung County
Township/collected in: Laiyi Township
Village/collected in: Gulou village
Other collection locations: Gulou
Digital Copy Provider:National Museum of Natural Science

The main pillar is also called the ancestral pillar. This was the most important part of chiefs’ houses (Paiwan, Rukai and Puyuma tribes) and a symbol of status.
Only chiefs had the right to use figures of their ancestors and the Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) pattern. The various kinds of pattern reflected different ancestral stories and achievements.

The pillar is a one sided carved wooden pillar. On it the human figure has arms bent upwards, fingers turned in and the palm facing out. The figure has a slim waist, and the knees and feet face outwards, with the toes clearly visible. The head is round and on the forehead is diamond pattern. Around the head and lower legs are carvings of Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) , with the four snakeheads facing the hands and feet of the figure. Also, the snakes’ eyes and the figure’s wrist, ankle, navel and right shoulder strop are decorated with white ceramic shards.

Manufacturing method
A long thick piece of hard wood would be dried for three to six months. Elders would be asked to describe the ancestors and, after an ancestor worship ceremony was held, carving would take place according to their description.

Function and use
In olden times, only chiefs or people of status could have one sided pillars carved to show their ancestors or Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) . As well as serving as the main support pillar in the chief's home or the village's place of meeting, the carvings of ancestors and Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) were both sacred and representative of status and power.