Tribal Glass Beads

Tags: aborigine | accessory

Glass beads were found among the Paiwan, Rukai and Puyuma tribes and were related to the traditional social hierarchy. The exact origins of these beads remain unclear. However, they were passed down from generation to generation. Glass beads can be divided into three types: (1) Small solid colored beads measuring 1-2mm in diameter in orange, yellow, green, white and black. These were used for beadwork on clothing. (2) Medium-sized solid colored beads measuring 3-5mm in diameter were used in the making of ornaments. (3) Multi-colored patterned beads measuring 10 to 20mm in diameter. They came in different shapes and were transparent or opaque. Each type of traditional bead has an associated legend.

These three kinds of beads were often used together, such as in multiple-strand ornaments. Single-strand ornaments were worn at the chest or around the neck and were composed of large and medium-sized beads. These beads signify a person’s social class, position, wealth and gender. In addition, they were thought to be able to grant blessings, inflict misfortune, provide protection and impose punishment.


Department of Graphic Communications and Digital Publishing, Shih Hsin University Digital archiving project of the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines