Atayal Women's Carrying Basket

Tags: aborigine | Atayal | basket

Taiwan’s indigenous peoples made many of their everyday use items from local plant materials such as bamboo, dried gourd, rattan, wood, coconut shells and leaves. Among them, bamboo was the most widely used. They were very masterful in producing a wide range of items from bamboo including large containers for carrying water, small containers for storing salt, cups, baskets and fences, etc.


Containers and baskets were mostly made by weaving together bamboo strips. The weaving methods and the shape of the finished item were usually determined by the nature of the bamboo that was used. In general, the outer part of the bamboo was cut into long, thin strips that were flat, straight and stiff, well suited to interlacing. This was one of the most common forms of weaving among Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. Rattan was also widely used, second only to bamboo, and sometimes in combination with bamboo. The outer part of the rattan vine was most often used because it was strong and flexible, suitable for spiral weaving. The inner part of the rattan vine formed the bottom of the container or basket and the upper edge where there was an opening. This strengthened the container or basket and extended its lifetime.

This type of basket is referred to as “kili” in the Atayal language. The hexagonal pattern was formed by weaving from three directions. It was a common weaving method among Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. Weaving the bottom part was the most difficult. Thus, for most baskets, the inner part of the rattan vine was incorporated to allow the weaving to continue upward. The inner part of the rattan vine was also used at the opening to fix the upper edge of the container or basket. The remaining material was inserted downward and woven. Thus, the strips that protruded from around the opening were inserted into the basket wall, so that the edges remained neat and tidy. This is the simplest method for finishing the edges of a container or basket.

This basket measures 34 centimeters in length, 29 centimeters in width and 58 centimeters in height. It was used by women for gathering and carrying food or other items. Women’s baskets usually only had one strap for carrying on the forehead, while men’s baskets usually had two straps for carrying on the shoulders. Thus, the baskets used by the different genders could be distinguished by their straps.

This basket was made to carry various items. This type of basket was often found among indigenous tribes that inhabited the mountains. As mountain slopes could be very steep and the walking difficult, baskets were carried with a strap that was placed at the forehead, found to be the best method in terms of saving effort. After finishing their work, Atayal women would often carry some ramie twine in their hands as they walked back to the village from the mountains. The strap of the basket was placed around the head at the forehead level, leaving the hands free to separate the ramie into thinner threads. Once home, this thread could be used to weave cloth, making it possible to efficiently complete domestic chores.

This basket was purchased on September 5, 1995 from Ms. Mei-mei Luo of Qing Liu Village, Ren Ai Township, Nantou County. It was produced by Tsun-Li Luo (Wadan Bifu) of this same village.


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