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Q: Taiwanese kinship; patrlineal kinship ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Taiwanese kinship; patrlineal kinship
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: fury021-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 25 Nov 2003 19:39 PST
Expires: 25 Dec 2003 19:39 PST
Question ID: 280668
What is Taiwanese patrlineal kinship structure?
Subject: Re: Taiwanese kinship; patrlineal kinship
Answered By: digsalot-ga on 26 Nov 2003 02:54 PST
Hello there

I must presume when you are asking about Taiwanese patrilineal kinship
that you are asking about traditional Taiwanese culture rather than
the Chinese overlay imposed over the years.

Taiwan was the home of a group of people who were members of the
Austronesian peoples whose members lived in an area ranging from
Madagascar in the west to Hawaii in the east, from New Zealand to the
south and with Taiwan as the northern point.  These people probably
came from the Malay archipelago in multiple beginning about 6000 years

Because of the number of language variations, some think Taiwan is the
original home of all Austronesians.  There were others in Taiwan
before the arrival of the Austronesians but little is known of them.

The Chinese movement into Taiwan began in the mid seventeenth century.

When it comes to the study of Taiwanese patrilineal kinship, it must
be remembered that the original Taiwanese people had no written
language.  To study the ancient and traditional culture, we must rely
on archaeology and written records of Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and
Spanish explorers and rulers as well as what remains of the oral

The former rulers of Taiwan are now a minority group in their own
land.  As minorities elsewhere, they are becoming more forceful as
regards their wellbeing.  They have become more aware of the need to
preserve their culture and identity.  Some are beginning to give up
their compulsory Chinese names and return to traditional names.  They
are no longer even called "mountain people" but simply aborigines, and
use that name with pride.  There are about 340,000 of them.
To study Taiwanese patrilineal kinship, we must first disregard
overlaying Chinese tradition and concentrate instead on just
aboriginal tradition.  We will then realize that such a patrilineal
kinship structure is not universal.

The basic aboriginal tribes of Taiwan and their kinship traditions:

1 - Ami - This is the largest of all the Taiwan aborigine tribes. 
They are broken into five groups based on location, custom and
language.  All of these groups have a matrilineal kinship structure
and because of their sheer numbers destroy any illusion that the
aboriginal Taiwanese had a uniform and dominant structure of
patrilineal kinship.

2 - Atayal - They are found mostly in northern Taiwan and their
kinship system is patrilineal.

3 - Bunun - These are people who live in the mountains of central
Taiwan and also have a patrilineal kinship structure.

4 - Paiwan - These people are found in the southern mountains and
their kinship structure is ambilineal.

5 - Puyuma - These people are found in southeast Taiwan.  Their
kinship structure is ambilineal.  Even though family inheritance goes
to the eldest daughter, men and women share in kinship equally.

6 - Rukai - People from the southern part of the central mountains. 
Their kinship structure is similar to the Paiwan with one major
exception.  The Rukai also practice primogeniture.

7 - Saisiyat - This is the smallest of the tribes and due to the
strong influence of the Atayal on their culture, they too have a
patrilineal kinship.

8 - Tsou - There are two groups of these people, the "Northern Tsou"
and the "Southern Tsou."  Each are different in custom.  Both groups
have "masculinity " training centers where women are forbidden and a
patrilineal kinship structure.  These are also a people who are
vanishing rapidly and what we know of the kinship structure is based
primarily on the social and traditional attitudes toward women.

9 - Yami - The Yami live on Orchid Island southeast of Taiwan proper. 
The kinship structure is "basically" patrilineal.  By that I mean,
matrilineal kinship rules when it comes to issues such as marriage and

For those people with a patrilineal kinship structure, the largest
patrilineal descent group is the "clan."  Members of the same clan
have the same surname, are usually united through a common ancestral
temple and may live in the same community.

In the past, the clan was composed of hundreds of people spread out
over a wide area.  During the Japanese occupation (1895-1945) many of
these clan functions were replaced by administrative institutions and
as a result, today clans are neither large or numerous.

In these cases of Taiwanese patrilineal kinship structure, "clan"
refers to a descent group whose members claim descent from a common
ancestor but who usually cannot trace that descent genealogically. 
They do not know all the connecting links between themselves and the

Within the Taiwanese clan is a sub-group or "lineage" group in which
the members know the exact links between them.

This ordering of groups within a Taiwanese descent clan is called a
"phratry" (not a Taiwanese word).  In a recognized higher order
grouping of descent groups, the phratries are composed of the clan,
the sub-clan and the lineages.  This term is applicable to matrilineal
and ambilineal groups as well.

The phratry is quite important in indigenous Taiwanese society.  The
patrilineal clan serves as the basis of the community and the various
sub-units form the community's organizational structure.  This kind of
community is formed from "super-clans" that are larger than the clans.
 To put it another way, the community contains at least two
organizational units of the largest clans and each unit maintains a
close relationship with that clan.  This system makes the Taiwanese
patrilineal kinship structure different than the Taiwanese matrilineal
or ambilineal kinship structures.  For example, the matrilineal
community is still based on a clan but the social structure only has
units that are lower than the clan and the lineage groups.  This kind
of community is not led by clan elders but by senior male age cohorts.

The following were used in the composition of the above: - "The
Tribes of Taiwan" - From Academia Sinica/Vision International
Publishing Co. -
"Society-TAIWAN-HOKKIEN" - From Ethnographic Atlas/University of Kent
at Canterbury - "Indigenous Peoples of
Taiwan" - By Rebecca C. Fan - "Social
Organization" - A Taiwanese government webpage. - "The Tribes - ATAYAL - The
worldwide voice of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan"

If you would like some outside reading, may I recommend "The Chinese
Farm Family of Taiwan?'  The book was written by Margery Wolf in the
1950s when she was living in a Taiwanese village with her
anthropologist husband.  While things have changed a lot since then,
the book deals with the portrait of a village family and the tensions
of a patrinilean/patrilocal kinship and marriage system.

You may notice that I have avoided bringing in other cultural traits
of the Taiwanese aborigines in order to keep the waters from getting
muddied, but have kept to the issue of kinship structure.  I assure
you that there is a rich heritage involved which would only confuse
the issues addressed here.  If you have an interest in that material,
I would highly recommend the last website listed above, "The Tribes -
ATAYAL - The worldwide voice of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan." 
There is some fascinating reading and important information provided

Search - Google
Terms - taiwanese kinship structures, patrilineal kinship structure
taiwan, taiwanese history, taiwanese culture, aboriginal taiwan

If I may clarify anything, please ask.

There are no comments at this time.

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