In my last post, I mentioned that I simply called this garment “Summer Nights Hoodie” as a working title. Thanks to Kristi and the publisher, I was able to give this garment a beautiful, meaningful and very personal name: Alishan
Shortly after I submitted my garments, Kristi sent contributing designers an email asking us to submit names of sunny places that we might want to name our pieces. The list of names that I submitted for both garments of were of places that I have lived or have traveled to with fond memories. Being ethnically Taiwanese, most of the names I submitted were from my ancestral home.
I named Alishan after a mountain range in Taiwan, and also the name of a very famous Taiwanese folk song 高 山 青 (阿 里 山 的 姑 娘) about the beautiful mountain, the water, the people and an aboriginal maiden. Here is a version sung by a very famous and legendary Taiwanese singer 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng) in a live performance in Japan, and a video of a folk dance performance to the song.
You may be surprised, especially here in the West, to learn that like the Native Americans of North America, and the aborigines in Australia, Taiwan was also populated with many different aboriginal groups, though their numbers are certainly dwindling. More information about the history of some of these peoples can be found in Taiwan’s digital museum about the Taiwanese Aboriginies. I don’t want to get too much into politics, but I feel it’s important to at least mention that also like some of the civil rights movements in the US and in Australia, there has been more call for the civil rights and recognition of the aboriginies and the preservation of their cultures in Taiwan — and rightfully so. I think modern society really needs to preserve the indigenous cultures and environment of the lands we inhabit. ::of soapbox now::
The Alishan mountain range is definitely on the must-see list for visitors to Taiwan. It was named after the chief of the Tsou tribe, in remembrance of his contribution to his people. The common name of the folk song, literally translated, is “Girls (or Maidens) of Alishan” and is a song that most Taiwanese know. Despite not remembering much of the lyrics, the catchy tune and the main line of the chorus is one that I have never forgotten since it was taught to me as a child. But then again, I am really bad at recalling song lyrics in any language.
When I explained the meaning behind the garment’s name, a friend asked me if I had an aboriginal heritage. The truth is that I don’t know, and neither does my dad. What we do know is that our family has been in Taiwan since the Ming dynasty (1600′s) and that our first ancestors were Han people and came from the Fujian province of China, which is literally next door to Taiwan.
Most east Asians track family lineage patrilineally, and our family does have some sort of family “book” with the names of our branch of the ancestral tree. Unfortunately, being a patrilineal society, the maternal lineages and relations were not recorded, even if there were ever female names documented.
When I asked my dad about any possible aboriginal heritage years ago, he said that he would not have been surprised if some of our long-ago female ancestors might have had some aboriginal heritage. Since, over the centuries of history, the early settlers from the Ming dynasty and the aboriginal Taiwanese did trade, intermingle, intermarry, and even fought some resistance movements and wars both against one another and together. According to my dad, our ancient ancestors were farmers and likely lived closely to and traded with aboriginies.
There is also another bit of history that is interesting to me. In the Ming dynasty, there were lots of Chinese pirates. One of the pirates, second in command to a head honcho pirate (according to a English-Chinese history book I bought in Taiwan several years ago), was surnamed Kuo, the romanization and his Chinese character last name is the same as mine. (The pirate Kuo in my book is a different a pirate from Koxinga, who has a different surname, but is also romanized as Kuo.) I really don’t know how accurate that book is and Kuo is not the most common last name, but it is in the top 50 of the list of 100 surnames, so there certainly are lots of Kuos with a different ancestral line than my family’s. However, despite the fact that there is no way to find out for sure and the chances are probably unlikely, a part of me kind of wants to claim that one of our first ancestors was the pirate Kuo. It may explain my sister’s affinity for skulls, and why I keep designing things with skulls for her.