Amis people


Pre-WWII postcard of Amis couple
Total population
(200,604 (2014))
Regions with significant populations
Amis, Mandarin
Animism, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Sakizaya, Taiwanese Aborigines
Harvest Festival

The Amis (Chinese: 阿美族; pinyin: āměi-zú; also Ami or Pangcah) are an indigenous people of Taiwan. They speak Amis, an Austronesian language, and are one of the sixteen officially recognized peoples of Taiwanese aborigines. The traditional territory of the Amis includes the long, narrow valley between the Central Mountains and the Coastal Mountains (Huatung Valley), the Pacific coastal plain eastern to the Coastal Mountains and the Hengchun Peninsula.

In 2014, the Amis numbered 200,604.[1] This was approximately 37.1% of Taiwan's total indigenous population, making them the largest tribal group.[2] The Amis are primarily fishermen due to their coastal location. They are traditionally matrilineal.[3] Traditional Amis villages were relatively large for indigenous groups, typically between 500 and 1,000. In today's Taiwan, the Amis also comprise the majority of "urban aboriginals" and have developed many "urban tribes" all around the island. In recent decades, Amis have also married exogamously to Han as well as other indigenous people.[4]

Identity and classification

The Amis people generally identify themselves as Pangcah, which means "human" or "people of our kind." Nonetheless, in today's Taiwan, Amis is much more frequently used. This name comes from the word amis, meaning "north." There is still no consensus in the academic circle how "Amis" came to be used to address the Pangcah. One supposition is that it was originally used by the Puyuma to call the Pangcah, as the Pangcah lived to the north of them. Another supposition holds that those who lived in the Taitung Plain called themselves "Amis" because their ancestors had come from the north. The later explanation is recorded in the Banzoku Chōsa Hōkokusho,[5] indicating this might originate from what is classified by anthropologists as Falangaw Amis, the Amis group located from today's Chenggong to the Taitung Plain. Their closest genetic relative appears to be the Filipinos.[6][7]

According to Taiwanese Aboriginal History: Amis, the Amis are classified into five groups:

Note that such classification, however widely accepted, is merely based on the geographical distribution and tribal migration. It does not match the observed differences in culture, language, and physiques.

Other information

Family affairs including finance of the family are decided by the female householder, in the Ami tradition. Not many people may have seen the Ami, but many people may have heard the Ami. The musical project Enigma used an Ami chant in their song "Return to Innocence" in their second album, The Cross of Changes. This song was the theme song of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The main chorus of it was sung by Difang (Chinese name Kuo Ying-nan) and his wife, Igay (Chinese name Kuo Hsiu-chu), part of a Taiwanese aboriginal cultural performance group. Maison des Cultures du Monde recorded their singing while they were on tour and released a CD, which was subsequently used by Enigma (without mentioning the ethnic origin of the song and the singers). The case was later settled out of court. Ami singing is known for its complex contrapuntal polyphony.

The most important traditional ceremony is the Harvest Festival. The Ami's Harvest festival is to show the people's thanks and appreciations to the gods and to pray for harvest in the next coming year. It takes place every July to September.[8]

Notable Amis people

See also


Taiwanese Aborigines

Hunting Deer (捕鹿), 1746
General information
  • Total population
2014: 533,600[10]
  • Homelands in Taiwan
    • Mountainous terrain running in five ranges from the northern to the southern tip of the island
    • Narrow eastern plains
    • Orchid Island (Lán Yǔ)
  • Languages
14 living Formosan languages. Several of these are endangered or moribund.
Gaoshan and Pingpu
  • With rare exceptions, the living languages and recognized tribes are of the Gaoshan (highland) tribes, who reside in the first two of the three regions given above. The extinct languages and unrecognized tribes are generally of the Pingpu (lowland), who formerly resided in the western plains region. The Tao people (or Yami) reside on Orchid Island, are a recognized tribe and speak a living (albeit endangered) language.
  1. Chia-chen, Hsieh; Wu, Jeffrey (15 February 2015). "Amis remains Taiwan's biggest aboriginal tribe at 37.1% of total". The Central News Agency. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  2. "Table 28: Indigenous population distribution in Taiwan-Fukien Area", National Statistics, Republic of China, Taiwan: Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan (DGBAS), retrieved 2006-08-30.
  3. "Ami", Ethnologue.
  4. Olson, James Stuart, An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China, Google.
  5. "Survey Reports on the Savages", Banzoku Chōsa Hōkokusho 蕃族調査報告書, 8, Taihoku (Taipei), 1913–1918, p. 4.
  6. plbi-03-08-05 1..11 (PDF), PLOS journals.
  7. HPGL (PDF), 64, Stanford, 2001, p. 432.
  8. Amis Harvest Festival held in East Taiwan, The China Post July 28, 2005, retrieved in April 8, 2011
  9. "Li Tai-hsiang, composer of Olive Tree and other hits, dies at age 72". Strait Times. 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
  10. Exec. Yuan (2014), p. 49.
  • Hsu et al., Taiwanese Aboriginal History: Amis, Taipei: 2001. ISBN 957-02-8013-1 and ISBN 957-02-8003-4. (Chinese language)

External links

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