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Knives (佩刀)

A knife was considered a basic item for all Paiwan men, which they kept at their side at all times, where it could be easily accessed as a defensive weapon or to clear a path through the forest. The knife and sheath were usually kept together as a set, generally known as “Takit” in the Paiwan language. Takit were also used during wedding ceremonies and harvest festivals. For marriages among the noble classes  a carved decorative knife (called Ginagalan in the Paiwan language) was an essential betrothal gift.

There are two main types of knives among the Paiwan tribe, one for ceremonial use and the other for work. Work knives were undecorated. Each Paiwan male carried a knife as a weapon for defense, obtaining firewood, cutting up animals for food and producing tools. The handle of the knife was hollow for attaching a long wooden or bamboo rod to create a hunting spear. Ceremonial knives were more refined, especially those of the noble class. They were often decorated with carved patterns of disembodied human heads and hundred-pace snakes, inlaid shell or metal pieces and lacquer. Some knife sheaths had a woven strap attached for carrying the knife at the waist and as decoration. In the past, ceremonial knives were the exclusive property of males of the noble class. When not in use, they were hung in a position of honor next to the main post in the home. During important occasions, such as celebrations and ceremonies or important negotiations, this type of knife was worn at the side. In addition to displaying the social position of the wearer, it was a symbol of prestige and bravery.

The blade is straight, thin and long and is curved slightly upward at the tip. The handle is columnar in shape. In terms of structure, there are three sections of the knife: blade, handle and sheath. Most blades are made from iron and are single-edged. The knife handle is usually made from wood. There are also examples of hollow metal knife handles, which can be used for fitting the knife onto a long wooden rod to create a spear. The knife sheath is usually single-sided and made from a hollowed out piece of wood. In a few cases, two pieces of wood are fitted together to create a double-sided sheath. In addition to a concave trough along the front side of the sheath, iron or copper strips are arranged horizontally to hold the blade in place. Sometimes, the entire front side is covered in metal or metal pieces. The sheath is then carved with unique Paiwan patterns. Knives of the nobility are decorated with patterns such as disembodied heads, human figures and hundred-pace snakes. Then, color is added and metal pieces are inlaid. The end of the sheath follows the curvature of the blade and the carving may be extended to form the head of a hundred-pace snake. Males of the noble class or respected warriors bound eagle feathers, animal fur, or the hair of headhunting victims to the sheath to show off their social status and bravery. Sometimes, a woven strap was added as well. In the Gulou area, talismans were added to knife sheaths near the handle as a way to protect the knife’s owner.

Knives are generally referred to as Takit in RAVAL society. Due to different uses, different types of knives were produced. They include Vinirlian (double-edged metal blade), Ginagalan (carved knife of the nobility) and Dinaluman (knife used by the common class). Vinirlian refers to a double-edged knife and is considered the most valuable of the three types. It is also known as a bronze knife, one of the three cultural treasures of the Paiwan tribe. Ginagalan refers to the carved knives used by the males of the noble class. Dinaluman refers to the knives used by the males of the common class. Usually work knives were simply called Takit. Takit refers to a straight knife. Work knives with a curved metal blade, such as sickles, were called Givaguvagu.

Production methods
In earlier times, Taiwan’s indigenous people did not possess iron smelting techniques. Metal blades were mostly obtained through trade while wooden handles and sheaths were produced. Wood was obtained from the pomelo tree (Guzumai) due to its hardness. Traditionally, males possessing metallurgy skills were commissioned to process the blades. Now, most blades are purchased and the only parts that are produced or processed are the handles and sheaths.    

Although the blade is usually obtained through purchase, it may require some slight modification or reconditioning. The knife handle and sheath are usually made from the hard wood of the Guzumai tree. If the knife handle is made from metal, rattan is used to bind it to the knife. To produce the knife sheath, wood with a certain degree of curvature is selected. On the front of the sheath a concave trough is created for placing a protective talisman. Then, patterns are carved, such as disembodied human heads, human figures and hundred-pace snakes, or the sheath is covered in lacquer. Sometimes, a hole is made in the sheath near the handle for attaching a rope, for hanging the knife when not in use. Or, a woven strap is tied to the sheath for carrying the knife at the waist and to enhance its decorative beauty.

Methods of use
A knife, called “Takit”, is the most important tool for a Paiwan male. Almost every male carried a knife as protection, for hunting, for combat, and for cutting up firewood. Knives served as betrothal gifts at traditional Paiwan weddings. However, only long blade knives could be given.

A knife was an essential daily use item for every Paiwan male. It was also an important accessory on occasions when formal attire was worn. A knife was usually worn at the waist on the left side, and was both practical and symbolic. The Ginagalan (carved knife of the nobility) and the Dinaluman (knife used by the common class) are collectively referred to as Takit. During weddings of the nobility, Ginagalan was an essential betrothal gift. On the fifth day of the Harvest Festival of RAVAL, coming-of-age rites were held. Males were presented with a knife, either Ginagalan or Dinaluman, based on the class to which they belong. Females were presented with earrings. The receiving of these items symbolized entry into adulthood. On the same day, the males of the village gathered to carry out divination rites. During these divination rites, the men used their knives to clear away the weeds along a mountain path.

There are some taboos related to Paiwan knives. For example, females are not allowed to touch or step over a knife. Even the clothing of a female must not come in contact with a knife. This taboo includes girls as well as women. In addition, during the period of mourning, any family members of the deceased must not touch or step over a knife. If these taboos are broken, the owner of the knife is at risk of experiencing bad luck or misfortune.



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