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Ceramic pots

Tags: belief | ceramics | culture | Paiwan

Ethnic group: Paiwan
Cultural area: Austronesian
Collector/handler: Cheng Hui-ying
Province/collected in: Taiwan Province
County/collected in: Pingtung County
Township/collected in: Taiwu Township
Digital Copy Provider:National Museum of Natural Science

The Paiwan believe that the tribe was born from a ceramic pot. The Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) is believed to be the ancestor and protector of the Paiwan. Old pots decorated with these snakes or with breasts, were sacred items that were only owned by chiefs or aristocrats and ordinary people were forbidden to touch. Pots decorated with Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) alone were sacred and were status symbols owned just by the chiefs and higher classes. Pots decorated with triangles etc. pattern were also sacred and exclusive to chiefs and higher class people.
Ceramic pots have great symbolic value in Paiwan culture and would only be displayed during important ceremonies or weddings. The pots would be inherited by the eldest son and the other siblings given a piece broken from the pot rim to serve as their family's sacred object.

The pot has a wide belly, round bottom and pieces missing from the rim. On the shoulder are joined carved shapes and a ring which could be used to hang it up.

Manufacturing method
By the Japanese colonial period all knowledge about Paiwan ceramic technology in old times had been lost, making the surviving old pots even more precious today. The form of today's pots are made reproduces that of old pots.

Function and use
Different kinds of pots had different value and significance. Pots with Hundred-pace Snake (Deinagkistrodon acutus) and breasts decorations on the shoulder were sacred items, owned only by chiefs and the gentry and could not be touched by ordinary people. Pots with just snakes were also sacred high status items. Patterned old pots were also sacred pots used in worship. Pots without decoration were everyday use pots used to hold wine or water or keeping food.