Who are the Bunun People?

Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is home to a diverse group of people.
Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is home to a diverse group of people.

The Bunun People

The Bunun are a group of people indigenous to Taiwan. The Bunun people are famous for their polyphonic music. The Bunun are dominant in the island’s central ranges. As per the data of 2000, the Bunun people were the fourth-largest indigenous group in Taiwan with a total population of 41,038 representing approximately 10% of the country’s indigenous population. The Bunun speak the Bunun language and are subdivided into five subcommunities namely the Takituduh, Takbunuaz, Takivatan, Takibaka, and the Isbukun.

History of the Bunun People

According to the Bunun people, the human race came into existence following the fall of a gourd from heaven that split which lead to the emergence of the first man and woman. Before the entrance of the Christian missionaries in the 20th century, the Bunun were famous for being warriors and hunters. They lived in Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range in small family units. When Taiwan was under Japanese rule in 1895-1945, the Bunun people resisted any attempts of resettlement but were eventually resettled in the lowland villages across the islands making them be among the last people to receive a residential settlement. The resettlement spelled the end of the family set up that the Bunun were accustomed to and instead led to the start of living in individual units. Their economic practice also had to change as the Japanese government banned hunting and introduced rice cultivation instead. The ban did not go well with the Bunun people as their leader Chief Raho Ari oversaw guerilla warfare against the Japanese. By the 1940s, following the entrance of missionaries, many aborigines were converted to Christianity. In October 1945, the Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang entered Taiwan signifying an end to the cultural languages in the region as the Nationalists promoted the use of Standard Mandarin. The move by the Nationalists as well as the pressure by the new Christian faith eroded the Bunun culture, and it was until recent democratic reforms that the culture has changed.


The Bunun people were traditionally polytheists, but currently the majority are Christians. Traditionally, the Bunun were superstitious as they had beliefs concerning the moon and most of their practices were aligned with the lunar calendar. The Bunan people still practiced their traditional beliefs as recently as in 1946 but by 1959 there were 8,881 Christian converts, and by 1969 the number had increased to 12,234. At present, the Presbyterian Church has 14,990 Bunun believers distributed in 76 churches.


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