Tattoo culture

Atayal is famous for its face tattoo. It has four major meanings:

Tribe mark:to distinguish the tribes to avoid hurting the tribe people in the battles.
Adult mark:means a man passes the test to be qualified for marriage and participating in community activities. If a man does not have a tattoo when he reaches the age to have one, he will be laughed and seen as an omen.
Achievement mark:for men, this shows the courage and achievement in hunting; for women, tattoo means her weaving technique is excellent and recognized by the people.
Beautiful mark:as a decoration. This is similar to some tribes in Africa and Oceania.

The people practicing the tattoo should be women with chastity. This is hereditary. This custom gradually fades away as the Japanese forced it to change.

Besides beautiful, the meaning of tattoo to a woman means she is good at weaving and ready to be married; to a man, it means he has hunted a head and can take the responsibility to protect the home and tribe. It is a symbol of adulthood and entering the ancestor tomb after death. It is also called whale tattoo tribe or Wang tattoo tribe.

Men often have tattoos on the forehead and jaw; women have tattoos on the forehead and cheeks. Men who hunted heads or women who had outstanding weaving technique had the privilege to have specific tattoo on the chest, hands, feet, or forehead as the symbol of glory.

The tool for tattoo is a metal needle tied on a 15-cm wood stick, a 25-cm gavel, and the ink from the charcoal. The person being tattooed lies down and the person practicing tattoo put the metal needle on the face and hit it with the gavel. After wiping out the blood on the face with a thin bamboo sheet, put the charcoal on the face. This tattoo method is also seen in other aboriginal tribes.

(Source: Council of Indigenous People, Executive Yuan)