Memorial service held for indigenous 'national treasure'

07/22/2013 04:21 PM
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Taipei, July 22 (CNA) A memorial service was held Monday for Yawi Noming, Taiwan's last indigenous man to bear a tribal facial tattoo, who died at the age of 92 July 15.

Noming's family and members of his tribe attended a small Christian service in Taian Township in the northern county of Miaoli, where Noming's family still lives, Taian Mayor Ko Wu-yung told CNA.

Noming, described by the county government as a "national treasure" from the Atayal tribe, died in a hospital in central Taiwan's Taichung from infective endocarditis.

Facial tattoos are a long-standing custom of the Atayal tribe, signifying that an individual has stepped into adulthood. Men must cut off the head of an enemy, while women must learn to weave to be able to receive the tattoos.

The Atayal people also believe that the tattoos serve as marks for their ancestors to recognize the spirits of descendants after they die.

The facial tattooing custom was banned during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan because of its association with headhunting, so the younger generation of Atayal people no longer have facial tattoos.

Kan Pi-tung, director-general of Miaoli County's International Culture and Tourism Bureau, expressed sadness over Noming's death.

Noming was one of four tribal elders with facial tattoos featured on a collection of stamps released in 2011, Kan said.

With Noming's passing, only six people with tribal facial tattoos are left in Taiwan, all of them women. Three live in Miaoli and three in eastern Taiwan's Hualien. They are all over 90 years old.

(By Christie Chen) ENDITEM/J

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