Home >The Rukai Myth and Garments

Myth and Garments

Handmade embroidered garments are the most valued kind of attire among the Rukai. Meticulous handwork and fine craftsmanship go into these clothes that are decorated with totemic designs of the hundred-pacer snake, pottery kettles or revered deities. The color of the cloth is usually black, blue or red, and the embroideries are applied to the collar, sleeves, borders, back, pant cuffs, waist, skirts and skirt hems. The patterns employed are intricate and colorful, and worked into the cloth with great skill to create garments of refined elegance and well-balanced beauty. This takes a lot of time to accomplish, which is why nowadays it is becoming more and more common to use computer scanning programs to design the cut and style of the clothes, and then apply the embroidery and other details mechanically. The resulting clothes are hard to tell apart from traditional, handmade pieces. At the same time, a variety of new materials have also been introduced. When it comes to Rukai clothes, we may discern the following manufacturing methods: 1. Cross-Stitch Embroidery: The designs are worked into black, blue or red cross-stitch cloth with thread in various colors. 2. Pearl Embroidery: The designs are worked into the cloth with beads (mostly red, yellow, white and green) to create a dazzling and colorful visual effect. 3. Patch Embroidery: The totemic designs are cut out of special colored cloth. Then they are stitched onto the garment along their borders. This method is gradually becoming the mainstream type of embroidery. It has a distinct quality of its own, a “classical” flair reminiscent of the tribe’s youth. Another two items of Rukai attire that deserve mention are the lily headdress and the hundred-pacer snake headdress. The Rukai revere nothing more than the lily and the hundred-pacer snake, and this is reflected in their use in the male and female headdress—usually the first part of ceremonial dress to catch the observer’s eye. The male headdress, in addition to the prominent snake design, also features a coronet-like adornment made of wild boar teeth. The women’s headdress is more elegant and elaborate, featuring beads, pearls, silver adornments, boar teeth, and, most importantly, lilies—a sight brimming with a traditional kind of beauty.


 A Rukai woman in front of a typical slabstone house
 A Rukai woman in front of a typical slabstone house
 Members of the Rukai tribe in full attire assembled for a performance
 Members of the Rukai tribe in full attire assembled for a performance
  During a performance, members of the Wild Lily Choir explain the origins of Rukai clothing and finery
 During a performance, members of the Wild Lily Choir explain the origins of Rukai clothing and finery

  The renowned Rukai ensemble Wild Lily Choir from Wutai Township in Pingtung County
 The renowned Rukai ensemble Wild Lily Choir from Wutai Township in Pingtung County

 Rukai traditional male attire
 Rukai traditional male attire

 Rukai children in traditional clothes
 Rukai children in traditional clothes


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