Girl meets boy: Taiwan’s tribal matchmaking festival

This picture taken on August 19, 2017 shows members of the Amis indigenous group posing for a selfie during the traditional harvest festival in Hualien, eastern Taiwan. As night falls on a square in the village of Matai'an, young women cast critical eyes over a dancing circle of men in embroidered skirts and feathered head dresses as part of an ancient match-making ritual. Known as "Lovers' Night", it is the grand finale of the annual harvest festival for the Amis tribe, the largest of the 16 recognised indigenous groups in Taiwan. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2017
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Girl meets boy: Taiwan’s tribal matchmaking festival

HUALIEN, Taiwan: As night falls on a square in the village of Matai’an, young women cast critical eyes over a dancing circle of men in embroidered skirts and feathered head dresses as part of an ancient match-making ritual.
Known as “Lovers’ Night,” it is the grand finale of the annual harvest festival in the settlement which belongs to the Amis tribe, the largest of the 16 recognized indigenous groups in Taiwan.
Near the island’s rugged east coast, the village — also known as Fata’an, the name of a local plant, in the Amis language — is a collection of basic, low-lying houses along meandering streets, located in a valley between two mountain ranges.
The harvest festival — which usually runs between June and August, with each village holding it at a different time — is the biggest and most important celebration for the Amis tribe, and in Matai’an it culminates with single women taking their pick of eligible bachelors.
The centuries-old custom is a reflection of the tribe’s matriarchal system, which sees women make key decisions including managing finances and men marry into their wives’ families.
As the singing and dancing men pick up their pace, the women move in behind their chosen love interest and tug on a multicolored cloth bag slung on their target’s shoulder.
To spark interest, the men wiggle and flex their muscles, the most popular among them accruing a queue of interested women.
If a man reciprocates the approach, he will give his bag — known as an “alufu” — to the woman, marking the beginning of a courtship.
In the past, the ritual would commonly lead to marriage and even now still sparks relationships, but it is also a chance for Amis community members who are working in the cities to return and socialize.
“Lovers’ Night is to make friends,” said Cheng Ying-hsuan, 22.
Dressed in a red traditional outfit adorned with green beads and her own sequined alufu, she had returned to the village from the city of Hualien, where she now lives, an hour’s drive away.
When asked if she hoped to find a boyfriend, she laughed and said coyly: “That’s also a possibility.”
Matai’an is one of the biggest Amis settlements and is home to around 500 people — mostly elders and children.
“We like the feeling of everyone coming back together and reconnecting. For us this is the most important,” said Liao Ching-tung, 28, who lives in the capital Taipei.
Each harvest festival, hundreds who have moved away to work or study return to join in the festivities.
The indigenous community — which remains a marginalizedgroup in Taiwanese society — has seen its traditional culture eroded since immigrants started arriving from China centuries ago.
Since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016, her government has been pushing for greater indigenous rights and preservation of tribal languages and culture.
But some groups have criticized Tsai for not going far enough and have clashed with authorities over land rights policy, demanding their ancestral areas be returned.
In Matai’an, tradition is alive and kicking.
Lamen Panay, 41, who goes by her tribal name, says the matchmaking event is still meaningful to her even though she is no longer single.
She has a collection of lovers’ bags from past harvest festivals, but has since settled down with her long-term boyfriend, living with him in Taipei.
The couple are both from the village and Lamen still makes a point of picking him out during the matchmaking ritual.
“We are both usually very busy with work,” she said.
“It’s necessary to rekindle the flames.”


China’s most expensive movie becomes epic flop

Updated 17 July 2018
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China’s most expensive movie becomes epic flop

  • The film cost 750 million yuan ($113.5 million) to make, state media said
  • The estimated loss of $106 million would make it the fifth-biggest flop in movie history worldwide

BEIJING: With a $113-million budget, the most expensive Chinese film ever made has become a flop of historic proportions, pulled from theaters on its opening weekend after bringing in a paltry $7.3 million.
Alibaba Pictures’ special effects-heavy fantasy film “Asura” was intended as the first instalment in an epic trilogy inspired by Tibetan Buddhist mythology, part of a drive by authorities to promote works bearing elements of traditional Chinese culture.
The film cost 750 million yuan ($113.5 million) to make, state media said, and opened on Friday, but Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan said it only took in just over $7.3 million at the weekend.
By Sunday, the film’s official social media account posted a statement declaring that it would be removed from theaters as of 10 p.m. that night.
“We express our apologies to all those who wanted to but won’t have the chance to see it,” it said.
Most of China’s biggest blockbusters to date have been made with half the budget lavished on “Asura.”
The estimated loss of $106 million would make it the fifth-biggest flop in movie history worldwide, behind frontrunner “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” which suffered losses of $125 million, according to data from website Box Office Mojo.
State media had touted the movie before it was released, with the China Daily hailing “Asura” as “the most hotly anticipated blockbuster of China’s competitive summer season.”
“It’s a very imaginative movie. We wanted the film to raise confidence in our own culture and train more domestic talent,” Yang Hongtao, chairman of Ningxia Film Group, one of the movie’s backers, told the paper ahead of Friday’s opening.
Six years in the making, the film was heavy on expensive visuals, featuring 2,400 scenes with special effects in its runtime of just 141 minutes, the paper noted.
Bankable Hong Kong actors Tony Leung Ka-fai and Carina Lau starred, while high-powered foreign talent — such as Oscar-winning Ngila Dickson, costume designer for the “Lord of the Rings” franchise — also took part.
Yet the film garnered a rotten 3.1 rating on Douban, China’s most influential user review platform.
“My god, it’s horrifying! It’s just a magnificent pile of excrement!” one user wrote.
Wildly different reviews on the country’s two largest ticketing platforms prompted a virulent retort from the movie’s production team, posted Friday to its social media account.
On opening day, “Asura” netted an 8.4 rating out of 10 on Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao. But on Maoyan, backed by Alibaba’s rival tech giant Tencent, reviewers had given it just 4.9.
The team accused Maoyan of using fake, paid reviewers to post 1-star ratings to artificially deflate the film’s score, calling the alleged move “despicable, foolish, and ludicrous.”
Many users dismissed the film’s team’s statement.
“It was garbage anyway,” one reviewer wrote.