Bunun - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Like many other Taiwan aborigines, the Bunun lived until the end of World War II on a "traditional" subsistence diet of maize and sweet potato produced by shifting cultivation. This subsistence economy overshadowed commercial activities, though commerce has long been present. The Japanese government successfully forced the Bunun to cultivate wet rice instead of maize before the end of World War II. When the Bunun began to cultivate cash crops about 1970, wet rice was given up. These crop substitutions have contributed to an increase in other commercial activity to obtain food and other consumables.

Industrial Arts. Many new technologies from the Han Chinese and the Japanese have been accepted by the Bunun, and the traditional industrial arts of textiles, house building, and metallurgy have all but disappeared.

Trade. Lacking their own industries, the Bunun are heavily dependent on trade, which, in turn, has bound the Bunun increasingly closely with the wider Taiwan society. Economic exploitation of the Bunun by Chinese middlemen has led to serious interethnic conflict.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, men were in charge of hunting, and women and children were responsible for food gathering. Women performed everyday agricultural tasks, but men performed the heavier work of clearing land and harvesting crops. Men also assumed the important traditional sociopolitical roles (such as military leader and public shaman) ; women performed domestic work. This traditional division of labor gradually has given way in the face of increasing social differentiation. The market economy has reinforced the preexisting traditional value placed on personal performance. Capable women can now take any job or occupy any social status.

Land Tenure. Traditionally, the Bunun classified land into three categories: for hunting, for planting, and for housing. Each type was controlled, respectively by the patrician, household, and settlement. These categories might sometimes overlap when the same parcel of land could be controlled by different social units for their separate functions. This traditional classification no longer exists. First, the R.O.C. government carried out a land survey with the explicit intention of imposing a "modern" concept of ownership. Second, land has become valued as part of Bunun entry into the wider market economy of Taiwan.


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