Ipay Wilang (林智妹), the last remaining government-designated preserver of indigenous facial tattoos, passed away on June 18 at the age of 100. Saddened by the loss of Ipay Wilang, Minister of Culture Lee Yung-te offered his sincere condolences and instructed MOC to assist Ipay's family in planning her funeral as well as apply for a posthumous presidential citation in recognition of her dedication in preserving Taiwanese indigenous culture.
Born in the Seediq tribe of Hualien County during the Japanese colonial period, Ipay Wilang was named the preserver of indigenous facial tattoos under the category of "Intangible Cultural Heritage – Folklore" by the Hualien County Government in 2016. In the same year, the Bureau of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture published a book revolving around the life stories of Taiwan's six remaining Indigenous facial tattoo preservers, and its second edition was issued in 2018. It is hoped that the public can better understand the traditional facial tattoo culture, and pass on indigenous peoples’ precious cultures.
According to MOC, the tradition of facial tattoos is of great historical significance to Taiwan. Among Taiwanese indigenous peoples, only the Atayal, Seediq, SaySiyat and Truku tribes have the traditional facial tattoo practices. In their culture, men and women can have facial tattoos when they were deemed capable of starting a family of their own.
The practice was banned during Japanese colonial rule from 1895 to 1945, causing the culture to gradually disappear. However, MOC said that the facial tattoo culture is still regarded by the indigenous peoples as an important symbol of ethnic identity.
Minister Lee stated that Ipay Wilang preserved the tradition of Taiwanese indigenous facial tattoos throughout her life, and her legacy will be cherished forever by future generations.
(Photo Courtesy of Bureau of Cultural Heritage, MOC)