CyberFair Project ID: 7505

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: [empsapuh] The Link to the Ancestral Spirits - Witch Doctors of the Truku Tribe
Category: 2. Community Groups and Special Populations

School: Jian Ching Elementary School
    Hualien, Taiwan, Chinese Taipei (Republic of China, ROC)

6 students, ages 10-12 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 16, 2013. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2007,2009,2010,2011,2012

Classes and Teachers: Principal Lian-xi Su, Teacher Shu-jun Hua, Director De-lin Ai, Director Chen-yuan Li, Director Shou-liang Hsu.

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Jianqing Village is located in the center of Wanrong, Hualien County, with Silin Village in the north, Wanrong Village in the south, Nanping Village, Fenglin Township in the east, and Central Mountain Range in the west. Jianqing Village is the smallest village in the township where residents are unsophisticated and hospitable. Approximately more than 90% of the residents in the village are Truku people. The Truku people are now highly populated in Sioulin Township and Wanrqng Township in Hualien County, and a few of them reside in other villages, Lishan Village in Chuosi Township and three villages in Jian Township – Chingfeng, Nanhua, and Fusing.

In terms of the labor structure in Jianqing Community, most of the residents engage in agricultural, industrial, and service industries. There is no specific industrial operation in the community, and the labor forces have to look for working opportunities outside the community. As a result, the family functions in the community are incomplete, resulting in many educational problems and the population’s sense of loss. Therefore, the role and status of our school are particularly important. In addition to taking into account the physical and psychological development of children in the community, our school should also attach importance to the thematic courses of local culture and cooperate with private and government units, in order to systemically preserve the culture of Truku people.

Our school established a cultural club to explore and investigate the culture, and the research projects of many themes have been completed and published, including Truku weaving, Truku rituals, Truku hunting, Truku facial tattoo, and Truku cuisine culture. Our school instructs students in basic academic abilities through education process, which also enables them to indirectly obtain abundant cultural intelligence.

2. Summary of Our Project

This project introduces Truku witch doctors. By interviewers’ sharing and recording of medical culture of Truku witch doctors by words and videos, Truku culture can thus be continued.

Witch doctors’ medical techniques include use of daran, spgan kari and gestures in the rites. Learners spend long time following traditional curers for 3 to 5 years of practical learning. Before becoming formal witch doctor (empsapuh), learners should have a ceremony of daran. People having daran acquire bhring to communicate with Spirit of Ancestors and thus they can treat the patients.

Traditional curers who communicate with Spirit of Ancestors have been playing critical roles in communities of long generations of tribal culture. According to historic life experience of the tribe and common mythology, we probe into social context of traditional medical rites in the tribes. Traditional curers are the instructors in lives to maintaining social and cultural regulations of the communities.

In this year, the school will focus on witch doctors of Truku tribe. By school training courses and field interview and sharing of cultural researchers regarding witch doctor, it guides us to know Truku witch doctors. More importantly, it transforms verbal or video recording into knowledge and shares it on online platform. By inheritance, respect, education and affection, more people will recognize the rich cultural content of Truku.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:4-6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Our school supports wireless Internet access, and the computer classroom is equipped with high speed fiber broadband. In Taiwan, which is now a country with advanced information technology, most Internet access problems have been solved. Our school upgraded the computer information technology equipment in 2011, and purchased equipment for interviews, such as video cameras, sound recorders, and digital cameras. Students have a complete set of interview tools in groups.

Our school has received outstanding awards in the Cyberfair for the past few years. One major reform is to include the Cyberfair project into the school curriculum planning, which teaches students about the use of information media, interview skills, upload of research records, and webpage making in class sessions. The school has established community websites at the Ministry of Education and Facebooks, allowing students groups to upload afterthoughts, reports, and comments.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

(1) Technical difficulties: Solution: the course content strengthens the instruction on the use of video camera, digital camera, and sound recorders, as well as file transmission. In February, lecturers have been invited to teach related courses, which have benefited the students. If these works cannot be arranged into hands-on courses, the teachers and students would share the workload. The teachers would transfer the files to the computer, and organize and convert the files, whereas the students are responsible for transcribing the interviews.

(2) Reaching consensus: Solution: the school has established a teacher organization for research projects, which integrates the internal and external manpower, materials, and funding resources. The organization holds regular work reviews and forums. Building mental toughness and seeking school administrative supports are very important. Without mental toughness, the team members would feel exhausted, and be unable to finish the works; without administrative support, the teachers and students would be working alone, and eventual be exhausted.

(3) Project planning: Solution: in order to complete this project and maintain the educational features of this school, besides establishing teachers’ learning community, we asked other staffs to serve as the project head, expecting the project head to lead the research team with a different leadership style and perspective. The teacher community has established trust mechanism, and the teachers took turns to be the project head. The experienced teachers would also share their experiences.

(4) Language and expression: Solution: the teachers served at the interviewees for practice, and instructions were given afterwards. If the students still had problems during the actual interviews, guidance was given immediately, and the teachers would explain the students’ situations to the interviewees. The transcripts would be reviewed and corrected by the teachers.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

The topic of this Cyberfair project was witch doctor. As one of Truku, I was highly interested in this issue. After several times of visit, I realized that witch doctors of Truku had different specialties, such as medicine, prevention from evil spirits, blessing, consultation, etc.

It demonstrates the strong respect and dependence of Truku on Spirit of Ancestors. Compatibility with Spirit of Ancestors will solve the physical and mental problems of Truku people. Thus, witch doctors are the important bridge between the people and Spirit of Ancestors.

After this investigation, I feel deep veneration for the role and occupation of witch and respect modern witches in the tribe. I hope that the tradition and skill can continue. After all, modern witches are the national treasures of Truku.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

(1) Language areas: The team members raised their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills when the students collected information on the internet and organized them into the mental maps of the interview outline. By interviewers’ sharing and recording of medical culture of Truku witch doctors by words and videos, Truku culture can thus be continued. Learning is through information network system and multi-ethnic language communication and contact, and can be said to be an active course for the language area learning ability index. (2) Social fields and combined activities: In this Cyberfair project the students, through the internet and interviews, can also describe the location of the Truku witch doctors in Truku areas and in the vicinity near the school. While experiencing the Truku witch doctors, the students rationally communicate and understand what kind of meaning or story these traditional medical rites represent. These learning process could not be experienced or participated in the classroom, thus this them research process is the best example of a course in social area learning. (3) Information Education: Each club member has been trained in small group cooperation to find the suitable website sources, audio and video recording files of completed interviews, downloading and reading files, and transfer or establish simple a file library and manage information. Members can fully understand network use and basic internet operation (including send and receive email, navigate browser, using ftp). In the course of the interview, members can use the software to edit Chinese transcripts, proceed with typing and editing, and can combine text, pictures, art, etc., so student and teacher can cooperate and complete web page production. (4) Family education: Students participating in Cyberfair project can get to know common traditional Truku witch doctors. From the interview process, they got to know traditional Truku witch doctors.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

(1) Camcorders and digital cameras: It is a great tool for record the community going on. In order to let the children make full use of digital camcorders the school applied for second-hand digital cameras from the public service platform foundation, so that each student has one and makes full use of the recordings. (2) Scanners: This can scan the students’ pictures and reference images, and is very important for the completeness of the information archive. This school has 3 A4 size scanners, 2 flat scanner, and 1 reel (suction type) scanner. Especially concerning the reel-type scanner, students’ manuscript or drawing sketches can be copied and transferred to PDF file. This greatly benefits subsequent data validation and first-hand information downloading. (3) Voice recorders: Record the complete oral content of the interview subject and an important tool for compiling post interview written records of the visit. (4) Computer Software: Web page production software, mind mapping software, image processing software, server, Doz transcription software, etc.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

The parents and interview subjects all support the school in organizing such meaningful curriculum for each outside visit. They also feel personally and mentioned that their culture must be passed down. Because the elder generation are illiterate, have lower educational attainment, or health issues, they cannot take the initiative in bring up the historical and cultural past. Today's young people are also alienated from the identity of the aboriginal culture, so the schools guidance in the children’s systematic interview is absolutely correct. Of course, the children are the group with the most potential in the 4 generations, and it is hoped that through the school’s courses, they can have the ability to describe the things that happened in their own home town or village. We are a member of the Sinbaiyang Cultural Club, the small vanguard of cultural heritage. We will continue this kind of work. If there is close interaction between the community and school, the local culture will not disappear.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

These few years there has already been a set base for students that continuously participate in the culture exploration courses. Because our club changes ever six months, and some students want to learn other club’s courses, so they will give up participation half way in that year’s research. There are also some peer influences. What do you guys do in the Sinbaiyang Cultural Club? Computer classes are fresh in the beginning, but later report organization is very painful, so in the past few years almost three-fifths of the students leave. But this year is different, because there is a group of students that still seriously want to complete this meaningful research activity. At least we see in them the insistent attitude in accomplish something.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

Thanks to witch Chu-mei Liu Chou for receiving the interview of Jien Ching Elementary School. Thank you for letting the students of Sinbaiyang Cultural and Technology Club learn to communicate with others and approach the tradition and witchcraft. Wish you good health and to be happy every day. Thank you, witch grandma. First, I would like to thank Pastor Fu-hsing Wang for receiving our interview. Pastor told us about his feeling to be treated by witch doctor and what he has experienced. I was impressed by the story that once there was a witch doctor whose wife was spirit. However, the witch doctor asked his wife to kill the minister in the church. However, he hurt himself finally. The witch doctor then was converted. I learned a lot from Pastor Wang. Thank you, Pastor Wang.

Mrs. Rabai is an old witch doctor and he only spoke Truku language and Japanese. Thus, we could not communicate well. However, Mrs. Rabai listened to us carefully and although sometimes she could not understand us, she tried hard to answer all the questions. Thanks her for telling us many things about witch doctor. She allowed me to try Daran. Thank you, Mrs. Rabai.

Mr. Kaji Cihung is a humorous scholar who has the knowledge about witch doctors of Truku and the history of immigration. He suggested learning our culture and history. Thus, Mr. Kaji Cihung extremely understands Truku culture. Mr. Kaji Cihung encouraged us to learn Truku history. Thanks to Mr. Kaji Cihung who helped us understand Truku culture and told us the contact information of other witch doctors. Thank you, Mr. Kaji Cihung.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

We found that the interview subjects all have a common trait. That is, to insist on what they want to so. When their accumulated wisdom, is being discovered and respected by us, the sense of awe that they show the ancestral spirits and the confidence, courage, and professional attitude could not be seen in ordinary life. They emit the energy of lifelong knowledge, and awe us into stepping towards the hallow hall of culture and society.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 7505)

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