Faisu Mukunana portrays various facets of the Tsou's centuries-old way of life prior to the 1950s and before the drastic modernization and urbanization that impacted them. She wishes to convey some messages to her grandpa, to current and future Tsou generations, to the Han Taiwanese, and to the relatively recent Chinese immigrants who fled from China to Taiwan after the Second World War.
Faisu, in her opening story bearing the same title as the book, talks to her grandfather at his grave. Through this spiritual communication, Faisu allows us an emotional and intimate glimpse into the lives of the native Tsou people of Taiwan, thus drawing us into the interesting anthropological lore contained in the chapters that follow. The similarities of Tsou spiritual beliefs and practices with those of many native Americans are striking.
In her talk with her Ak'i (grandfather), Faisu expresses guilt that she and her family 'forgot' about him for 51 years, never sweeping or visiting his grave. She mentions to him that she realizes it had not been Tsou custom in the past to attend to the dead so devotedly and she seems to wonder about it, to the extent of apologizing to her Ak'i for seeming so 'uncaring.' Indeed, the reader may have those same thoughts. The parallels that may provide some explanation, both for the general reader and for other scholars on these subjects. For example, the Chumash of Southern California traditionally 'forgot' about the newly dead in order to help their dead break from the emotional ties to their past life and physical pleasures. In Chumash tradition, Scorpion Woman assists souls, toward the end of their journey on the 'path of the dead,' by stinging them so they will forget the life they just left and be content while waiting in the celestial paradise to be reborn. Perhaps, like the Chumash, the Tsou deliberately ignored their dead, thus assisting them to continue on the 'path of the dead' toward reincarnation, when their family might see them again. This is a topic that would be fascinating to learn more about from the Tsou people.
Born in 1942, Faisu Mukunana has lived through two regimes—the Japanese colonialist government and the Republic of China (Taiwan). Her unusual life experience has greatly nourished her literary career, and the rich native cultural heritage she has inherited is a boundless resource for her engaging and compelling writing.
“Fortunately for future generations, the author leaves a path for them to explore this past, and honor and treasure the spirit of their ancestors along the way.”– Sun Ta-chuan, Scholar, a native Puyuma tribe member of Taiwan
“I'm inspired by the incredible vision, perseverance and cooperation within the family and beyond expressed with precise details and analogies. Her writing is a wonderful mix of memory, love, cultural anthropology, and insight wrapped up in great storytelling.”– Dr. Pamela Burke, Educator