When Sun Ta-Chuan, National Policy Advisor to Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou and his team met with a number of writers, academics and government officials in Auckland last week, they conversed in English, mostly using translators.
However, they could strike common grounds, with a number of common words in their respective languages, but more importantly, with their ancestry.
“It has been known for long that Taiwanese and Maori have common roots and that they were a part of the tribal people who migrated from what is today known as the Republic of China. They settled in many parts of the South Pacific,” Mr Ta-Chuan told Indian Newslink.
He and his team are in New Zealand to explore possibilities of enhanced economic and cultural cooperation and gain in-depth knowledge of Maori culture, history, and way of life.
“New Zealand is the theme country for the Taipei International Book Exhibition. The Fair will bring together writers, historians and others keen on exploring possibilities of greater cooperation between the peoples of the two countries,” Mr Ta-Chuan said.
Lincoln Ting, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland, who facilitated the visit of the team, said that Taiwanese aborigines can be traced to many parts of the world.
“They moved through the Philippines, Indonesia and other Melanesian Islands such as Papua New Guinea. As they went, there was intermarriage and they reached remote parts of Polynesia more than 2500 years ago. They reached New Zealand about 700 years ago,” he said.
Mr Ta-Chuan bears the aborigine name of ‘Paelabangdapan,’ and evinces keen interest in tracing the Maori heritage. A former Minister of the Council of Indigenous People in Taiwan, he is currently Associate Professor at the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature of National Cheng-Chi University.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Taiwanese Aborigines’ is a term commonly applied in reference to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, estimated to constitute 2% of the population of Republic of China. Although Taiwanese indigenous groups hold a variety of creation myths, recent research suggests their ancestors may have been living on the islands for approximately 8000 years before major Han Chinese immigration began in the 17th century, Taiwanese aborigines are Austronesian peoples, with linguistic and genetic ties to other Austronesian ethnic groups, such as peoples of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Polynesia, and Oceania.
Mr Ta-Chuan said that a recent pact signed between Taiwan and New Zealand contains a clause that calls for closer links between the indigenous peoples of both countries. Known as ‘ANZTEC,’ a shortened version of ‘Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Cooperation’ (Indian Newslink, August 1, 2013), it was the first such agreement that Taiwan signed with a developed country.
In a report published last year, South China Morning Post, Taiwan’s leading English newspaper, quoted Lin Ma-li, a blood researcher at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei as saying that Taiwanese aborigines came to Taiwan more than 10,000 years ago at the end of the glacial period, before the ice melted and separated the island from the mainland.
“The ancestors of Taiwan’s aborigines were possibly the forefathers of the Maori,” she said, based on years of research, which showed that Taiwanese aborigines had common DNA features with Polynesians.
Sun Ta-Chuan and Lincoln Ting (fourth & fifth from left) with Maori and Taiwanese groups in Auckland on September