body{background-attachment: fixed ! important; }

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Taiwan's Indigenous Bicycle Branding: Naruwan, Welcome To Taiwan

Taokas Bikes

As I was looking over some Facebook feeds last week, something interesting caught my eye. I noticed this little Taiwanese bike company had branded their company with the name "Taokas".
The company elaborates on the name on its website *My translation*:

300 years ago Taokas was a center of indigenous cultural and human resources. Three hundred years later, Taokas has transformed into an important base for the production of bicycles. Over the next three hundred years, Taokas will not only represent Asian bicycle brands, but will become an important symbol of Taiwanese cycling culture.

Taokas is the former name of Dajia, while the lands once belonged to the Taokas settlements of Plains Aborigines. When the first Han Chinese came to the area to open the lands for faming, they asked the local Taokas what the area was called. They said the area was called "Taokas".
As the word Taokas sounds very similar to "Tachia" in Chinese (actually the Taiwanese word Daiga), since that time the names then slowly evolved into "Tachia".
In reverence to the way Dajia nurtured prosperity, We have chosen to take the "Taokas" name for our brand.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, many European and American bike brands have entered the Asian market, but the design concept of the European and Americancars are not suited to Asian needs in bicycle design. Therefore, in order to better suit Asian the ergonomic requirements of the Asian physique, and the intended use of Asian bicycles, we created "Taokas" as a fusion of unique design and manufacturing processes to develop the most suitable Asian bike.

Initially, I was struck that any Taiwanese, outside of academia, actually know the word Taokas. Secondly, I was interested in how the word has taken on a new meaning for this company.
Taokas is an ethnonym that has been used for the groups of indigenous people who lived along the river valleys and alluvial plain between the Da an River and the windswept badlands of Hsinchu. The area around Dajia was once a major hub of Taokas village life.
At various times throughout Taiwan's history the Taokas often played a major role in the development of Qing frontier policy through their alliances and rivalries with other ethnic groups (both indigenous and non-indigenous).
1731: In December, excessive corvee, taxation, and anger over government employees casually sleeping with aborigine women leads to the Ta Chia revolt in central Taiwan. Braves from Ta Chia attack sub-prefect Chu at Sha lu, kill his entourage and set fire to the yamen building. As Chu flees south, many settlers are killed in the aboriginal advance toward Changhua. The Ta Chia (Taokas) tribe is joined by two tribes from the Anli (Pazeh) tribal group to defeat Qing troops defending the route to Changhua.
1732: The Ta Chia revolt continues as troops are drawn from the south to assist in putting down the rebellion. The absence of military near Feng Shan sparks a minor rebellion of Chu Yi-kui supporters in the south. At the same time a regional official, Ni Hsiang-kai, has five grain transporters killed from the Papora tribes hoping to pass them off as rebels and collect a reward. The killings result in the Papora joining the rebel assault on Changhua. The Babuza tribes join the uprising and the revolt gathers 2,000 aborigine braves in a siege on Changhua city and the surrounding area. The Qing bring up several hundred Hakka braves and enlisted several Honya tribes with the loyal Anli tribe, which fight until a settlement can be reached, but not before much of the surrounding countryside has been devastated.

Despite such a great segue into Taiwanese history, what I really find fascinating about Taokas and other Taiwanese brands, is how often they resort to using indigenous names and symbols in their branding.

Rikulau, the custom frame builder, has built its brand around the Rukai word for Taiwan's near-extinct species of Clouded Leopard.
Rikulau - the legendary sacred animal of the Rukai people (a Taiwanese aboriginal tribe). Rikulau is the name of clouded leopard in their language. 700 years ago, a group of Rukai ancestors followed the footprints a Rikulai to find a forever land for their children. They left the east coast, and went up the stream into the deepest forests of the mountainous ranges of southern Taiwan. And finally, they settled at the foothills of Da-Wu mountain where the footprints of rikulau stopped.
Rikulau is the biggest feline animal in the island of Taiwan. It moves like wind in the deepest forests of the mountainous island. It is the best climber among all wild cats. It is the fairy that bridges the dreams between people and the nature. It is the incarnation of agility, speed and style.
(Note: Rikulau – clouded leopard in aboriginal Rukai language)
Like most branding, the names seek to create a story and a fantasy. The company hopes to make a resounding emotional connection with the consumer that will result in company profits.
For Taiwanese, the image of the indigene has undergone 400 years of transformation in the face of Han and Japanese ethnic hegemony. The list of pejoratives in the official discourse has ranged from, "violent and backward" to " athletic, drunken and benign".
During the 1990's Taiwan experienced a confluence of social, economic and political change that resulted in a reframing of Taiwanese cultural life from outside of the Han Chinese model favored by the Chinese Nationalist state apparatus.
During the economic boom of 1990’s, eco-tourism took off in Taiwan as many of the areas “reserved” for the Indigenes were redesigned to allow city dwellers to escape and explore their own sense of “otherness,” like Marlowe in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Tourists are often treated to demonstrations of indigenous dancing, singing and traditional handicrafts to learn about the “other”.
The general assessment of the value of Indigenes in Taiwanese society echoes a sentiment of the urbanite intent on encapsulating pure authentic primitiveness in which some conceptual balance can be achieved. The urban imagination collects the images of the Indigene and blends them together with scant knowledge of the colonial experience of Taiwan.
The trend of branding bicycles to reflect Taiwan's history of indigenous cultures both seeks to authenticate and differentiate Taiwan and Taiwanese culture as distinct from the cultures of China as a source of local pride.
At the same time these brands exploit the existing memes of Taiwanese indigenous life to reflect the modern Taiwanese exotic fantasy longing for simplicity, freedom and leisure; values often attributed to indigenous cultures on Taiwan that are represented in the trend toward cycling as a leisure activity.

Taroka (Named for the Taroko People)