51071584171 The 100-pacer snake tattoos on the hands of Indigenous Paiwan octogenarian Livekes Rusuguwan from Pingtung County are considered a Taiwan intangible cultural asset. (Courtesy of NTM)

November 4, 2015

The traditional hand tattoo culture of Taiwan’s indigenous Paiwan tribe is taking center stage at an exhibition running until Dec. 6 at National Taiwan Museum in Taipei City.

“Engraving Prestige: Hand Tattoo of Paiwan, Laiyi” features eight video interviews and photographs of 21 octogenarians from southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County, as well as a display of historic wooden sculptures.

Chen Wen-shan, who took the photographs and is also a staffer at Pingtung-based Laiyi Indigenous Museum, spent three years documenting the stories of tattooed Paiwan elders. The Japanese cracked down on the practice during the colonial period [1895-1945], ensuring it would one day fade from sight.