“Satokoay” is an Amis word, meaning “where the main house pillars are.” That is, a sacred place where the ancestral spirits stay.
The Satokoay Historical Site is located on the Southwest of where the Xiuguluan and Hongye Rivers meet, in the East Rift Valley. It is also on the North of Wuhe Plateau, overlooking the Xiuguluan River from the centre of the valley. The site therefore has a nice open view.
Satokoay Historical Site has a long and diverse history. Relics of the prehistoric Quilin Culture of the East Coast dating back to 3,000 years ago, Upper Huagangshan Culture of Hualien dating back to 2,100 years ago, and local Jinpu Culture (also called Amei Culture) dating back to 1,600 years ago can all be found here. Satokoay’s magnificent stone pillars are not just important symbols of the prehistoric Megalithic Culture. Since ancient times, they have inspired and influence many people, far and near.
Kalala and Stone Pillars
According to oral legends, Satokoay is the adobe of Kalala, Nakaw and Sira people, the early Amis. To show respect to these early settlers, whenever a new house is being built, rites must be held and prayers must be chanted. It is said that once when a house was being built, after the first pillar was erected successfully and the second pillar was about to be pulled up, the tribe was attacked and some members were killed. People put down the pillar to fight against the enemies. Afterwards, they resumed work but yet the pillar could never stand up again as the rites and the prayers had stopped half way. Dark clouds soon soared up, covering the sky. Winds blew and sands swept the village. Heavy rain began. When the storm was gone, people found out that all everyday utensils had turned into stone ones, including the wood pillars. As a result, today, Kalala people still come to Satokoay to dedicate sacrifices to their ancestors before the harvest fest is held, hoping to appease these spirits and avoid such a disaster.
The Kalala Rite and Wuhe’s Stone Pillars
Stone pillars are central to Kalala culture, and as a result Kalala’s annual harvest fest is preceded by Satokoay rites.
The harvest fest is prepared by the tribe’s youths. On the night before the fest, the leader of the tribe’s youths gathers up all youngsters to give a report at the chieftain’s place. They also take this opportunity to invite the chieftain, elders and council members to attend the fest. All other tribal members are cordially invited, too.
In fact, one week prior to the festival, the tribe’s young men must hunt animals in the mountains and catch fish in the waters. The prey will be dedicated to the ancestors at the fest. Women may not enter the festival site or watch it in any way while it is held though.
Right before the fest starts, the chieftain, elders and council members go to Satokoay to inform the ancestors that the festival is soon to be held. The youths wait until an “ok” message is sent from Satokoay before bringing sacrifices over and singing songs for the ancestors. A few rites are held during the singing to make sure if the ancestors are satisfied. If they are not, the singing continues.
After the rites, new leaders of the tribe’s age groups are selected. The tribe’s members then vow to abide by the tribe’s rules in the coming year. Finally, the festival officially starts and the youth leader brings the tribe’s teenagers in. New pa'komod (warriors) are also chosen. Eventually, the tribe’s women join the festival dance.
The festival lasts three to five days. On the last day, a special rite is held to see the ancestors off, and the tribe’s youths must hunt animals in the mountains and catch fish in the water again to get food for a post-festival party, thanking everyone for their contribution to this annual event. The festival is essentially held in five steps, preparation, welcoming the spirits, feasting of the spirits, entertaining the spirits, and seeing the spirits off. These steps have been practiced for more than a thousand years.
Legend of the Sapat Stone Pillars in Sakizaya Culture
In another legend, celestial god Butung went down to the Earth, marrying a Sakizaya woman called Sayong. He made plenty of spinning tops and used them to loosen up earth for farming in no time. Then he sowed sweet melon and bitter gourd seeds. Soon, rice seedlings popped out from the sweet melon seeds and millet seedlings popped out from the bitter gourd seeds. Three years passed and Butung told Sayong that they needed to go back to his celestial home once. Butung asked his wife not to make a sound when climbing the stairs that lead to the sky. But Sayong sighed all of a sudden because it was a tiring trip. The stairs broke and Sayong fell off. The upper half of stairs also fell to the ground, becoming the Satokoay stone pillars near Maibor Tribe today. The lower half can be found in today’s Huagang Mountain in Hualien City. This is why Sakizaya people never make a sound while passing by the Sapat Stone Pillars, as a way to show respect to the celestial beings.
Address:Wuhe Vil., Ruisui Township, Hualien County , Taiwan (R.O.C.)(At the right track of Provincial Highway No.9 (274.8K), switch to the single track road there. )