"O wawa nu Pangcah" – Kolas Yotaka

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Photograph of a political billboard in Taiwan (from AntC):

(more images here)

Observations by AntC:

Pangcah has appeared before on LLog (here); it’s the preferred self-name for the aboriginal people called Amis, also the name of their language).

Mid-term elections are in full swing in Taiwan (voting on Saturday). There are huge billboards, and posters / banners everywhere. They’re all in Chinese characters, so apart from recognising the colours and party symbols, I’m not much the wiser.

Then I was astonished on the main highway into Hualien to see an enormous billboard with Roman script. ‘Kolas’ can’t be a Chinese name, ‘Yotaka’ I guessed to be Japanese. Luckily the candidate has an excellent explanation in English of the tangled colonial history of naming (here):

The Pangcah people (aka Amis people) use patronymics or matronymics. Kolas' grandfather received the Japanese name Yoshinari during Japanese rule, and her father followed the tribal system with the name Yoshinari Yutaka (吉成豐). The family was assigned the Yo sound as the Chinese surname Yeh (葉) by the KMT government after Japanese rule ended. Kolas followed the system by using her father's given name as her second name, and thus got the name Kolas Yotaka.

She changed her legal name on her household registration to her indigenous name around 2005–2006, after new legislation made it possible for indigenous people to do so. She uses the romanized Kolas Yotaka rather than the Chinese phonetic translation (Gǔlàsī·Yóudákǎ 谷辣斯·尤達卡).


It’s been a long campaign to allow Taiwanese aboriginals to use Romanized names in official documents, including electoral registration.

Touring round Hualien County, I noticed a few other posters in Chinese characters with Romanized names (in parentheses). Kolas Yotaka’s was the only one with Roman text so prominent.

In case you're wondering what the large Chinese characters say, they read:

Róngyào huālián 榮耀花蓮 ("Glory to Hualian")

And, in case you're wondering what "O wawa nu Pangcah" means, it is "the child of the Amis people".

The waltz between alphabet and sinoglyphs will go on for a long time to come, as it has since half a millennium ago with Ricci and Trigault.

Selected reading


  1. jin defang said,

    November 24, 2022 @ 1:57 pm

    For several years I've noticed Kolas Yotaka's comments in her capacity as presidential spokesperson and wondered about the name—recognized it immediately as yuanzhumin, but so glad to have these details. Thanks!

  2. AntC said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 9:47 am

    It seems the style of billboard didn't appeal so much to the voters. KMT hold.

  3. hatsu! said,

    November 27, 2022 @ 8:57 pm

    in Min Nan the "glory to Hualian" thing in hanzi would be pronounced êng-iāu Hoa-liân (Hokkien POJ)/îng-iāu Hua-liân (Tai-lo)

  4. Victor Mair said,

    November 27, 2022 @ 9:26 pm

    Many thanks, hatsu!

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