The Paiwan

The Paiwan are one of several tribes of indigenous peoples of Taiwan.  There are clear commonalities between their lifestyles and culture and those of people elsewhere in South East Asia such as the Borneo Dyak and the mountain peoples of the S.E. Asian mainland.

A Paiwan man dressed up for headhunting from NCL Special Collection / 4588 / (N/A) / About 1920s DavidVictor Paiwan 1988 143 177

The Paiwan call themselves the "descendents of the paipushe snake". They revere the snake and, consequently, its likeness appears on Paiwan clothing and totem carvings. 

The Paiwan call the paipushe snake "the elder." Snake workshop among the Paiwan is thus a form of ancestor worship. The snakes are protective spirits and keep the peace among the tribe.  It is for this reason that the paipushe motif appears on (virtually) all Paiwan weapons or scabbards.

"The tribes of Taiwan are warrior cultures in the purest sense, as every man in the community is expected to, at some point, to be a warrior and a hunter. The Indigenous Taiwanese are well known for being headhunters, and before being subjugated by the Japanese, endemic tribal warfare and warfare on a larger scale was carried out regularly. Weapons used by the tribes included spears, bows, stone clubs, and knives/ war swords, and later, muskets and rifles, which were introduced by the Dutch, Chinese, and later Japanese."

Reference: Overview of Traditional Territories and History of Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples