Photograph of man in a rice field.

Traveling Kavalan 噶瑪蘭之路 – By John Vivadelli

Traveling Kavalan 噶瑪蘭之路 is a narrative photographic essay exploring themes of cultural assimilation, Buddhist philosophy and self-transformation.  All images were taken made in the former Kavalan territory of Formosa Island, present-day Yilan County, Taiwan between January and December 2020.


The plains in the northeastern area of Taiwan, from New Taipei County down to Su’ao and east to the Pacific Ocean, comprise the old Kavalan territory in what is now Yilan County.

For millenia before the Age of Exploration, Austronesian tribes ruled the Pacific.  With a competency in navigation not fully understood by modern technologies and conveniences, tribes canoed as far south as (present day) Australia, north to China, west to Madagascar, and east to the Americas.  At one time, the island of Taiwan was home to over 25 distinct indigenous groups.  They speak an Austronesian family of languages (the smaller languages now mostly moribund) called Formosan.  The classification of Formosan is actually an all-encompassing term for tribes on the island that have differed greatly from one another in language, technical innovations and cultural traditions.  Kavalan is one such indigenous group.