THE TRADITIONAL HAND TATTOO CULTURE of the indigenous Paiwan people of southern Taiwan has nearly vanished. Today, less than forty elderly women (vuvus, 'grandmothers') aged 80 years and above wear these ancient symbols tied to their social status, spiritual protection, and the afterlife. Tattooed Paiwan elder. The decline in traditional Paiwan tattooing customs began long ago during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945). They forbid the practice, although I heard stories of young women meeting tribal tattooists in the high mountains to be tattooed in secret. Even the Chinese Nationalist government who took control over Taiwan after 1945 prohibited Paiwan tattooing. "However, it was just at the time that the Japanese were handing over to the Nationalists that my elders were encouraging us to be tattooed for a two-year period," says tattooed elder Ho Yu-mei of Laiyi Township. "Then, the tattooing stopped." Traditionally, Paiwan men were also tattooed. But the last