Returning Souls

Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 4 PM - Asia Society, Texas Center
There will be a reception beginning at 3:00 p.m.

Sponsors: Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University; Asia Society, Texas; and Taiwan Academy
Special thanks to the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Rice University.

This event is free for Asia Society members; click here to reserve member tickets. Nonmember tickets are $5. This special screening will begin with a short concert version of the film's score performed by violin virtuoso Cho-Liang Lin. Director Hu Tai-Li and composer Shih-Hui Chen will be present for questions.


In the most historic and famous ancestral house of the matrilineal Amis tribe in Taiwan, the carved pillars tell legends such as a great flood, a glowing girl, a descending shaman sent by the Mother Sun, and a patricidal headhunting event. After a strong typhoon toppled the house 40 years ago, the pillars were moved to the Institute of Ethnology Museum. In recent years young villagers, assisted by female shamans, convinced the descendants and village representatives of the necessity to communicate with the ancestors trapped inside the pillars. They eventually brought the ancestral souls (rather than the pillars) back and began reconstructing the house. In an environment highly influenced by western religions, national land policy, and local politics, the young tribal members encounter many frustrations as they dream of cultural revitalization and of bringing back not only the ancestral souls but also the soul of the village. This documentary interweaves reality and legends as well as the seen and the unseen as it records this unique case of repatriation.


Returning Souls was awarded the 2012 Jean Rouch International Ethnographic Film Festival (Paris) “Mention du Patrimoine Culturel Immateriel” Award.  This is a very prestigest international Ethnographic film award.  There were 520 films submitted to the competition; 24 films got invited for the screening at the festival, and 8 of them received awards.  In addition, Returning Souls has been selected for competition at  the 2012 Sole Luna International Documentary Festival (Italy); the 2012 Moscow International Festival of Visual Anthropology; the 2012 Women Make Waves Film Festival (Taipei); and the 2012 Society for Visual Anthropology Ethnographic Film Festival (San Francisco).

Tour Calendar

March 23, 2013 - Special Educators Workshop, Asia Society, Texas Center; Performer: Sonja Harasim
March 24, 2013 - Asia Society, Texas Center; Performer: Cho-Liang Lin
March 26, 2013 - Art Auditorium; Department of Art and Art History and Department of Asia Studies, UT Austin; Performer: Cho-Liang Lin
March 28, 2013 - Davis Auditorium; Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Columbia University; Performer: Joseph Lin
March 29, 2013 - S010, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University; Performer: Lynn Chang
April 1, 2013 - B122 Wells Hall, College of Arts and Letters; Michigan State University; Performer: Joseph Lin
April 3, 2013 - Institute of East Asian Studies; University of California, Berkeley

Photographs & Trailers (1 & 2)


All articles are copyrighted by the authors, 2/2013.