The Rukai tribe is one of the sixteen officially recognized indigenous groups in Taiwan. Totaling approximately 13,000, they reside primarily in the mountainous regions of southern Taiwan. They have been historically an agrarian people, raising primarily millet, sweet potatoes, beans, and taro; secondary food sources have been hunting, fishing, and keeping livestock. The Rukai have strong traditions of class structure, costume, and ritual. Some of the primitive art forms that they have preserved include weaving, basketry, and wood carvings, as well as rich traditions in dance and singing.
Dalubaling is based on a legend of the Rukai of Taiwan. A princess of the tribe secretly falls in love with the snake lord of the Ghost Lake. To marry, she must give up her mortality and leave her family and people forever. Verse one expresses the love of the daughter for her parents and tribe. Verse two expresses the parents’ deep anguish at being separated forever, and also their plea that she never forget them or their traditions.