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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Hakka People 客家

You do not know how a violin sounds before you play it. You do not know how deep a river is before you go across it. You do not know if a new bottle leaks before you put water in it. You do not know if your lover loves you or not, but how to test it?

hien tsii mang ki mang ti in
vun shiui mang ko mang ti chhin
sin mai phun theu nan tset shiui
sin lien ko tsii nan tset sim

(a Hakka mountain song)
Hakka center in Tainan
The Chinese characters for Hakka (客家) literally means "guest families" (kejia). Hakka history states that their ancestors originated from Shāndōng (山东) or Shānxī (山西) provinces in northern China. They began their first wave of migration between the 4th and 9th centuries and eventually settled into south Jiāngxī and inland Fùjiàn (福建). They are known for their wandering, hardworking, thrift, distinctive salty, oily cuisine, and hill songs (mountain yoddeling).

In Taiwan, Hakka people comprise about 15 to 20% of the population and form the second-largest ethnic group on the island. They even have their own TV station (HakkaTV). The MRT in Taipei and Kaohsiung say the automated stops in Mandarin, Hokkian (Taiwanese), Hakka then English.


I first came aware of Hakka people and culture when I worked in Taipei some time ago. My then Taiwanese co-teacher was Hakka and could speak the language. When I first moved to Tainan my friend drove us to Meinong to see the fields of cosmos flowers fill the valley with white, pink flowers with this blue mountain backdrop. It was then that I ate some of my first Hakka wide rice noodles. Meinong is outside of Kaohsiung and it population is 95% Hakka and also has its own Hakka museum (as does all major cities in Taiwan.) Other large populations of Hakka in Taiwan are found around Hsinchu, like Beipu. The photos below are from a Hakka restaurant we had lunch at in Neiwan's old street, just outside of Hsinchu.  

Hakka flat rice noodles

Kiu nyuk (扣肉, sliced pork with preserved mustard greens

lei (“pounded”) tea 擂茶

Hakka Parasols

Last November my preschool class made a field trip to the Hakka Center in Tainan. Its located next to the big park down Yongua St heading towards Mitzokoshi. Its a small collection of Hakka farming tools, food, calligraphy and a map showing their migration and diaspora.

Me at the Tainan Hakka Center


Online Hakka lessons


Online Hakka dictionaries
華語廣播-客家話 (Radio in Hakka)
BCC (中國廣播電台) - online radio in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka
Taiwanese Hakka Association of the USA

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