1. Introduction - The Hakka – Name, Origin and Migration to Taiwan
Since the beginning of Taiwans missions-history in 1865, only 0.35% of the presently 4,6 million Hakka in Taiwan are Christians. As research reveals one major reason for that lies in the way how the Hakka perceived the gospel. Today the Hakka are a distinct ethnic Han-Chinese people group. Their name in Cantonese pronunciation means „guest families“. As descendants of the ancient Hsiongnu (Hunish people), they originate from the Central Asian Baikal Lake area, but migrated in several waves to the south of China. Some of them arrived in South Taiwan as early as the seventh century AD. In Taiwan the Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli and Pingtung counties are the Hakka heartland. Besides, large numbers of Hakka also live in the Meinung area.
2. The Hakka - their Culture and Use of Language in Church Ministries
Many people have accused the Hakkas of being very resistant to the gospel. But it seems that the Hakkas of Taiwan have been neglected. The need for having the gospel bi¬blically contextualized specifically into their mental framework has never been a priority. While the Hakka look the same as other Chinese and seem to talk like other Chinese they have friends from different Chinese backgrounds. When it comes to family celebrations and reli¬gious festivals they return to their roots. Whether a missionary can speak Hakka or not soon or later becomes an issue. George McKay, in 1895 after 20 years of missionary and medical ministries among Hakka felt, to learn Hakka is not worth the effort, because „in a few years the Hakka may become extinct.“ As McLean says this believe has never become true. Dr. McKay obviously did not know that many Hakka may be willing for the purpose of making better business to use Minnan (Taiwanese) or Mandarin, but since Hakka is a part of their cultural identity and family-lineage, never to give up their heart-language.
3. The Hakka People`s Relationship and their History.
The interested Christian in Asia quickly becomes aware of the Hakka as a Chinese minority who due to their special history and their constant search for a homeland during their 2400 years of recorded history has long been described as the „Jews of Asia“. Some periods of their exceedingly complex history can serve to contextualize biblical teaching. During their 1400 years long period of wandering, exploring and fighting, the Hakka of Taiwan experienced almost every kind of persecution, discrimination and aggression imaginable. Therefore, to take some time studying the Hakkas history among history-minded Hakka with the purpose of finding stories to contextualize the gospel makes a lot of sense.Waves of Immigration, Local Religious Hakka Traditions and Resources. During the time of the imperial China five large immigration waves (249-209 BC, 255-206 BC, 307-419 AD, 907-1280 AD) brought the Hakka from Central China to nearly everywhere in the world. Since the 4th century, when they left the Yellow River area the Hakka where on the run to escape invasions and chaotic wars. Wherever they went, they held on to their own customs and language. They became known as the Hakkas, which means "Guest People," because they did not assimilate with local populations. The Hakka, however, call themselves "Ngai," which means "me." With every wave of immigration more traditions of Hakka culture went lost. This is the main reason why Taiwan has so many different local Hakka-traditions.
4. About the Hakka Homelands in Taiwan.
The Early Hakka Settlement of Meinung Hakka women, even in ancient China, never bound their feet; they were needed to work the fields, and they also had to be able to flee danger. Because they worked alongside men, their status was higher than that of most Chinese women. Today it is mostly Hakka women who pick the sweet Pengfeng Oolong or Oriental Beauty Tea (椪風茶) for which Miaoli is famous. This visible participation continues to give them economic power in the community.
The Hakka in Miaoli and Hsinchu. Two places to visit in Miaoli county are the Huatao Kiln (華陶窯) and the Kuangsen Village of wood carvers in Sanyi (三義廣聲新城 ). At Huatao, local clay is worked into organic designs and wood-fired. Tours (available only in Chinese) allow visitors to make their own pottery, which is fired and sent to them later. A Hakka lunch is served.The wood carvers at Sanyi are among Taiwan's best, and mostly use the island's camphor wood. Temple gods, folk scenes, dragons, and even abstract sculptures are turned out in open workshops.Hsinchu county is 85% Hakka, and large celebrations at the famous Yimin Temple (義民廟), built in 1788, draw thousands of worshipers. On festival days, incense is offered to ancestors who have died defending the community. Besides ancestors, the main object of worship at the temple is "Tien Kung" which roughly translates as Lord of Heaven, or the Supreme Being. In the North of Hsinchu is Taoyuan county, also with a large Hakka population. Hakka-style restaurants in communities like Chungli are the only evidence a tourist might find, however. Taoyuan has long been an industrial suburb of Taipei, and little remains here of the rural Hakka lifestyle.
The Hakka in Taipei
There are approximately 500,000 Hakkas in the Taipei area. Today, most Hakkas speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese as well as their own language. But when they introduce themselves as being from Miaoli, Hsinchu, or Meinung, other Hakkas will say "Oh, are you Hakka?" and will lapse into their mother tongue."You can sell your ancestors' rice field but you cannot forget their language," runs a Hakka saying. These days, however, some of the younger generation speak more Taiwanese (Hoklo) than Hakka. Will intermarriage with outsiders (unheard of a century ago but common today) and media pressure (almost all TV and radio broadcasts use either Mandarin or Taiwanese) erode the language? To encourage the use of the Hakka language, a Hakka radio station Hakka TV and a magazine have been developed. Hakka people have lived in Taiwan since the 7th century BC and in higer numbers since late 1500. Most of them think of Taiwan as their homeland now, and hope to wander no more. At the same time, the Hakka must also struggle to keep their unique spirit, and develop in a modern Hakka culture.
Resources: Clyde Chiang, the Hakka Odyssey & Their Taiwan Homeland, Elgin Alegheny Press, 1992.George Leslie Mackay, From Far Formosa- the Island, its people and Missions. Taipei: SMC Publishing Inc., 1991.
Other sites in Chinese:
HAKKA TAIWANESE SPECCIAL PUBLICATION 客 台 語 專 刊 各 期TAIWANESE HAKKA 台 灣 客 家 (ENGLISH) HAKKA TAIWANESE RESOURCES 客 台 語 資 料 庫 HAKKA TAIWANESE HAKKA CULURE 台 灣 客 家 文 化 專 刊 TAIWAN RELATED ARTICLES