The complexity of Taiwanese blood may beyond your imagination. In the previous article, we have talked about indigenous people. They were the owners of the island before Han people from China settled down in Taiwan in the 17th century. And here we are going to talk about the later-coming settlers: Hakka people.
Who are Hakka people and where do they live?
Hakka is one of the branches of the Han people. In the 17th century, Hakka and Hokkien were the first pioneers to come to Taiwan. According to the statistic, there are about 20% Hakka Taiwanese. Most of them live in Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli.
The decline of Hakka language
Because of the population structure, Hakka culture is relatively weak. Due to the Mandarin popularized policy issued in the 1960s, less and less Hakka can speak their native language. But in recent years our government has passed legislation to preserve Hakka culture. That’s why you can hear the Hakka announcements on public transportations.
What’s the difference between Hakka and Hokkien?
It’s not easy to tell Hakka and Hokkien apart just by judging the appearance and the language they speak. They both belong to the Han people, and there are a lot of Hakka who can speak Hokkien. Therefore they are likely to be mistaken as Hokkien. However, the Hakka people have their own distinguishing culture.
Generally, the Hakka diet is salty, spiced, and fat. During the pioneering days, the Hakka people were cultivating the barren lands. To survive, they have to be hardworking and penny-pinching. It takes a lot of energy to be engaged in labor work, so they need fat. Because the labor works are sweating, they need salt-supply. You can notice that there are a lot of pickled foods on Hakka’s table. Spiced foods can easily make people feel full, so fried spiced foods are common in their daily life.
Hakka pounded tea－Lei Cha
Hakka people treat their guests with Lei Cha. (*Lei means pound in English) Hakka people smash and pound tea leaves, peanuts, sesame, and pumpkin seeds into powder in the pottery bowl and add some water to make Lei Cha. It goes well with pastry for the afternoon tea. It can also be a part of a daily meal. Lei Cha is rich in Vitamin C and minerals. That’s probably the secret of old Hakka people’s longevity.
Hakka’s religion: Sanshan King
Shanshan kings are the mountain guardian gods of the three mountains in Guangdong, China. They are the gods of the Hakka people. If you see the temple of Sanshan Kings, there must be Hakka people.
Hakka Garments are based on the color of blue and black. The clothes in plain style are designed to make it convenient for labor works and cultivation tasks.
The traditionally made umbrella isn’t just made for the rainy days and blocking the sunlight. People send umbrellas to their daughter as a blessing for happy marriages and a blessing for having a lot of kids. When a boy reaches 16 years old, his parents will also send him a paper umbrella as a gift.
Hakka flowers: Tung Blossom
Tung trees grow in hill areas, where Hakka people live. Thus the tung blossoms are associated with the vital spirit of Hakka.
See the Hakka festivals throughout a year in Taiwan.
Mino Zih Jhih Festival
For the Hakka people, the Chinese characters are a symbol of civilization, and they are the miracle created by the God of Heaven. To show their respect, the papers with characters can’t be discarded into trash cans. They need to be accumulated to a certain amount then be burned at Sí Zìh(Characters cherished) Pavilion. This annual festival is held on the ninth day of the first lunar month at Mino, Kaohsiung.
Miaoli Bombing Dragon Festival
The Bombing Dragon Festival starts from the Chinese New Year Day to the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Dragon is said to bring good luck in Chinese culture. People do the dragon dance to welcome the auspicious dragons and bomb the dragons with firecrackers as a ritual to get rid of the evils. To join the festival, please wear a mask, clothes with long sleeves and pants to avoid getting hurt by the firecrackers.
Sin Ding Bǎn Festival
In our traditional agricultural society, having newborns is a great event in the family. People have to tell their ancestors and the Earth God about the good news and pray for the newborns so they can grow up safe and sound. The offerings are made from rice, with the shape of turtles. (Turtle is the symbol of longevity.) The festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
Tung Blossom Festival
Every year from April to May, people can see tung blossoms in the mountains. When the little flowers falling down from the tree, it’s just like the snowflakes floating in the air.