head3a.jpg (10843 bytes)
home.jpg (1120 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
summary.jpg (1793 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
documents.jpg (1356 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)

mn_related.jpg (1674 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
mn_ot_sov.jpg (1359 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
mn_ot_non.jpg (1749 bytes)

spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
mn_papers.jpg (1196 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
map.jpg (1141 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
glossaries.jpg (1371 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
bibliography.jpg (1625 bytes)
spacer.jpg (782 bytes)
links.jpg (1178 bytes)
sh_ot_eth_lang.jpg (7905 bytes)

    This section of the Taiwan Documents Project will shortly treat language issues related to Taiwan. In the meantime, please read the following interview with Prof. Clyde Kiang on Hakka language and culture from the Taiwan International Review.


Hakkas in Taiwan: An interview with Professor Clyde Kiang
(Taiwan International Review January - February 1997)

by Kok-ui Lim

ed. note: This is the fifth in a series of articles on Taiwan's culture and identity. The traditions which define the 21 million Taiwanese people today embrace the collective history and experience of a rich diversity of peoples who together have shaped and defined the customs of the island.

Clyde Kiang is the author of The Hakka Search For A Homeland (English), The Hakka Odyssey & Their Taiwan Homeland (English), and Hakka yi Taiwan (Chinese). A native of Taiwan, Dr. Kiang writes and speaks fluently Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and English as well as his native Hakka. He is a professor of library science at the California University of Pennsylvania.

TIR: Can you tell us where the word "Hakka" comes from?

Kiang: The word Hakka is a Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese term "keh-chia" meaning "guest families", "strangers", or "foreigners". The term "keh-chia" has been in use since 780 A.D. when it appears in the Tang census and chronicles. In fact, when Hakka ancestors migrated from northern China to settle in new lands south of the Yangtse River, the native people of the south began calling them Hakka. It is interesting to know that the Hakka people eventually adopted the term as their ethnic identity.

TIR: Who are the Hakka?

Kiang: Hakka are a distinct member of the Mongoloid race and Han people, with considerable intermixture of indigenous stocks in the north as well as the south. More specifically, they are descended from Hsiung Nu (Huns) and Tung-yi (Eastern Barbarians). After centuries of settlement in China, Hakka have adopted much of Chinese culture.

TIR: What is the history of Hakkas in Taiwan?

Kiang: The earliest record of Hakka people in Taiwan dates back to the invasion of the island by Chen Leng in 610 A.D. As a pirate, Chen brought his soldiers and explorers from Kwangtung (Canton). In the 16th century, more Hakka pirates followed. During this period, Hakka wood cutters and animal hunters penetrated into Taiwan's foothills. When Koxinga established his kingdom on the island, his commander-in-chief Liu Kuo-suan was a Hakka and without a doubt there were a large number of Hakka soldiers in Koxinga's army.

TIR: How many Hakkas still live in Taiwan? Are Hakkas prominent in Taiwan society today?

Kiang: Presently there are about five million Hakkas on Taiwan which represents about 25% of the population. Among the prominent Hakkas are President Lee Teng-hui, KMT Secretary General Wu Po-hsiung, DPP Chairman Hsu Hsin-liang, and many more.

TIR: How closely related is the Hakka language to Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese?

Kiang: Strictly speaking, the Hakka language is not related to Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, or Taiwanese. Hakka is of Altaic origin with sinicized adoption of Chinese characters as the means of written communication. Kevin O'Connor, a linguist, has written a thesis in which he states that the Hakka language is not descended from ancient Chinese, but from a pre-Hakka language. Linguists cannot find enough similarities between Hakka and ancient Chinese to show a relationship. A variety of Hakka expressions, vocabulary and grammatical structures are incomprehensible to Chinese speakers and incompatible with Chinese usage.

TIR: Does the Hakka language have a unique written form?

Kiang: Hakkas first came into contact with Han Chinese at a time when Chinese culture was more advanced and had already invented a writing system. Instead of evolving a writing system of their own, Hakkas borrowed Chinese characters. However, because of the distinct characteristics of the Hakka tongue, many Hakka sayings cannot be written well with Chinese characters. As a result, during the Taiping rebellion in China (1850-1864), Hakkas invented certain look-alike characters to help in writing Hakka. This is very similar to what the Koreans and Japanese did. For centuries Hakka scholars used Chinese for writing even though they spoke Hakka in their daily lives.

TIR: What is the status of the Hakka language in Taiwan today?

Kiang: Over the past four decades, the KMT regime carried out a discriminatory policy of prohibiting the use of Hakka or any other ethnic language in public. The political suppression of the Hakka language has been so effective in the media, especially television, that a number of Hakka youth are unable to speak their mother tongue. Since several public protests were launched in 1988 to oppose the suppression of ethnic languages, the Hakka language has regained popularity.

TIR: How can we preserve/promote the language's preservation?

Kiang: There are several ways to promote or preserve the Hakka language. First of all, the government must adopt a non-discriminatory policy regarding the public use of languages. Secondly, Hakka children must have the opportunity to learn their language in school as a means of communication. Thirdly, the government should allocate funds for the promotion and preservation of the Hakka language.

TIR: What about Hakka architecture?

Kiang: In the old days, Hakka dwellings were extraordinary constructions, rising out of the countryside like gigantic, multi-storied fortresses. These communities resembled stadiums and six or seven hundred inhabitants would live together in one walled community. The reason these forts were built was to protect the Hakka from attack by other ethnic groups.


green_line.gif (209 bytes)