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Dear CF Lau
I believe that many of the readers of Asiawind share your sentiment on
the gradual demise of the Hakka culture. I do.
Most of the Hakka from the Caribbean, especially those of my generation
and younger, unfortunately do not speak the dialect or any other Chinese
dialect for that matter. We were all schooled in English, and learnt the
little we know from our parents. It took my mother's death in 1972 to
first awaken my interest in my family's history, and then my father's
death in 1976 to want to answer the question "who am I?" Thanks to James
Mitchner and Dr. Han Suyin I was able to learn quite abit about the
Hakka people and our origins. And it was through their writings that I
was able to fully understand the many things that my parents used to
talk to me about, but didn't know the context of what they were saying.
For me, unfortunately, Hakka lives on in my heart; placed there by the
words and deeds of my parents, but I cannot live or hand down this Hakka
heritage because I do not speak the dialect well enough, or know enough
of the culture to pass on.
This is why I became involves with the Toronto Hakka Conference when
Patrick Lee and Keith Lowe first approached me 2 yrs ago with the idea
of planning a conference aimed at the youth of the next generations with
the objective of bringing an awareness of the rich Hakka heritage to
I empathize with you on your difficulties in trying to keep Hakka
culture alive within your own family. So you can understand the
difficulties we have when we don't speak Hakka, don't know the customs
and history to pass on, and are living in a society where we are a
minority and english is the everyday language.
I have tried to add to the little ability of speaking Hakka that my
parents taught us as children, and must thank the patience of the elders
of the Fui Toong On here in Toronto for helping me in this area. I can
now get by in conversation, but am lost in formal and technical meeting
jargon. The problem I faced is vocabulary, and your dictionary, and
McIver's, unfortunately are not in the Dungong dialect .. I should even
say "Caribbean Dungong" dialect.
Henrietta laments on the need for Hakka lessons here in Toronto. Well it
was tried by both the Fui Toong On and the Caribbean Chinese
Associations on several occasions, but were abandoned because of lack of
interest, not because of the lack of teachers.
Today one does not have to speak Hakka to identify as being Hakka..
myself for instance. But I agree with you that for Hakka to survive so
must the language/dialect; and that it can best do so if there was an
area dedicated to the Hakka culture. But in the absence of a "province"
the Jaiying area can be the homeland for Hakkas. But how do you
integrate the four main sub-dialects?
A separate Hakka Province might cause:
* resentment with the non Hakka's within the province [revive the
Hakka-Punti conflicts all over again]
* mass migration as per India-Pakistan split
* uncertain economic survival
The Hakka need to demonstrate why their survival is important to China.
We at one time were the eyes in the west, pioneers for China. We should
use this to the Hakka advantage to bring economical clout to the Hakka
region. Jonathan Teoh <firstname.lastname@example.org> has the right idea, and is
pursuing this with his web site "http://go.to/hakkaworld". But the
people of Jaiying must first want to progress and seize any economical
opportunities that's presented to them. As the saying goes . you can
lead the horse to the water, but you can't make it drink.
The other area that the Hakka can demonstrate their usefulness is in the
Taiwan/China reunification issue. Hakkas across the strait have many
family ties, and they can be leaders in these discussions and solutions.
Hakka language needs more exposure; and an ideal way is through song.
Yes we are known for our San-goh, but what about the popular songs sung
in Hakka dialect. More Hakka performers need to be persuaded that there
is a market for this.
There is also a market for literature, in English, that tells about the
Hakka history, their culture and heritage. It serves as you said "to let
the children remember their roots", keep the culture alive. I do
believe that the Hakka outside of China, although few in numbers
compared to the population of China, can make a difference to China's