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1 Who Are the Hakka?

图书名称:Christian Souls and Chinese Spirits:A Hakka Community in Hong Kong
图书作者:Nicole Constable    ISBN:
出版社:Berkeley: University of California Press    出版日期:1994年

Hong Kong is not, as many people envision it, all high-rises and urban sprawl. In the approximately 350 square miles of the New Territories there are several New Towns with high-rise housing estates erected on the sites of old market towns and surrounded by hundreds of smaller villages nestled in farmland among rolling hills and open spaces. Nor is the population of Hong Kong homogeneous. The dominant language is Cantonese, and Chinese of Cantonese origin are in the majority, but the Chinese population also comprises Hakka, Hokkien, Chaozhou, Shanghai, and Mandarin speakers.

In the northeastern sector of the New Territories, less than one mile from the Fanling train station and the Fanling New Town housing estate, is one small village that stands out visually from the rest mainly because of the church on its main road, a modern blue and gray structure that contrasts abruptly with the surrounding stone houses and vegetable gardens. The village is named Shung Him Tong—"the village of the Hall of Humble Worship" or "Humble Worship Village"—and well over 90 percent of its residents are Hakka and Christian.[1]

The village was established by Hakka Christians at the turn of this century in an area of the New Territories that was the ancestral land of the dominant Cantonese-speaking, higher order Teng lineage for over five hundred years. The region, comprising five walled and six unwalled villages and bordered on the west by the Phoenix River, takes its name of Lung Shan or "Dragon Mountain" from the summit looming auspiciously to the southeast. The area is also known as Lung Yeuk Tau or the "Land of Jumping Dragons" (see maps 1,2). According to local legends, the dragon holds a pearl in his mouth, and it is there on top of the pearl, in a place with powerful geomantic features (fengshui) at the heart of Teng ancestral lands, that Hakka Christians founded their village in 1903.

Map 1.
Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the New Territories. Adapted from Hong Kong Government, Lands Department,
Survey Division Map (1985).

Map 2.
Lung Yeuk Tau. Adapted from Hong Kong Government, Lands Department,
Survey Division Map (1985).

As Christians, the current residents claim that it was certainly not the feng-shui that attracted their ancestors to the region but its beauty and a host of other practical considerations, including potential escape from the hardships and discrimination faced by earlier generations in Guangdong province. Rarely was I taken for a walk through the village without hearing mention of both the difficulties faced by the early settlers and the geomantic features of the region. Such was the case when, on my first Sunday in the village, as I embarked on a year's study in this Hakka community, I was conducted by a respected elderly man on a tour of the places where the villagers lived, worshiped, studied, played, and were buried.

Our walk led uphill from the church to the school and playground, with a brief reprieve from the summer heat in the shade of some old trees. On our way down the narrow pathways he pointed out houses, gardens, and other landmarks, each evoking stories of the Second World War, when the Japanese used the school as their headquarters, women denuded the hillsides of vegetation in search of fuel, and a church-organized group marched all the way back to Meixian, the region of Guangdong province that many Hakka claim as their homeland. Empty houses evoked stories of families who had moved overseas and who still came back to visit every Christmas or at the Chinese New Year. Traditional horseshoe-shaped graves reminded my guide of wealthy movie stars and overseas Chinese millionaires who had arranged to be buried in auspicious locations along the flanks of the dragon. Fences and bridges suggested alliances or feuds with non-Hakka non-Christians from the neighboring communities. At the village cemetery, rectangular "European" grave markers—with their inscriptions and black-and-white photographs—served as genealogies of the "church family" and elicited from my guide names of many famous Hakka people. The tour ended, appropriately, where it had begun, at the church, the center and focus of the community.

A composite of this walk—repeated many times with numerous companions—is etched in my mind. Each guide related distinct yet similar reflections on the community, its history, and his or her place in it. The villagers' dual Hakka and Christian identity is inscribed in the physical construction of the community and also in their day-to-day lives, which in turn project this identity to the outside world. The main focus of this study is how the people of Shung Him Tong conceive of their Hakka identity, and how they express it through their voices, their daily lives, their construction of the village, and their conceptions of the way their local history links with broader Hakka and Chinese history. A particular focus is on how Christianity has influenced their Hakka identity and how these Hakka Christians have attempted to reconcile their Chinese and Christian identities and maintain—despite accusations to the contrary—that although they are Christian they are still Chinese. Significantly, images of Christmas and the lunar new year in Shung Him Tong, of Christian and Chinese graves, of the modern architecture of the church juxtaposed with attention to feng-shui, produce an uneasy fusion of Christian and Chinese elements. Similarly, the various aspects of their identity—Chinese, Hakka, and Christian—are easily rationalized by members of the community, but they are not so easily reconciled in terms of experience.

The Origin of the Research Problem

Although the bulk of my research was carried out during twelve months in 1986 and 1987, the project had its roots in my earlier experiences in Hong Kong. It was during my first visit there as an undergraduate studying anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1979–80 that the Hakka first captured my interest. It was then that I first learned from a teacher, the late Barbara E. Ward, about what she called "conscious models" and about occupational specialization among Chinese "sub-ethnic" groups (1965, 1966). I was particularly interested in the women I saw wearing flat circular straw hats with black fringe while they carried heavy loads, worked on construction sites, tended vegetable plots, and hawked their wares in rural markets. These women, I was told, were Hakka. In contrast to the stereotype of Chinese women as delicate and frail, the reputation of Hakka women was one of exceptional strength, both mental and physical—they were known to be surefooted, hardworking, and proud.

On my second visit to Hong Kong in 1984, I intended to conduct a pilot study of Hakka market women and to learn about the relevance of Hakka identity to their work. But after numerous attempts to interview "Hakka" women in the marketplaces with the help of my assistant, it became less and less clear who actually was Hakka. We found candidates extremely reluctant to discuss Hakka identity. The main problem, we discovered, aside from suspicions that we might be there to discover unlicensed hawkers, was that the term "Hakka" had various, and sometimes negative, connotations. Some who spoke Hakka, and whom others in the market readily identified as Hakka, refused to label themselves as such. As one market woman put it, "My ancestors were Hakka, but I am not." Another told us, "You are more hakka than I am! Compared with you, I am punti! " She was referring to the literal translation of Hakka (kejia) as "stranger," "newcomer," "settler," or "guest," and Punti (bendi) as "indigenous," "local," or "native inhabitant."

Most of the Hakka people I met during that summer seemed ambivalent toward their Hakka identity until I met a man in his early seventies, whom I will call "Mr. C.," from Shung Him Tong.[2] Mr. C. began our conversation by listing all the famous Hakka he could think of, including Deng Xiaoping, Sun Yat-sen, Singapore's president Lee Kwan Yew, Taiwan's president Lee

Teng-hui, the famous Taiping Rebellion leader Hong Xiuquan, Chinese generals, and many others. He talked for hours about the Hakka people of Shung Him Tong village, Hakka history, and his beloved Hakka church. Only months later did it dawn on me that the questions I ought to address involved the reasons why the Hakka Protestants of Shung Him Tong appeared far more willing to acknowledge and discuss their Hakka identity with me, and far more reflexive about their Hakka identity, than the other Hakka people I had met in Hong Kong. What social and historical factors underlay Hakka conversion to Christianity? How did the change in religious orientation influence the social organization, the belief system, and the ethnic identity of the people of Shung Him Tong? And what advantages and difficulties were associated with maintaining both Hakka and Christian identities?

Fieldwork and Methods

When I returned to Shung Him Tong in 1986 to conduct a year of anthropological research, Mr. C. became my entré into the community and introduced me to members of his family, his village, and his church, most of whom were Hakka and eager to discuss that fact. Our first Sunday there, after providing a tour through the village and attending the church service, the church board members held a special meeting and within an hour found my husband and me a place to stay on the edge of the village with a non-Christian Hakka family. Although I had hoped to live in the heart of the village with a Christian family, I was less than five minutes' walk from the church—a situation that allowed me to learn more about the relationship between Hakka and non-Hakka in the adjacent village and between Christians and non-Christians.

From the start, the friendliness and hospitality of the congregation was overwhelming. Their attitude toward us was due in part to the assumption that, like other occasional white visitors to the church, we must be missionaries or somehow associated with the Basel mission or the Lutheran church. Despite many explanations, my role as an anthropologist was never entirely clear to some people. The word "anthropology" has the same unfortunate connotations for many people in Hong Kong as it has for some people in the United States. To those who were familiar with the Cantonese translation (yahn leuih hohk) it suggested the study of "primitive," "exotic," or "backward" societies. After the first few negative reactions—"Then why study us? "—I began to describe my research as the "history and customs" (lihksi jaahpgwaan) of the community, a topic that was far more acceptable.

It was mistakenly taken for granted by members of the local community that, since I regularly attended church services and activities, I must share their religious beliefs. From the start there existed an unquestioned assumption of a common religious bond between myself and the members of the congregation, because my interests and activities centered on the church as much as theirs. At times I wondered whether this explained their many attempts to rationalize or justify to me certain seemingly non-Christian beliefs and practices, and to present themselves as unquestionably pious Christians. It was also apparent, however, that they felt the need to justify their behavior not only to me but also to one another.

By the end of the year, it had become obvious to my closest informants and friends that I came from a religious background very different from their own, and that I was far more sympathetic and tolerant of non-Christian beliefs and practices than they were. Some were even comfortable questioning or criticizing my lack of Christian commitment. In practice, however, I believe they treated me—as much as possible—as one of them.

Twice a week I taught small informal English conversation classes. This was a way to meet more people, learn more about the community, and reciprocate the village's hospitality. It soon became clear to me that the church leaders hoped the English class would be a way to attract non-Christians to the church. To their disappointment, those students who were not already Christian did not convert—nor did my landlady's family. Inevitable though it is that an anthropologist leave certain marks in the community, I did not wish to leave behind a trail of Christian converts. My main influence was more likely to cause an increase in the levels of reflexivity and discourse surrounding the issue of Hakka identity, and perhaps also to inspire a more conscious rationalization of some of the contradictions and ambiguities regarding that identity. Those who had previously taken the meaning of "Hakka" for granted were forced to articulate their views in our interactions. It is also likely that those who were already interested in issues pertaining to Christianity and Hakka identity, those (such as Mr. C.) whose "narrative structure" coincided with mine, were the ones most eager to work with me (see Bruner 1986). As a result, this study may convey a far more "Hakka-centric" community than would have been the case had I not selected Hakka identity as a research topic. That is not to say that my influence makes my representation of the Hakka any less valid than studies that approach anthropology as an "objective science." As numerous anthropologists have expressed in recent works (e.g., Clifford and Marcus 1986; Marcus and Fischer 1986; Rabinow 1977; Rosaldo 1986), ethnography is not an objective collection of "facts" but rather a highly subjective endeavor for both the anthropologist and the people among whom he or she studies.

Like other anthropologists, I found that gender can pose certain problems for conducting fieldwork, but these problems can also reveal important cultural patterns. During the first five months of fieldwork, I was fortunate to have been accompanied by my spouse, Joseph Alter, also an anthropologist. His presence facilitated contacts with younger men that might otherwise have been difficult for me to make. Men in the community found it less awkward to approach him to chat or to offer to help with "his" research. Joe and I quickly discovered that most men—including those who had married into the village—reflected on the history and social organization of the village and church far more than did the women. Women, on the other hand, taught me more about Hakka and Christian customs and rituals and spoke to me more about their religious beliefs and personal concerns than did the men. The relevance of these and other important gendered patterns is discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. By the time Joe left to begin his own research in India, I had earned the reputation of a respectable married woman and was able to continue my contact with both male and female informants.

I participated in and observed church activities such as youth group meetings, worship services, and field trips; life-cycle rituals such as weddings, birthdays, and funerals; and daily activities such as excursions to the market and the teahouse. In addition to these observations, I conducted informal interviews with a small, unobtrusive notebook in hand, which most of my informants preferred to a tape recorder. These interviews were conducted with residents of Shung Him Tong and the neighboring village and with members of the church, the mission, and the theological seminary affiliated with the church. In more formally arranged meetings, and when doing one-time interviews with church and government officials, I was more likely to use a tape recorder as much for convenience as because they seemed to expect it. Several times I met with people who had once lived in the village and had since moved away, among them people who came to visit from overseas at Christmas or the Chinese New Year. My main informants from Shung Him Tong were men and women ranging in age from their late teens to their seventies. I either approached them at random at church or in the village or was introduced through interpersonal networks. On numerous occasions I was invited to people's homes for delicious meals and to pore over old photo albums, books, and genealogies. Such informal settings proved ideal for collecting field data that would not have lent itself to a formal interview approach.

My research was conducted in both Cantonese and English. Although I do not speak Hakka and my Cantonese was at first rudimentary, this did not present any insurmountable difficulties. Some people of Shung Him Tong speak four or more languages, including Hakka, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. Cantonese is spoken by all but the oldest women in the village. Older men, and young men and women under thirty, speak at least some English since many were required to study it in Hong Kong schools. Most people of all ages understand at least some Mandarin—and point out how similar it is to Hakka—but do not speak it. Although by the end of the year I could understand some Hakka, I did not learn to speak more than a few simple words and phrases. My early interviews were most often conducted in English because at first the English of my informants was far better than my Cantonese, and because many informants requested the opportunity to practice their English by way of an interview. As my Cantonese improved, more conversations and interviews were conducted in Cantonese. When someone I wanted to talk to did not speak Cantonese or English, I preferred to rely on friends and relatives as translators rather than bring in an assistant whose ethnic or religious identity might make the situation less comfortable.

Most informants held a typically Chinese high regard for written materials, and several suggested that, as a scholar, perhaps I should spend less time chatting with people about the Hakka and more time reading books. As a result, I was presented with numerous genealogies, church documents, and books on the history of the village and the church. I was repeatedly referred to an important volume of village and family histories compiled by Pang Lok Sam, and to the books of the famous Hakka historian Luo Xianglin, who had been a respected elder and church member. Such sources have proven to be invaluable. As I discovered, many people knew these sources and their contents but had not read them. These written materials are of key importance to the people of Shung Him Tong both as symbols of legitimacy and for their content. The written word, as they know, is more authoritative than the spoken word and serves to reinforce and legitimize certain privileged viewpoints. That, in part, is why they were supportive of the idea that I write a book on Hakka identity.

Who Are the Hakka?

As the following chapters demonstrate, "Hakka" defies any attempt to arrive at a single, simple definition. To some, including many in Shung Him Tong, the name "Hakka" evokes pride and patriotism and connotes Chinese origins of high status dating back to when Henan province was the "cradle of Chinese civilization" in the fourth century A.D. To others the term can evoke shame and embarrassment. Spoken by a non-Hakka, it can suggest poor, uneducated country bumpkins—connotations similar to those of "Oakie" and "hillbilly" in the United States.

Today, the name "Hakka" is commonly used in Guangdong, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, North America, and other regions throughout the world to refer to the approximately seventy-five million members of this Chinese ethnic or subethnic group. "Hakka" is the Cantonese (or Yue) pronunciation of a term that translates literally as "guests" or "stranger families," or less literally as "settlers," "sojourners," "immigrants," or "newcomers." Scholars speculate that the name originated in the descriptive term used before the seventeenth century in Chinese population registers to distinguish recent immigrants from earlier Yue inhabitants (Leong 1980). The label "Hakka" indicated the relatively recent arrival of a group of people in Guangdong as compared with the longer tenure of the Cantonese-speaking inhabitants. The word "Hakka" also connotes a transitory or temporary social status; indeed, many people, including members of some of the oldest lineages in the New Territories, are thought to have once been Hakka who crossed the "ethnic boundary" and assimilated into the larger, dominant Cantonese-speaking group for a variety of political and economic reasons (Baker 1966; Faure 1986; J. Watson 1983).

When the term became fixed as a group label is a debated issue (M. Cohen 1968; T. Hsieh 1929; Leong 1985; see chap. 2), but by the nineteenth century it clearly distinguished a group of people who were not Punti, that is, not "indigenous" or "native inhabitants" of Guangdong province in southeastern China. By the early 1920s, due in large part to the establishment of the Tsung Tsin (Chongzheng) Association in Hong Kong, and the United Hakka Association (Kexi Datonghui) in Shanghai and Canton, the name became more widely accepted as an ethnic label. These two associations, founded by Hakka elites and intellectuals, were highly successful in their goals to unify Hakka organizations worldwide and to promote Hakka solidarity, but perhaps somewhat less so in their attempt to foster a public understanding of Hakka culture and identity (T. Hsieh 1929; Leong 1985). In 1921, in response to a Shanghai Commercial Press publication of The Geography of the World that erroneously described the Hakka as non-Chinese, the United Hakka Association held a conference in Canton attended by over a thousand angry delegates representing Hakka organizations worldwide (ibid.). The result was a forced retraction of the offending phrases. Since then Hakka associations continue to regularly publish and assert their views regarding Hakka identity, which are discussed in the following chapter.

In the People's Republic of China today, the Hakka are officially recognized as members of the Han Chinese minzu or nationality, but in nineteenth-and early twentieth-century China their Han status was debated and not widely acknowledged. At that time violence often broke out between Hakka and non-Hakka (cf. M. Cohen 1968; Leong 1985; W. Lo 1965), and Hakka, with their different language, clothing, and cultural practices, were often accused of being non-Chinese barbarians of lowly tribal origin. Although this accusation is now uncommon, and linguists and Hakka historians have demonstrated that it has little basis in fact, it still underlies the gravest insults that are directed toward the Hakka in Hong Kong today.

Anthropologists have used many different approaches to analyze or attempt to "define" ethnic groups and their identities. One older approach that has been aptly criticized tries to demarcate an ethnic group on the basis of a distinct culture or a list of distinguishing cultural traits or markers. Language, place of origin, clothing, food, religion, and numerous other cultural criteria have all been used to define ethnic groups. The case of the Hakka demonstrates the problem with such an essentialist approach.

No single cultural trait or group of traits can determine who is Hakka and who is not. Some Hakka may suggest that all Hakka speak the language, come from Meixian, or cook stuffed tofu. Non-Hakka might suggest that all Hakka are poor and darker skinned and wear circular black-brimmed hats. However, many of those who are considered Hakka, or who consider themselves Hakka, do not fit these criteria. In Hong Kong today, "Hakka" refers sometimes to people who speak or whose ancestors spoke Hakka language, yet not all of these would identify themselves or be identified by others as Hakka. Conversely, many who no longer speak Hakka still consider themselves to be Hakka; the young people of Shung Him Tong are a case in point.

Place of origin presents a problem in defining the Hakka because although some proud Hakka say their people originated in north central China as early as the fourth century A.D. , this is where all Chinese claim their origin. As Skinner (1977) and Leong (1980) have pointed out, the Hakka are the only Chinese "ethnic group" not to be named after a single place of origin or native place they can call their own. The Cantonese come from the area around Canton; the Chaozhou from the synonymous region, and likewise for the Shanghainese.

Although many Hakka identify Meixian or the wider region of Meizhou as the Hakka "heartland" or the core of Hakka culture, the areas that Hakka identify as their native places are as widely dispersed as is the Hakka population. Hakka are most densely concentrated in northeastern Guangdong, east of the North River, in the mountainous, less fertile region of Meizhou prefecture that includes seven predominantly Hakka counties surrounding Meixian. But sizable Hakka populations are also located in southwestern Fujian, southern Jiangxi, and eastern Guangxi, on Hainan Island, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and in lesser numbers in Sichuan and Hunan. Overseas, Hakka can be found on virtually every continent, from South and Southeast Asia and the South Pacific to Europe, North and South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. This wide migration—discussed in the following chapter—makes it all the more impossible to identify any one set of cultural traits that can be labeled as Hakka.

Certain settlement patterns have been identified as typically Hakka, but these demand special qualification and contextualization. As relatively late arrivals in many of the regions of China where they settled, Hakka were generally forced into the more hilly, less productive, and less desirable lands. Such was the case in Guangdong, Guangxi, and the New Territories of Hong Kong, where the Punti or Cantonese had already settled the more fertile river valleys, and also in Taiwan where the Hokkien (Min speakers) owned the better land (cf. Lamley 1981; Pasternak 1983, 1972).

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Hakka settlements in some regions of Guangdong could be distinguished from those of the Punti. There the Hakka often lived in small numbers, sparsely dispersed throughout the hills on land that they often rented from Punti landlords. In contrast, Punti were more likely to live in densely populated towns or in large, single-surname villages surrounded by their fields. In other regions Hakka and Punti occupied separate villages in the same areas (M. Cohen 1968).

There are also certain architectural styles that appear to be uniquely Hakka, but again these point to strictly regional variations. In southwestern Fujian and northern Guangdong, Hakka built "roundhouses," circular, multistoried, fortresslike dwellings designed for defensive purposes with walls of adobe or tamped earth nearly a meter thick (Knapp 1986:45–49). At one time, in certain locations, Hakka communities might have been identified by their architectural styles (see Naquin and Rawski 1987:180), or by the fact that their villages were more dispersed than those of the Punti (M. Cohen 1968; Eitel 1867), but today in Hong Kong these are no longer valid distinctions and a Hakka house or village can generally not be distinguished from a Cantonese one. Hakka now reside in villages that were once Punti, people who were once Hakka are now identified as Punti, and members of both groups often live side by side in both urban and rural areas.

In many ways Hakka and non-Hakka Chinese in Hong Kong today are virtually indistinguishable. Most dress the same way, speak Cantonese, and eat virtually the same foods. Although some people say that the Hakka are shorter and darker skinned and have larger feet, it is impossible to distinguish them from other Chinese on this basis. In terms of clothing, a few older women still wear a black cloth draped over their heads (similar to a nun's wimple) and tied over the top and behind the ear with an embroidered band (Blake 1981, 105–10, 150–51; E. Johnson 1976a; see plate 3). Others wear what is called the "Hakka hat," a flat circular hat with a black cloth "curtain" around the brim; but as often as not these women either are not Hakka or do not identify themselves as such.

The "Hakka hat," the most public symbol associated with the Hakka, is worn by many Hakka and non-Hakka women who work outdoors. It serves, like the stereotypes of large feet, muscularity, and dark skin, as a class marker: those who do hard labor are naturally more tanned and more muscular and do not wear dainty shoes. Tourist brochures and postcards reinforce the stereotype of Hakka by labeling women farmers and construction workers wearing the "Hakka hat" as Hakka. In Shung Him Tong village, women are rarely seen wearing such a hat, although several older women wear the black head cloth with embroidered band that they say is the only "real" remaining clothing marker of Hakka identity.

In Hong Kong, there are few indicators of whether a person is Hakka, other than hearing him or her speak the Hakka language, which is increasingly rare since many Hakka speak Cantonese in public. When they are away from their village, the people of Shung Him Tong are no exception. The majority of their interactions with people outside of the community—with the exception of their association with members of other Hakka churches and the Hong Kong Hakka Association—are without reference to their Hakka or Christian identities. Only occasionally, I was told by several people under forty, does one discover that a coworker or classmate is also Hakka. For the teachers, politicians, and businesspeople I spoke to, the majority of their interactions outside of the village are with non-Hakka non-Christians, and they do not make it a point to let others know that they are Hakka. Most of the time they "pass" as Cantonese or Hong Kong Chinese. Christian identity may be more apparent because of such outward markers as jewelry and desktop decorations, and because it is a more common topic of conversation. As will become more apparent in the course of this book, the church is the main context in which Hakka identity is important for the people of Shung Him Tong.

Although there are few visible markers of ethnic identity in Hong Kong, in some specific locations or contexts ethnic identity may be presumed. Some villages, such as Shung Him Tong, are known to be Hakka by those who live in the vicinity. Certain prominent individuals are also known to be Hakka. The winners of the "Miss Hong Kong" competitions of 1986 and 1987, for example, were both reported in the local newspapers as being Hakka. This knowledge is often only noteworthy to other Hakka. Certain restaurants may be billed as Hakka restaurants—though these are not as popular or as conspicuous as the large, elaborate, popular Chaozhou restaurants that were established in the 1980s. As some Shung Him Tong villagers explained, Hakka restaurants are not tourist attractions, but Hakka people know where to find them. At Luen Wo and Cheung Wah, the two markets closest to Shung Him Tong, it does not appear that most people conduct business along ethnic lines (see also Blake 1975, 1981; cf. E. Anderson 1968). Most shoppers would rather look for the best bargain or the freshest products, or return to the same vendor whom they trust, regardless of ethnic identity.

Although some anthropologists, Hakka historians, and nineteenth-century missionaries have presented evidence of distinct Hakka religious practices, styles of clothing, foodways, and architecture, these are regionally or generationally specific and cannot distinguish Hakka from others except in a particular historical and cultural context. One of the objectives of this book in considering the many beliefs regarding Hakka cultural differences is to avoid an essentialist, reductionistic portrayal of the Hakka as much as possible. The case of the Hakka supports the view that "ethnic groups are categories of ascription and identification by the actors themselves" that cannot be reduced to a static list of traits (Barth 1969:10). Furthermore, ethnicity is situational, structural, and interactional. Dual Hakka and Christian identity takes on great relevance to residents while they are in Shung Him Tong, but with their classmates, coworkers, and colleagues outside of the village this identity is far less an issue.

Another general approach to the study of ethnicity has been labeled the "circumstantialist" or "instrumentalist" approach, in which ethnicity is viewed as primarily a manipulative or political strategy.[3] Typical of this genre is Abner Cohen's (1969) work on Hausa immigrants in Yoruba towns in Nigeria, in which he demonstrates how the Hausa use religion to strengthen the ethnic boundaries between themselves and the Yoruba in order to protect the political and economic interests of the Hausa community. Similarly, Barth has used an ecological analogy to suggest that different groups maintain structural boundaries in order to maintain their monopolies of particular occupational niches (1969).

Leong (1980, 1985) has illustrated how an instrumental approach is applicable to the Hakka, particularly during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Hakka could perceive themselves as sharing an economic niche in competition with the Punti. Blake has also convincingly demonstrated the way in which, during the 1970s, political and economic distinctions in the Hong Kong market town of Sai Kung lined up along ethnic/linguistic lines that were "negotiable" and situational (1975, 1981). Today there is no question but that Hakka associations, including the Hakka church, continue to exist and thrive in vastly different settings, serving a variety of the political, economic, and other needs of their members. As I relate in Chapter 2, Hakka identity was the basis of a number of political and economic groupings during the nineteenth century. In Chapter 3 I show how ethnic and religious solidarity served Hakka interests in the establishment and foundation of Shung Him Tong.

However, today in Shung Him Tong, Hakka identity no longer serves the instrumental economic or political interests that it did in earlier decades. That is not to say that members of the community do not share certain political interests, but in Shung Him Tong, as in many parts of Hong Kong today, ethnicity has decreased in political relevance. Most occupations and economic interests no longer break down along ethnic lines to the extent that they once did, and there is little competition with other ethnic groups for economic resources. During the past twenty or thirty years, with the decline of ethnic tensions and of Hakka/Punti economic competition, one should expect, according to Barth, "either no interaction [between ethnic groups], or interaction without reference to ethnic identity" (1969:18). Neither has been the case for the Hakka of Shung Him Tong.

Regardless of how useful an instrumental approach may appear, it too often overlooks the less material, more subtle features of ethnic identity and ethnic groupings that help explain the recent "reemergence" of ethnic affiliations in places such as eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. An instrumental focus does not help us understand periods during which ethnicity is not blatantly political. As I describe in Chapters 4 and 5, economic and political ethnic interests in Shung Him Tong wax and wane, and today they are not as clear, uniform, or crucial a concern as they were during the early decades of this century. But ethnic identity in Shung Him Tong persists—although not in a static and timeless way—because it is linked to the unique history of the community and the particular pairing of Hakka identity with Christianity.

Abner Cohen's (1969, 1974) and Barth's (1969) insights into how ethnic boundaries and interests are created and maintained through cultural symbols are nonetheless very pertinent to the case of Hakka Christians. If the Hakka of Shung Him Tong have a "political strategy," it is to maintain power and control over the meaning of their own identity. At present, that in itself is the goal, rather than the means to another more explicitly political or economic end. The "power" of Hakka Christians in Shung Him Tong is not merely over resources or politics in the narrow sense but over the symbols that define them as a group.

The church is what provides Hakka Christians with a context in which to construct Hakka history and, more importantly, the authority by which they can promulgate and take control of their own identity. The "resources" that they attempt to control are not primarily economic but cultural and religious—if saved souls can be counted as such. As discussed in Chapter 4, Hakka identity plays a central role in attracting converts to the congregation.

Another anthropological approach to ethnicity has been labeled the "primordialist" or "sentimentalist" approach (see Bentley 1981, 1983). The emphasis is not on ethnicity as a strategy but on the basis of the shared identity—on the idea of shared history or ancestry, whether real or imagined. The idea that Geertz called "primordial attachments" (1973a) is useful in an analysis of Hakka identity because it points to history, process, and cultural symbols. In contrast to the situation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the instrumental aspect of Hakka ethnicity was most evident, the contemporary situation calls attention to the cultural and symbolic aspects of ethnicity (see chap. 6). Shared history and a common "primordial past" are the central themes of Hakka identity in Shung Him Tong today.

Keyes is one of several scholars who have taken the position that ethnicity should not be seen as either primordial or instrumental but entails both facets (Keyes 1981; see also Bentley 1981, 1983, 1987; Harrell 1990; Nagata 1981).

Focusing on the primordial aspect of ethnicity, Keyes argues that ethnicity "derives from a cultural interpretation of descent" (1981:5, 1976). While he views ethnicity as "a form of kinship reckoning," he stresses that "it is one in which connections with forbears or with those with whom one believes one shares descent are not traced along precisely genealogical lines" (1981:6). In the case of Hakka Christians this is an important point. Hakka pay particular attention to Hakka history—which serves as their "genealogy"—in order to reinforce their claims to Chinese identity.

Hakka Identity and the Basel Mission

The Basel Evangelical Missionary Society was founded in Basel, Switzerland, in 1815 with the support of members in Switzerland, Germany, Yugoslavia, and Austria. It is an international and interdenominational organization with its major constituents today among Reformed and Lutheran churches. It has "partnerships" with independent churches that trace their origins to the Basel mission in Hong Kong, Singapore, Sabah, Indonesia, Taiwan, India, and regions of Africa, South America, and the South Pacific.[4] Among these partner churches is the Tsung Tsin mission, better known in Hong Kong as the "Hakka church." Tsung Tsin mission is a Hong Kong organization that includes fifteen preaching stations and churches, of which Shung Him Tong is one; over twenty schools, nurseries, and kindergartens; and a hostel for the elderly.

The first Basel missionaries arrived in Hong Kong in 1847. As I was told by one Shung Him Tong villager, they were latecomers in China and other Protestant missions had already "claimed" the more accessible Cantonese-speaking regions of Guangdong. So after some initial work among the Chaozhou, they decided to focus their evangelizing efforts almost exclusively on the Hakka. Between the time of their arrival in Hong Kong in 1847 and 1850, they recorded fifty converts, and by 1855 the number rose to over two hundred (Yu 1987:65). In the period following the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64), and the Hakka-Punti wars (1850-67), the number of converts increased more dramatically. By 1909 the Basel mission recorded over ten thousand converts in Guangdong (Voskamp 1914; Yu 1987:65), and by 1948 the number reached close to twenty thousand (Yu 1987:64). Of these converts, the vast majority were Hakka.

After the defeat of the Taiping Rebellion, Taiping rebels and their friends and relatives were "under the threat of massacre" by Qing authorities (Tsang 1983:5). Many fled to Hong Kong or sought refuge with the Basel missionaries (see app. 1). Rudolf Lechler, who with Theodore Hamberg was one of the first Basel missionaries sent to China, was responsible for arranging the resettlement of hundreds of Hakka refugees overseas (Tsang 1983:5; Yu 1987; see also Smith 1976, 1985). Between 1860 and the turn of the century, entire Hakka congregations emigrated from China to Hong Kong, British Guyana, Sabah, and elsewhere overseas. Among the early Basel mission converts were some of the parents and relatives of those who founded Shung Him Tong village in 1903 (see apps. 1, 2).

It is difficult to estimate the number of Hakka or the number of Hakka Christians in Hong Kong today. Government census figures do not differentiate the population by "ethnicity," and figures that indicate Guangdong as "place of origin" cannot accurately distinguish Cantonese from Hakka. However, Hakka are believed to be about 12 percent of the total Hong Kong population (Guldin 1977:127), the third largest Chinese group in Hong Kong after the Cantonese and the Hoklo (Min speakers), and they represent the largest proportion of the rural population. This suggests a Hakka population of around 600,000 in 1980.

The number of Chinese Christians in Hong Kong (Protestant and Catholic) was estimated at 10 percent of the population in 1980, with Protestants numbering slightly less than half (Law 1982:51). In 1985 the Tsung Tsin mission had approximately eight thousand members, and of these a conservative estimate of four thousand speak Hakka fluently (Yu Wai Hong, pers. comm., 1986). A much larger number speak some Hakka and consider themselves Hakka. Shung Him Tong itself has about two hundred regularly attending members, and over thirteen hundred if we include overseas members and those who only occasionally attend church. Of these, over 90 percent are Hakka.

Despite the fact that they represent a relatively small proportion of the total Hakka population, Hakka Christians, along with missionaries and scholars, commonly assert that Hakka "were more receptive to Christianity than any other group in China" (Bohr 1980:133). Hakka Christians often remain active in the wider Hakka community and, I argue, have been influential in formulating and defining Hakka identity. Several of the early members of Shung Him Tong helped to establish the international Hakka association in Hong Kong, and today a number of Shung Him Tong people still belong. Among the large numbers of Hakka Christian immigrants from Hong Kong in recent years, most have gone on to join related Hakka churches in Canada (mainly Vancouver and Toronto) and the United States.

There have undoubtedly been material advantages to be gained by becoming Christian in China and Hong Kong during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and in the British colony of Hong Kong (see Smith 1985). But this explanation does not adequately explain the disproportionate attraction of Hakka to Christianity, or the question of why some Hakka converted and others did not. Nor does it address the relative "success" of one mission or denomination as opposed to another, since they offered many of the same material incentives. Furthermore, the material rewards available to Chinese Christians ought not overshadow the additional implications or advantages that conversion might present with regard to Hakka identity. As I will illustrate in the chapters that follow, although the Basel mission became the "Hakka church" largely fortuitously, this label took on special meaning for its members.

Religion adds an important dimension to the study of ethnicity. In the case of such groups as Sikhs, Jews, and Mennonites, religious identity reinforces, is virtually interchangeable with, and may be seen as the basis of ethnic identity. In such cases, religious symbols or practices signal one's ethnic identity. A similar argument has been made in the case of Chinese identity: one view is that certain principles concerning rituals, for example death rituals (J. Watson 1988), are what unify all Chinese.

Alternatively, religious affiliation can conflict with ethnic identity to the extent that religious conversion becomes a means of abandoning or escaping stigmatized ethnic identity, as in the case of Hindu "untouchables" converting to Christianity or Islam (cf. Berreman 1979; Juergensmeyer 1982). Although Hakka might have been considered a stigmatized identity during the nineteenth century, becoming Christian was equally dishonorable, if not more so. Christianity was abhorred by many Chinese as a foreign religion (P. Cohen 1963) that was considered antithetical to being Chinese (cf. Gernet 1985). Especially during nineteenth century, when Hakka were regarded as inferior and Christians were denounced for having abandoned and forsaken their Chinese identity, Hakka Christians were in a sense doubly stigmatized.

While some anthropological studies have demonstrated how religious conversion can serve as a means to escape an identity, others, such as the dramatic examples of revitalization movements, show how the adoption of a new religion can support or increase group cohesion and thereby help maintain group identity (Lanternari 1963, 1974; Worsley 1968). For the Hakka of Shung Him Tong, religion has done both. It has provided a new context in which Hakka identity continues to have relevance, and it has created avenues through which Hakka Christians can attempt to escape the stigma of their ethnic identity by effectively rendering and reinterpreting it in a more positive light.

The especially pious and orthodox beliefs of the early Basel missionaries help account for the specific shape that ethnic and religious identity takes today in Shung Him Tong. As opposed to Chinese adherents to some Christian denominations such as the Roman Catholic church, in which there is at least a superficial incorporation of Chinese forms and symbols into Catholic religious rites, Shung Him Tong Christians, like the early European Basel missionaries, have no tolerance for syncretism in their rituals (see chap. 5). While Catholic rituals create an impression that one can be both Chinese and Catholic, this avenue of expression is not available to the people of Shung Him Tong. The beliefs they have inherited from the Basel mission present them with obstacles and limitations in the expression of their dual Chinese and Christian identity.

To the Hakka Christians of Shung Him Tong, nonetheless, conversion to Christianity has not meant that they must choose between being good Hakka Chinese and good Christians. Their words and actions affirm their belief that they can be both. This has required that they reconstruct their own meaning of Hakka identity within the narrow confines of Christianity in an attempt to reconcile being Hakka, Chinese, and Christian. As I illustrate in the chapters that follow, this has not been a simple, unambiguous, or entirely successful endeavor. It has required that they define Hakka Chinese ethnic identity as located primarily in a common origin and a concept of descent (cf. Keyes 1976, 1981), that is, in Hakka history and genealogy rather than in "traditional" Chinese cultural practices and religious rituals (cf. J. Watson 1988). Yet while some Chinese practices are rejected entirely, others—particularly those related to death and ancestors—are transformed or rationalized in an attempt to reconcile them with what is considered pious Christian belief and practice (see chap. 5).

Hakka ethnic identity, as illustrated by the case of Shung Him Tong Christians, is best looked at not from an exclusively primordialist or instrumentalist perspective but from a perspective that takes into account the way Hakka identity has been historically constructed and influenced by such factors as imperialism and nineteenth-century Christian evangelism. Hakka identity has been molded and influenced by political and economic factors, and by Hakka historians, Hakka Christians, and European missionaries.

My purpose here is not to decide who is "really" Hakka, or to define a static, essential, primordial set of criteria for being true Hakka. Hakka continues to mean different things at different times, in various contexts, and to different people. My objective is to identify what Hakka means to a number of people in Shung Him Tong, and how these views are related to the cultural and historical construction of Hakka identity.[5]


1. The name of the village literally means respect or worship (Shung) with humility or modesty (Him) hall or church (Tong). The "village of humble worship" is a loose translation found in Ingrams (1952) and used by several informants. I have chosen not to disguise the name of the village because I draw on numerous village histories and church publications in which the name is evident.

2. In this work, I do not use individuals' real names, except for those of authors and public figures, and those that appear in Pang's volume (1934).

3. For an excellent summary of various approaches to the study of ethnicity see Bentley (1983). See also Bentley (1987:24-27) for descriptions of the instrumentalist (e.g., A. Cohen 1969; Despres 1967; Young 1983) and primordialist (e.g., DeVos 1975, 1983; Geertz 1973a; Isaacs 1975; Keyes 1976) models of ethnicity.

4. There are also Basel mission partner churches in Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, the Sudan, Zaire, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. On the history of the Basel mission see Hermann (1911), Jenkins (1989), MacGillivray ([1907] 1979), Oehler (1922), Schlatter (1916), Schultze (1916), Voskamp (1914), Witschi (1965, 1970), and Yu (1987).

5. There has been significant research conducted in Hakka communities in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Noteworthy are the studies by Berkowitz et al. (1969), Bracey (1966), E. Johnson (1975, 1976a, 1976b, 1984, 1988, 1992), G. Johnson (1971), and Pratt (1960) in Hong Kong. M. Cohen (1976), Lamley (1981), and Pasternak (1972, 1983) have written about the Hakka in Taiwan. Hayes has also conducted extensive research in several Hong Kong Hakka communities (1977, 1983). See also J. Hsieh (1980, 1985), Ng (1968), and Strauch (1984). Most studies of the Hakka, however, do not treat Hakka identity as variable, situational, or problematic but as a sociological given. An important exception is the excellent study of Sai Kung by Blake (1975, 1981).

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