|4 The Hakka Church Community and Daily Life|
|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
On the surface, day-to-day life in Shung Him Tong does not appear to differ greatly from that of the neighboring non-Christian Chinese villages. Every morning before dawn people from Shung Him Tong set off to catch buses, trains, and taxis to work or school, while others set out to work in the vegetable gardens and still others head to the market to buy or sell fresh vegetables, meat, and fish. Younger women, particularly those who work outside their homes, do not go to the market every morning but stop there on their way back from work, and they are criticized by older women who are extremely particular about fresh food. Some women head off to the market after taking children to school or to the bus stop, then afterward meet their friends at the teahouse or the food stall for rice porridge. For older, retired men and women, such activities as searching for the freshest vegetables or fish at the market, meeting friends, and reading the newspaper at the teahouse or the park are regular parts of the day. After the market, women return home in plenty of time to clean the house and wash the clothes before preparing lunch. Washing machines are becoming more common, but many women still do laundry by hand.
It is when the marketing, chores, baby-sitting, and washing are finished that the activities of Shung Him Tong Christians and others differ. Older men from Shung Him Tong can be seen chatting while they sit on park benches in Luen Wo market, or setting off to attend special meetings at the church, but they are rarely, if ever, seen participating in card or board games. Elsewhere in Lung Yeuk Tau, one commonly hears the clatter of mahjong tiles, or catches scenes of women playing cards through the doorways of their homes. But in Shung Him Tong, if these activities go on at all, it is behind closed doors. The only exception is the local shop in Shung Him Tong, where the sound of mahjong is often heard. This, I was told, is because "outsiders" come there to play.
The Hakka church is the focal point of Shung Him Tong, not only in a physical and symbolic sense but also in terms of the social organization of the community. Villagers commonly work and go to school outside of the village, and they have non-Hakka and non-Christian friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and sometimes spouses, but in many ways the community is set apart, labeled by outsiders and experienced by members as different. Shung Him Tong has inherited this historically constituted separation as a legacy that continues to mark it off from its neighbors and to identify it as a Hakka Christian community. As will become more apparent in the chapters that follow, some members, particularly younger ones, feel a degree of ambivalence about the Hakka nature of their community, but it is not something they can easily change. Despite their various ties to the outside world, their identity, social life, entertainment, and many weekly activities center around the Hakka church.
Over 90 percent of the residents of Shung Him Tong are considered to "belong" to the community, and, as was mentioned earlier, the vast majority of these people are Hakka. People belong by virtue of their ties to the church, whether through the fictive kinship relationships of church "brotherhood" and "sisterhood" or through actual kinship ties to the original founders of the church and village. People who rent houses or farm land in Shung Him Tong and do not belong to the church are generally not considered members of the community or "church family." Membership in the church through baptism and confirmation serves not only to integrate new members into the community but also to reassert the social, political, and moral status of its members. Daily activities, family life, gender roles, and the political and economic organization of Shung Him Tong are all tied to the church and help to define the identity of this Hakka Christian community.
Church Activities and the Rhythm of the Week
Each Sunday at ten in the morning the church bells sound, announcing to Shung Him Tong and the surrounding villages that Sunday school classes and the women's prayer group are about to begin. At eleven, the bells chime again and groups of Hakka Christians of all ages approach the church; in the summer months, they wield umbrellas to protect themselves from the scorching midday heat. Older women, dressed in loose black pants and blouses, arrive holding the hands of squirming grandchildren. Hakka worshipers come from as far away as Hong Kong Island by car, or they arrive by taxi or minibus from the Fanling train station, the housing estate, or the nearby market town of Luen Wo. One minibus delivers several elderly people to church each Sunday from the home for the aged in Sha Tin, which is administered by the Tsung Tsin mission. Most church members, however, arrive on foot from Shung Him Tong, or from across the On Lok bridge, and a few families come from other villages in Lung Yeuk Tau.
The church elders are very proud of the new church, designed by an architect with kinship ties to Shung Him Tong and membership in one of the other Tsung Tsin churches. The building is considered very "modern." Its square lines, narrow vertical windows, and pinkish beige and blue concrete walls contrast with the old, stucco, mission-style church just a few yards down the road. When the new church was completed in 1983, the cross was removed from its bell tower and the old church building was unceremoniously rented out as a storage unit. The new church has a small parking lot in front, a playground in back, and on the ground floor a small library and office, along with four large classrooms used for Sunday school and kindergarten classes. Upstairs are the main hall and two small apartments—one for the church evangelist and the other for official guests or seminary interns who sometimes stay for a few weeks during the summer. Directly above the two apartments is a larger one that houses the pastor and his family.
The main hall is two stories high. Forty pews, with a capacity to seat over three hundred people, fill the room. A deep red carpet divides the pews down the center aisle leading to the platform at the far end of the hall. The eye is automatically directed to a large, plain wooden cross suspended at the center of the far wall. Beneath the cross is a table with a vase of fresh flowers arranged each week by a member of the women's youth group. On the left side of the platform are some seats, the podium for the main speaker, and a lower podium for the translator, who renders the sermon into Hakka or Cantonese. To the right are the organ and the choir pews. The podiums, the organ, and the choir frame the cross at center stage. Empty of people, with little that suggests that it is "Chinese," Shung Him Church could easily pass as a suburban North American Lutheran church.
Before the service begins, a small crowd always congregates in the shaded entrance and the foyer, while the children remain in the playground until the last minute when the church bells sound. One often hears the cheerful sounds of reunions spoken in Hakka as old church members return for visits from overseas. Later, these members are formally welcomed by the pastor or chairman during the service. People are careful not to make too much noise since the women's prayer group, led by the pastor's wife, can be seen through the window of the classroom reciting prayers. Children are quickly ushered in to join those who arrived for the early Sunday school class, while ushers pass out programs at the door of the church hall and help the elderly to their seats. As soon as the women's prayer group adjourns, the young adults who are in the choir hurry into the room to don their robes and collect their musical scores.
By quarter past eleven, everyone who will attend the service has taken a seat upstairs. During the hot season the overhead fans churn the humid air and the sun pours in the windows; members of the congregation fan themselves with programs or paper fans while waiting for the service to begin. On ordinary Sundays around 150 people comfortably fill the hall. On special occasions such as Christmas or the Chinese New Year, as many as four or five hundred people line the aisles and crowd outside the main entrance. Some make the yearly trip to Shung Him Tong from as far away as Holland, the United Kingdom, Canada, or the United States, and others, who attend only occasionally, are sure to come on such special occasions.
Old and young men alike wear western-style trousers and button-down shirts, but women dress in a variety of styles, largely indistinguishable from other people in Hong Kong. Toward the front of the hall is a cluster of older women in more traditional garb—dark trousers and blouses, gold and jade earrings and bracelets, their smiles sometimes displaying gold-capped teeth. Their hair is neatly tied back and sometimes hidden under the traditional black rectangular scarf with embroidered band. A middle-aged group of women wear polyester pantsuits in dull or dark prints—some with mandarin collars—and have their short, curly hair brushed back from their faces. Younger women and girls wear anything from brightly colored "hightop" sneakers, leggings, and designer T-shirts to more conservative stylish dresses. At first glance it is clear that women in the audience outnumber men and that families do not generally sit together. Men and women frequently sit in gender-segregated groups with their friends rather than their spouses, with the exception of young married couples.
The service follows the same formal, reliable pattern each Sunday. The organist begins, the congregation rises, and the minister, the chairperson of the assembly, the chairman of the board of directors of the church (who is also the director of the choir), the translator, and the eighteen or so members of the choir enter in a slow procession. The ushers leave the extra programs at the door for latecomers and stand in front of their seats. When the last members of the choir reach their places, the congregation sings a hymn. Then everyone is seated and recites a silent prayer. The chairperson stands at the lower podium, greets the congregation, and leads a hymn and another prayer. Then the congregation is seated and the chairperson reads a scriptural passage from the Bible. The congregation stands again and in unison they recite a passage from the hymnbook such as the Lord's Prayer or the Ten Commandments, followed by the doxology. The congregation is again seated while the choir sings a hymn. This is followed by the sermon.
The sermon is the longest part of the service. Usually it is delivered in Hakka in a very somber tone by the regular minister of the church. The "female evangelist," a student from the theological school, other ministers from the Tsung Tsin mission, honored visitors from the Basel mission in Switzerland, or other Hakka ministers from "sister" Chinese churches overseas sometimes deliver guest sermons. If the speaker can speak Hakka, the translator renders the sermon one line at a time into Cantonese. Less often, if the sermon is delivered in Cantonese, it is translated into Hakka. The translator is usually the pastor's wife or one of the young women in the choir or on the board of directors.
Following the sermon, the congregation again stands with heads bowed while the speaker delivers a prayer. Another hymn is sung and then the congregation and the speaker take their seats while the chairman of the board makes his announcements. These, like the introductory remarks of the chairperson of the assembly, are often in Hakka and are generally not translated into Cantonese. The news items are also written on the back of the program so people who do not follow the spoken Hakka can read along. Announcements include topics such as who will usher, collect donations, and teach Sunday school the following week; the amount collected in donations the previous week; the homes that will be visited for family worship; and other meetings and special activities.
After the announcements the chairperson passes out the collection bags to the four people assigned to collect donations. Occasionally there is a "double" collection, part of which goes toward evangelical missions or the new Lutheran seminary. In what appears to be a conscious attempt at balance, the four collectors are without exception two men and two women, and generally one of each gender is younger and the other older. Every individual usually contributes something: children are taught at an early age to put a coin in the collection bag, and even the youngest children's youth group has its own miniature collection bag. After the donations, all stand and sing another hymn, the minister delivers the benediction with his arms spread wide and his eyes closed, and all are once again seated to recite a silent prayer. After a few moments the organist begins and the minister, officials, and choir slowly file out of the room, followed by the rest of the congregation.
The tone of the service is always somber and unemotional, as is the brand of Christianity practiced by this community. The service follows the same general pattern week after week with a few minor variations on the weeks of baptisms, confirmations, and communion. Hymns are usually selected according to the liturgical calendar; the first and last hymns of the service are the same each week, and there is little variation in the recited prayers. Only once during the year I attended Shung Him Tong Sunday services was there an unusual outburst. A woman who had never been baptized was asked not to receive communion. She began to shout abusively and was quickly ushered out of the hall. People sitting near me apologetically referred to her as "mentally imbalanced," and the service continued as usual as though nothing had happened. While to the outsider the service may appear dull, to the members the dependable weekly repetition of this community ritual provides as much comfort and reassurance as the message of the sermon. Each week Hakka Christians enter their sacred place of worship, and then they return once again to the mundane, less predictable existence of their everyday lives.
There are a variety of church groups in Shung Him Tong, each of which suggests a different social category. There are groups for children, youth, young adults, professional young adults, women, and bible study, as well as two weekly family worship services and the church board. Many of the categories overlap. For example, some of the older married women who attend the prayer group belong to the board of directors. A few members of the older youth groups are also represented on the board; young professional adults may also belong to the regular youth group. None of the church groups is directed specifically toward men or boys in particular, and young men are less well represented in the older youth groups.
Several men in the community explained that the church, as a Hakka church, is conscious of treating women as "equals." Although the Sunday ritual might seem to superficially support such an impression, this is in fact not the case. There are roughly equal numbers of men and women who officiate at the Sunday service, but men in the church tend to hold the positions of greater prestige and authority. Two men and two women—one older and one younger—always collect the offerings each week, and two men and two women always serve as ushers. Most often the sermon is delivered by a male pastor, but the female evangelist also occasionally has her turn. Men and women from the board of directors are both offered the position of chairperson of the weekly assembly, but the chairman of the board of directors who reads the weekly announcements is always a man. Women may be visible, but they play a far more active role in the "service" or "support" roles of the church, as translators, Sunday school teachers, secretaries, and evangelists in the surrounding communities, while men fill most of the more prominent and powerful roles of pastor, treasurer, school principal, chairman of the board of directors, and so on. The importance of maintaining the idea of "liberated" Hakka women is examined in more detail in Chapter 6.
Sunday is the main day for church activity, but meetings and study groups structure the entire week. After the service there is usually a meeting of the church board of directors. The board of directors includes the minister (a man) and the evangelist (a woman), who are regular employees of the church, and twenty-three board members. Board members are elected every two years, but in fact are usually only replaced if someone retires from his or her position or moves away. Four of the positions on the board—two for men and two for women—are reserved for church elders and are positions that are held for life. These elders are not necessarily active in church affairs. During the year I was there, two elders—including Pastor Ling's grandson and his wife—resided overseas and a third, also related to Pastor Ling, lived in a home for the elderly. In such cases, the importance of having Lings represented on the board outweighed their being physically absent.
The chairman of the board of directors is selected from among the members of the board. In theory anyone is eligible, but in fact the one resident male elder had been the chairman for several terms by the time I began my research. By virtue of his role as chairman, his status as a descendant of one of the early village pastors, and his particularly authoritarian personality, the chairman was considered the single most influential person in the church. The role of chairman is potentially the most powerful and influential position in the church, but, as with the role of the pastor, the amount of authority he exerts depends largely on the ambition and personality of the person who holds the office. The chairman, by virtue of his role, has the power to make and veto decisions concerning the administration and everyday affairs of the church.
At the time I conducted my research, the chairman was considered very conservative, he was not known for initiating major changes, and he had the power to override the suggestions of other board members. For example, although several board members were in favor of having air conditioning installed in the sermon hall, the chairman did not support the plan so it had to be shelved until the time when he retired, or as one person said, "Until he goes away on holiday." As it happened, a year after I left Shung Him Tong, this chairman, who was by then in his eighties, resigned his position and was replaced by his eldest son-in-law. As I was informed in a letter, one of the first things the new chairman did was to have air conditioning installed.
Members of the board of directors may hold offices or belong to church planning committees such as the kindergarten planning and supervising committee, the cemetery management committee, the church publications editorial board, and the playground and church premises planning committees. Special offices include treasurer, secretary, accountant, director of the youth groups, director of the women's league, and principal of the kindergarten. Most of the special roles and offices are held by men, and men also serve as the Shung Him Tong representatives at the Tsung Tsin mission synod meetings. Among the board members are roughly an equal number of men and women, mostly married couples, covering a range of ages, but it is well known that the men play a more visible and influential role in making church policy. One young woman whose parents were both board members said that her mother, like other women board members, speaks up at meetings far less than her father and tends to just go along with his point of view.
The board of directors forms a very special and elite group and is said to comprise the pillars of the community. Indeed, becoming a member of the board or having a family member represented on the board reflects highly on the entire family. When I first arrived in Shung Him Tong I was advised by one older board member that I must interview those who are the most important and influential in the community. All of the names he listed were male board members. Another man in his early forties recommended that I be sure and talk to members of what he called the "old and the new set." When I asked him who he recommended, he also listed male members of the board of directors, and as in the first man's list, each person was a well-educated professional who could trace agnatic or affinal kinship ties to the early pastors or founding families of the village.
The distinction he made between the "old set" and the "new set" was an interesting one. Although these labels were meant mainly as a way to distinguish the older from the younger members, age was not the only difference, and the labels were used to refer to others besides board members. Members of the old set were more directly related to the founders of the community and were from families who had been Christian for several generations. The younger set were either unrelated or less closely related to the founding families or had recently "married in." Their families were generally "recent" converts who had been Christians for two generations or less.
Board members considered part of the old set traced a direct kinship tie to the founding families and tended to be more conservative in their views regarding the church. One board member was the son, another the grandson, another the nephew of one of the three founding males. With one older board member the tie was less direct, but he traced his kinship tie to the founding families by going back over five generations to their common native village in China. These men agreed with many of the younger board members that an important goal was to attract more members, but, as is discussed in more detail later in the chapter, they were generally opposed to changes away from being a "Hakka church."
The board members considered representative of the new set were three brothers in their thirties and early forties. They were younger than most of the other male board members, and they did not have blood ties to the founding families. They did, however, have ties to the old set through marriage, and each of their wives also served on the board at one time or another. The three brothers held a somewhat less conservative view regarding the direction of the church and its Hakka identity. Despite the fact that they were not born into the village, and that they had not been born into a Christian family, they were widely considered "model" church members who set a good example for others by virtue of their university education, their commitment to the church, and their upward mobility and success.
In a letter I received in 1991, a friend from Shung Him Tong wrote that "the aged members are gradually releasing their duties to the younger ones." Since I left Shung Him Tong, members of the community who represent the new set—those who have not emigrated to Canada or elsewhere—have effectively replaced the old in many of the church leadership positions. As of 1991, the new chairman and vice-chairman were still both related by blood or marriage to the founding families.
In 1986, I was told categorically that all of the board members were Hakka, but later it became clear that there were several exceptions. One woman board member had been adopted by a prominent Hakka church family, and although most people thought of her as Hakka, one person speculated that perhaps her biological parents were not Hakka. One man was of Chaozhou origin, but he had been a teacher at Chung Him School for several decades, was a well respected and dedicated member of the community, and spoke Hakka fluently. Two other women were "not born Hakka," but like the other non-Hakka on the board they spoke Hakka fluently and were jokingly referred to on a number of occasions as "honorary Hakka." One of these women was the wife of one of Pang Lok Sam's sons, and the other was the wife of the staunchly Hakka pastor who often served as the translator during the church service. These exceptions do not seem to interfere with the ideological construction of the community as Hakka.
There are several different youth groups. The "senior" youth group meets on Saturday evenings and is open to anyone who has finished fifth form or who is out of school and working. The middle youth group is for people in middle school between first and fifth forms, and members range in age from fourteen to nineteen years. The third group meets early Saturday afternoon and is for those between sixth primary and fifth form, who are between ten and fifteen years old. Youth groups are run by the evangelist, a young woman in her early thirties who is a regular church employee, and teenage and young adult women volunteers. One young woman explained that since the new evangelist arrived several years ago, the structure of the youth groups changed and has become more serious: "There used to be just one youth group [for all ages] and I would come to play. Now children come to pray not play." At one middle youth group meeting I attended, the young people sat in silence for almost fifteen minutes at a stretch as they were asked by the evangelist to contemplate the questions of whether they were filial to their parents and whether or not they had been active enough in "spreading the Word." The new evangelist considers it her first duty to proselytize and has worked hard to get the youth involved in more Bible study, prayer, and evangelism efforts. I once casually commented to a senior youth group member that there were many kinship links between members of the church. The young woman I mentioned this to, a secretary in a Kowloon firm, responded defensively and said, "Our youth group is working hard to change that." Most of the young people, especially the older youth group members, believe it their duty and obligation to introduce more people to Christianity, regardless of whether they are Hakka or to whom they are related—although, as discussed below, they have had limited success. They are critical of those who do not join in organized evangelical efforts or invite outside friends and coworkers to the church.
The younger children's meetings consist largely of supervised play, singing of hymns, and Bible stories, while the older children and adults conduct a more formal Bible study. For adults there is more prayer, sharing of ideas and experiences, and discussion of Bible passages. Song, prayer, study, and "giving witness" play a large part in the "senior" youth group meetings.
At one Saturday evening meeting for senior youth there was a "circular" prayer that lasted almost half an hour. Twenty people, including the evangelist, sat in a circle and prayed in complete silence. Another activity included a formal written examination on the scripture they were to have prepared for that week. Later, the evangelist corrected the exams and recorded weekly scores. Hymns were sung at intervals throughout the evening. Some tunes were more popular than those sung during the Sunday service, and hymns were sometimes sung in a lively and casual spirit with one person shouting out the language to sing in after each verse: "Hakka!" "Cantonese!" "Mandarin!" "English!"
The topic of the evening was "time" and the young people were to discuss the meaning of time as it related to the Bible and to their lives. The highlight of the discussion was when a young woman received nods and whispers of approval for "giving witness" and sharing her ideas about how she once divided up her time into work time, study time, family time, and fun time and never felt there was enough until she was "born again," after which all her time became more fulfilling as Christian time.
Every fourth Sunday of the month there is a lunch meeting of members of the group for young professionals. With the help of the evangelist and the use of her kitchen, several of the women members heat up cans of Campbell's soup or Ramen noodles, make sandwiches of white bread and Spam, and serve Jell-O salads. This group of young unmarried adults ranging in age from early twenties to thirties contrasts with the regular young adult youth group. Although membership of the two groups overlaps somewhat, the young professionals are slightly older and more affluent than members of the regular "senior" youth group. Some are pursuing college or university educations, while those who have finished school work as teachers, administrative assistants, nurses, and doctors. One reason given for the formation of this group is that the members "don't have enough time to attend the weekly Saturday evening youth group meetings." The professional youth group tends to exclude the young people who work in factories or who are unemployed. Its members correspond in a general way with those young people who are the descendants of the old set. The professional youth group meets less frequently than the other youth groups because it is presumed that its members must devote more time to their careers. As one young woman put it, it is "less serious" than the regular youth group. Some members are known to occasionally go to discos with their outside friends, and they do not have the same degree of involvement with the church projects and outings as is expected of other youth group members. Consequently, the members of this group seem more likely eventually to leave the community and the church. Because of their ties to the older set and the village founders, however, their "less pious" behavior is not openly criticized, but they do evoke some criticism from older villagers and resentment from other young people. The newer, less well-connected, and less affluent or occupationally successful youth group members feel they are required and expected to demonstrate a higher standard of Christian spirit and commitment, and in many instances they do.
In addition to the regular weekly meetings, members of the older youth groups organize bicycle rides, picnics, games, competitions, music classes, talent shows, and field trips into town for the younger children. Choir rehearsals, occasional joint meetings with one of the twelve other Tsung Tsin mission youth groups, and planning committee meetings also fill the week. Informal soccer, tennis, badminton, and volleyball games often take place on Sunday afternoons. Festival events such as Christmas, the Chinese New Year, and Easter are celebrated at the church each year, as are life-passage rituals of birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death. Churchwide outings for people of all ages are also arranged, such as a trip to the Chinese University gardens and restaurant. During the summer there is a day camp for the younger children and, for the older youth group members, a joint outing with the youth group members from other Tsung Tsin mission churches to an outlying island or mountain camp for several days. At Christmastime, a caroling group pays a visit to nearby hospitals and the Tsung Tsin mission home for the elderly. In 1987, the 140th anniversary of the year the European missionaries from the Basel mission arrived in China, a year-long calendar of celebrations was planned. A special Tsung Tsin missionwide choir was formed and a variety of celebrations, banquets, programs, workshops, and special services took place at different Tsung Tsin mission churches.
Joining the Church, Joining the Community
Hakka language is one of the most important symbols of Hakka identity, at least among the older people of Shung Him Tong. To the younger church members it is far less important, and a declining number of youth make an effort to speak it. But as yet, it remains an important feature of Shung Him Tong identity. While I was in Shung Him Tong, one older man began to teach a Hakka language class one evening a week. Enrollment was not overwhelming; it included five young women and one of their mothers, all of whom hoped to improve their Hakka reading and writing skills. The teacher taught the Hakka "church dialect," which was different from his own native Meixian dialect, and he used the Hakka Bible as his text. As he explained, the church language is more like Baoan Hakka, because that is where the Basel missionaries went first. It "is a beautiful language" that is more easily understood by Hakka from many regions. The teacher was very proud when one of his young students soon gained enough confidence from the class to volunteer to translate the Sunday sermons.
Shung Him Church, many members say, is the only place they can go to speak Hakka. Many who live several miles away say this is why they continue to commute to Shung Him Tong on Sundays. Some, especially the older church members, lament the shift to include a Cantonese translation of the sermon, which they consider regrettable but necessary for the growth of the congregation. When I asked one elder why he had read the announcements from the Sunday service in Hakka, he answered in an exasperated tone of voice, "There must always besome Hakka!" Explaining the reason for the translation of the sermon, he continued, "Only the oldest women do not understand Cantonese; more of the young people don't understand Hakka. They learn Cantonese at school, they speak it with their friends, they want it in Cantonese." Another older man explained to me that he had resigned himself to the idea that there must be more Cantonese: "If it is in Cantonese, the young people can bring their friends along."
"The young people no longer speak Hakka." "The young people don't want to speak Hakka." "The young people don't understand Hakka." "They speak Cantonese at school, they don't want to speak Hakka." I commonly heard these sentiments expressed with various degrees of remorse. Some church members, and especially the chairman of the board at the time, stood firm and insisted on keeping at least part of every service in Hakka. "This is a Hakka church!" one board member said emphatically when I asked him if he thought the service should be in Hakka or Cantonese. Another board member, representing the more popular view among the younger set, said, "Hakka is a thing of the past. We've got to be practical about these things." His emphasis was more on attracting new members than on preserving the Hakka character of the church, an example of the growing tension between Hakka and Christian identity in the church community.
Today in all Hong Kong schools the language medium is Cantonese with the exception of some English-language schools. From primary school on, students are required to learn English. In the past few years there has been more discussion of requiring students to learn Mandarin, the official language of the People's Republic of China, rather than English. Considering the number of years that most students study English, the standard is remarkably poor. Hakka was once the main language of instruction at Chung Him School but today all classes there are taught in Cantonese.
Certain occupations are stereotypically Hakka. As one man put it, "One place you can be almost certain to hear people speaking Hakka is at construction sites." In most work places, however, there is no question but that people speak Cantonese, with a few using some English. It is not uncommon, as one young factory worker said, to have worked with someone for years before realizing that they also speak Hakka. In the home and among family members, many Shung Him Tong people still speak Hakka, including many with one Cantonese parent. The pastor's family and many of the Pangs, Cheungs, and Lings speak Hakka at home and among themselves. At the teahouse or at the market the older Shung Him Tong women often speak in Hakka, and a few of them speak only Hakka. As mentioned above, many non-Hakka who learn to speak Hakka are referred to as "honorary Hakka."
Weekly family worship visitations are conducted in Hakka unless, as is rarely the case, there is someone present who does not speak it. The pastor, originally from Meixian, is far more comfortable speaking Hakka than Cantonese. Although he has lived in Hong Kong for over twenty years, his attempts to speak Cantonese are clumsy and difficult to understand, and often elicit giggles from the young people. Even though people speak Hakka at home and hear it at church on Sundays, the general impression among most people in Shung Him Tong is that Hakka language is slowly fading away because the young people are increasingly reluctant to speak it. Most of the young people I met in Shung Him Tong can understand and speak Hakka, but they may be reluctant to speak it. A lack of interest in the language, however, does not necessarily correlate to a weakening of Hakka identity.
I was on a hike with several young women, members of the older and middle youth groups, on a hot summer afternoon. As we meandered across the spine of Dragon Mountain, past shelters that some said were built to hide from the Japanese, I asked my companions why they did not speak to one another in Hakka. They pointed to two young women, "Ming Lee," who worked in a factory and had only belonged to the church for a few years, and "May," a nurse from an older church family, and said accusingly, "Because of them." Ming Lee adamantly defended herself and explained that although she does not know how to speak Hakka she can understand it. She insisted that her mother was Hakka and her father half Hakka, much to the surprise and doubt of her friends. May was not so defensive but merely explained to me that she does not like to speak Hakka, although her parents and her sisters often do, and that she still considers herself Hakka. As a well-established member of the church, she did not feel the same need as Ming Lee to defend her Hakka identity.
In general, the younger its members, the less likely a church group is to conduct its meetings in Hakka. Hakka-speaking seminary students are also becoming increasingly difficult to find for summer internships. While I conducted my research, three theology student evangelists worked for the church. One was a summer visitor who spoke no Hakka; the second was the woman evangelist mentioned above, who had been there several years and who spoke some Hakka. Her parents, she thought, may have been part Hakka, though the language was never spoken in her home when she was growing up in urban Hong Kong. She was surprised to find that people in Shung Him Tong all spoke Hakka. When she went to Canada to continue her studies, another young Hakka woman replaced her. This third intern had come to Hong Kong to study, and her family in Malaysia still spoke Hakka at home. "We are lucky to have her," one older board member told me. "She is Hakka." He explained that the board, when hiring, tries to find a Hakka speaker first, and then opens the candidacy to qualified nonspeakers. Qualified Hakka speakers are getting harder to find and are consequently in great demand. Hakka ministers from other Tsung Tsin churches and elsewhere often say that they enjoy visiting Shung Him Tong because there they have the opportunity to speak Hakka.
In the wider Hong Kong context, Hakka language is far less prevalent than Cantonese. At school, at work, and on television and radio, people hear mostly Cantonese, though some also listen to English and Mandarin programs. Hong Kong has experienced nothing like the 1989 Hakka demonstration in Taiwan to demand Hakka-language television programming that marked the beginning of a Hakka movement (Martin 1992). Hong Kong Hakka have not actively demanded Hakka programs or equal time for Hakka language. The church and home are two of the few remaining contexts in which Hakka is spoken.
Translating the sermon into Cantonese, improving the playground and church facilities, opening a nursery school, and offering extra evening classes and social activities are all efforts to attract new members to the church. Two evenings a week I taught English conversation classes. Fifteen children attended, many of them encouraged by their parents to bring their English homework assignments, and one evening a week four to eight adults attended. The church board hoped that these classes, like the new larger playground constructed in back of the church, would attract new churchgoers. Judging from the English classes, however, a vast majority of the students were already church members, and those who were not were Hakka from Lung Yeuk Tau or Luen Wo market who showed no intention of joining. Some non-church members attended the class just until their English examinations were finished or until they had succeeded in their English-language job interviews.
Twice a week the pastor, the evangelist, and usually two or three other church members go on family visitations. In the evening, as they approach the house that is being visited, they can be heard singing hymns while the pastor plays his accordion. Each family who belongs to the church is visited at least once a year. These families are urged to invite extended family members, friends, and neighbors to attend the visitation—especially those who do not already belong to the church. During the visit, everyone prays, sings hymns, and listens to a short sermon before sharing refreshments and informal conversation.
In terms of broader evangelical efforts, many members of Shung Him Tong are actively involved or at least contribute money to overseas missionary work geared specifically toward attracting Hakka converts. In 1987 several young people from Shung Him Tong, including the evangelist, attended a conference of the Chinese Christian Organization for World Evangelism, which was held in Taiwan. One session that was organized by members of the World Hakka Evangelical Association focused on the question of attracting more Hakka converts worldwide.
Evangelism is encouraged among the youth groups more now than it was a decade ago. Members of the youth group go out in groups large and small and sometimes join members of other Fanling churches to pass out religious leaflets at nearby housing estates and in shopping malls. They are not reluctant to make a Christian spectacle of themselves in public. Once, I was invited for a hike and picnic with several youth group members. When we reached our destination, the young women picked a scenic but crowded spot in the park that was surrounded by clusters of other people who were out to enjoy the fresh air and, I presumed, the peace and quiet. As soon as we unloaded our packs, my seven companions unselfconsciously pulled out their songbooks and began to sing hymns and read out loud from the Bible, pleased to draw attention to themselves and their cause. On other, more formal occasions, leaflets are brought along and people are individually approached.
Non-Christian Hakka in the neighboring villages sometimes invite the pastor to say a prayer and lead a hymn at the funeral of a Hakka non-Christian. I have never heard of one of the Punti families making such a request. The pastor and a small entourage from the church say they are pleased to attend these funerals because they present a good opportunity to attract new members to the church, although they suspect these Hakka non-Christians just "want all the blessings they can get." In some regards these Hakka non-Christian neighbors are in a good situation. As fellow Hakka, they can easily activate their connections with the Hakka church, but as non-Christians they have better relations with Punti than the Hakka Christians.
Baptism and confirmation records from Shung Him Tong indicate that the number of new members has dropped considerably since 1981. Between 1947 and 1970 the number of baptisms averaged over fifty per year, while between 1981 and 1986 the average dropped to twenty-five (see fig. 1). Board members, youth group members, and a few ordinary church members are concerned about this downward trend. They consider it their duty to bring in new church members, but for a number of reasons they have had limited success.
One reason is that between 1980 and 1986 the number of churches within a two-mile radius of Shung Him Tong has increased from four to six (G. Law Ward 1982:63). These include another Lutheran church, a Baptist church, an Assemblies of God church, a Catholic church, and a new Chinese Evangelical church run by a friend and classmate of the Shung Him Tong evangelist. Cantonese is exclusively spoken in these churches. People from Shung Him Tong who have visited other churches have gone to either the currently popular Assemblies of God church or the new Chinese Evangelical church.
Although some people who move from the village no longer attend church, or choose to join a different church, many continue to return to Shung Him Tong, at least on occasion. Shung Him Tong has not lost a significant number of its members to the other nearby churches, but the church leaders are concerned that potential new members—especially young ones—prefer other churches over Shung Him Tong. Young people consider Shung Him Tong a "village church" and some think it is "too old-fashioned" in contrast to the other churches, which have larger youth groups, many more social activities, and "rock and roll hymns," and which are generally considered "more modern, more lively and more fun for young people." Indeed, Shung Him Tong—as it is imagined by the older members—in some ways maintains the older Basel mission tradition of South German Pietism.
Unlike many of the nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxon Protestant missions, which emphasized a liberal view of "progress and democratization" in their vision of "modernization," the South German Pietists were concerned with the maintenance of "traditional village patterns and village life and the idealization of the village community" (Jenkins 1982:88). The same might be said of the traditional core of values of Shung Him Tong. As one woman in her mid-thirties explained, during her youth many of her friends' parents would
Baptisms at Shung Him Tong, 1916–86.
not allow their children to go to the cinema; even Christian films were prohibited, as were dances. Today, it is still hard to imagine a Shung Him Tong youth group organizing a dance or singing rock and roll hymns as is done at the nearby Assemblies of God church, run by American missionaries.
Another factor that serves to alienate rather than draw potential converts is an air of superiority among the Hakka Christians that may also stem in part from the Pietist tradition. As Jenkins has written, the Pietists believed that they were living a higher life than their neighbors, and they often seemed to be "looking down" on their neighbors (1989:3). In Shung Him Tong there is little tolerance of other religious practices and ways of life. Many non-Christians feel no desire to join the church because such a move would mean a change of life-style and would alienate them from friends and relatives who might go to bars or discos, gamble, play mahjong or card games, or attend horse races—all activities openly condemned by Shung Him Tong Christians.
The issue of attracting new converts also points to the growing tension between Hakka and Christian identities. Many younger church members believe Shung Him Tong will never appeal to young people as long as it remains a "Hakka church." There are few if any young people who think of themselves as Hakka in such a way that they would consciously join the church because it is Hakka, as in earlier times. Many who already belong to Shung Him Tong, however, feel more at home there than at other churches, and the fact that it is Hakka—a place where their mother tongue is spoken—may be more important in contributing to this feeling than they consciously realize. Non-Hakka, especially Punti, are likely to steer clear of the church because of its strong Hakka reputation. Some church members are optimistic that, as the youth group grows and becomes more active under the leadership of the energetic new youth group director and evangelist, new young people will be attracted to the church regardless of its Hakka character. Others believe it is the character of the church that must change.
While some people will not join Shung Him Tong because they consider it too old-fashioned, others merely lose interest and stop attending. This is more often the case for people who move out of the village; for those who remain in the village, social pressure is brought to bear. One young woman who grew up as a member of the church moved away many years ago and now attends only on occasion, for the sake of her father. Acquaintances in the village speculate that the church no longer suits her life-style and her career in the police force. Certainly, her diverse circle of friends and her interests are far removed from those of many of the church's young people.
Other explanations I was given for the decreasing membership were the lower birthrate and continuing emigration from the area. When On Lok village was torn down to make way for a new industrial estate during the mid-1980s, many of On Lok's residents, including a growing number of Hakka Christians who had lived there since the 1940s, were relocated into nearby high-rise housing estates. They sent their children to the more convenient estate schools and day-care centers, and enrollment at Shung Him Kindergarten and Chung Him School dropped. Most church members from On Lok continue to come to church, but there is no longer a growing neighboring community from which to attract new members.
Unlike On Lok, the Lung Yeuk Tau villages to the east of Shung Him Tong are composed of a much greater proportion of Punti villagers who reject Christianity. They are considered "more resistant" because they are already integrated into communities with their own ancestral halls, temples, and shrines. Hakka non-Christians in those areas are often influenced by a desire to remain neutral or to maintain good relations with their Punti and non-Christian neighbors—something that might be more difficult if they were Christian. As the people of Shung Him Tong are quick to point out, most of the church members are relative newcomers to the area. Many of the more recent members immigrated to the area from China in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s; they are overwhelmingly Hakka, and many were already Basel mission converts when they arrived in Hong Kong.
Today there are few ethnic tensions between Hakka and Punti in Lung Yeuk Tau and the surrounding areas, especially as compared with the first three or four decades of this century. For this reason, by the late 1940s Luen Wo Tong faded out of existence and church members no longer felt the need to play as much of a role in local leadership as did Pang Lok Sam and other early residents. Non-Christian Hakka from surrounding communities have less urgent reasons to join the church or to ally themselves with Hakka Christians. The benefits they might receive from closer interpersonal relations with more affluent or powerful church members do not provide enough incentive to join the church. Yet as potential Hakka converts they are welcomed and feel free to attend church functions and to enroll their children in the church school. My Hakka landlady's teenage daughter, for example, attended church on Christmas for the "treats" (a little bag of edible sweets) that are handed out and for the merriment, but shrugged off the invitation to join the church or any regular youth group activities, which she considered boring. Her extended family also felt free to invite the pastor to bless funerals and marriages as a peripheral part of the ceremonies, but they had no intention of converting and claimed to have "no religion."
There are different ideas among the people of Shung Him Tong regarding the reasons why people convert to Christianity. Many of them were raised as Christians and have never questioned their faith. Several church members voice the opinion that people must be "down and out" before they will consider becoming Christian. In the words of one man: "The time to convert someone to Christianity is when they've just lost the shirt off their back at the horse races. If you approach a man who's just won, he'll say 'why?' But when people are unhappy or poor they will accept Christ…. A rich man won't become a Christian like a poor man will. That's the time to approach them."
Serious misfortune is the most frequently cited reason for the "questioning" of one's faith, both in the biographies and testimonials of the early Basel mission converts and at present. For example, one nineteenth-century convert, Wong En Kau, whose biography is recorded in the Basel Mission Archives, had a younger brother who was killed by a tiger. This incident made him question the power of the traditional deities. As he recounted to a Swiss Basel missionary, "After two years of doubt about the deities, two Christian preachers arrived at … my uncle's village." He heard them preach about salvation and eternal life: "I told them of my doubts concerning the traditional deities and of the bad fortune my family had suffered—the death of my brother, economic misery because of my father's gambling. At home I told my mother about Christianity. She was happy to be given fresh hope" (Basel Mission Archives 1874). He and his mother decided to
Wong also benefited in material ways from his association with the missionaries:
In a letter to the home mission in Basel in 1868, missionary Charles Piton wrote from Nyenhang of three new converts whom he believed would make good Christians. One had asked to be baptized previously, but Piton suspected "only economic motives"—that is, a desire to be employed as a teacher—so he delayed his baptism. The second convert was a blind man with a tragic story: once wealthy, his family had been plagued with opium use, gambling, prostitution, and three cases of fratricide. The convert had a bad reputation, but his illness, which resulted in blindness, "changed his life," and he converted to Christianity. The third was hired by Piton to do construction work on the new chapel. He learned about the gospel, and after two years, when Piton was "sure of his intentions," he was baptized (Basel Mission Archives 1868b).
In Shung Him Tong today, it is still said that some old people join the church to "receive blessings" or to gain the benefit of burial in the church cemetery, where their graves will be tended and they will not be forgotten. Young people in particular are critical of men and women who are baptized just before marrying a Christian so the ceremony can be held in the church but who then do not become regular members.
As one younger board member explained, there are many people who come to the church for material help: "They are less educated and less literate and they want to improve their lives." Reflecting on the past, many third or fourth generation Christians unabashedly imagine the scenarios leading up to their own families' conversions: "People were poor and they needed help. So they approached the missionaries for help and they received education and jobs." Such economic motives for converting gave rise to the common perception of Chinese Christians as "rice Christians." One difference between Chinese Christians and other Christians, according to Francis Hsu, is not that the Chinese alone have practical motives for converting but that only the Chinese are frank in admitting their pragmatism about religion (1981:273). Still, the people of Shung Him Tong find such pragmatism far more acceptable in their own forebears than in their contemporaries.
As one Shung Him Tong man, a retired accountant, explained, "The more prosperous the church, the more people it will attract." As the Basel mission opened more schools and hospitals, he said, the numbers of converts increased:
One younger European Basel missionary criticized the Chinese churches in Hong Kong for often "using social welfare to buy members." In the 1960s, for example, when foreign churches donated food for the poor, Chinese churches—including the Tsung Tsin mission—often insisted that people be baptized before they receive food. To many Chinese Christians, this must have been the logical order of events: if churches provided food to non-Christians, what would be the incentive for people to join the church?
Among young people recently converted or born into Christian families, I heard no explicitly expressed practical or material explanations for being "born again." Instead of focusing on the benefits that come from joining the church, they emphasize the conversion experience and the personal crises that precipitate it. Certainly no younger member would admit to material motives for joining.
Ming Lee is a recent convert. She became Christian several years ago after she was seriously injured at the factory where she worked. Several schoolmates from the youth group came to visit her in the hospital. They prayed for her and urged her to do the same. When she recovered she joined the church. She was living near Luen Wo market at the time; her brother was "wild" and her family was not happy or well off. Later, by chance, her family moved to the edge of Shung Him Tong. Her father, a construction worker, had agreed to build a house for a Catholic man who lived on the outskirts of the village in exchange for the use of some land where he could also build himself a small house. After they lived there for a few years, Ming Lee convinced her mother to attend the church. Now she is quite eager for people from the church to know that her mother is Hakka and her father, despite the fact that he rarely comes to church, is half Hakka, making her three-quarters Hakka. Before she became a member, this young woman had never thought of herself as Hakka. To her, this is an important factor in "fitting in" with other church members. Another young woman joined when she was unhappy and lonely; and several others explained that when they were away from home for the first time, although they were already Christian, their faith was strengthened and renewed.
Today, the church does not offer the same material incentives for members that it once did. People do not need the physical protection of the church community; nor do they need the church leaders to back them up in claims to build houses or send their children to school. Wealthy church members no longer serve as patrons to young non-Christians, providing tuition and moral guidance in hopes of their eventual conversion. Although many young converts like Ming Lee are from fairly poor families, they receive no immediate economic benefits by joining. Young people are occasionally employed as teachers or secretaries at the church, which better qualifies them to later find jobs outside, but these positions are rare and are normally filled by qualified people from outside (in the case of teachers), or young people whose families have long been members of the community (in the case of church assistants). Ming Lee did attend the English class in the hopes of eventually improving her job prospects, but so did the non-Christians who attended.
Today, education is readily available in Hong Kong and is not limited to mission schools. Though the church runs a nursery school, most toddlers of church members attend other schools. Today many church members send their children to the most prestigious schools they can afford—English-speaking nursery schools and private schools whose graduates are accepted at the best primary schools. The church nursery school is cheaper than many; it is smaller and does not have a reputation for attracting teachers as good as those found at wealthier urban schools, and the students are mainly from nearby villages. Many of its pupils come from non-Christian families who consider the church nursery school convenient and inexpensive although not of the highest quality. Education, medical care, and social welfare are provided by the government, and although the Tsung Tsin mission and other churches contribute to such programs, it is not necessary to be Christian to receive benefits. Thus, most church members today refer to the benefits of being Christian in terms of the spiritual and emotional enrichment of their lives rather than the material benefits that they say prompted previous generations to convert. This is not to say that recent Christian converts do not expect their lives to "improve" in a variety of ways once they have made the decision to be a "better" person.
One Sunday a visiting seminary student delivered a sermon in which he read a section from "The Parable of the Great Banquet" (Luke 14:16–23). Comparing the church with the banquet, he urged the congregation to invite more people, pointing emphatically at empty spaces in the pews. The sermon evoked a strong response from "Tin," a church member and schoolteacher in his forties, who told me that the speaker was "right in theory but not in practice." When I asked him to explain, he said, "In theory everyone wants to bring in new members, but in their hearts they do not." There are many new member drives, special programs, and gospel meetings, but new people come two or three times, he said, and then "they stop coming because they feel excluded—like outsiders" because they are not "members of the big families who control the church."
At the root of the problem in attracting new members is the very fact that first attracted and now binds together the older members: it is a Hakka church. The members of the church are torn between wanting to attract new members and keeping Shung Him Tong a Hakka church. As one older male board member said, "It goes against the teachings of Jesus Christ to conduct the services in Hakka and thereby exclude other people who might want to join our church." But the same man, on a different occasion, revealed his ambivalence by stating with pride, "Ours is not like other churches; ours is a Hakka church." Many church members, especially among those of age forty or over, say that they attend the church in Shung Him Tong village because their friends are there and because it is Hakka, even though some of them live far away. The very distinction of the church as Hakka is what makes it attractive to many present members, but it is also what people like Tin think makes it unattractive to potential new members.
Focusing their efforts on recruiting non-Christian Hakka into the church would appear to be one solution. But church members seem reluctant to define their conversion goals so narrowly and "therefore exclude non-Hakka." Furthermore, few non-Christian Hakka in the region are as interested in joining the church as they were in earlier decades. Some seem to identify more with their non-Christian neighbors—regardless of whether or not they are Hakka—than with Shung Him Tong Hakka Christians. Others identify with the people of Shung Him Tong as fellow Hakka, but not with their Christianity. One Hakka neighbor who was forever exhorting me to "speak Hakka, not Cantonese!" told me that, despite his habit of decorating his house with lights at Christmastime, he had absolutely no interest in becoming Christian—though if he did, the church he joined would be Shung Him Tong. Decreasing material incentives and a decreasing interest in Hakka identity throughout the Lung Yeuk Tau and Fanling regions are both factors that help explain why greater numbers of local Hakka do not join the church, and why some members leave both village and church.
Many people of Shung Him Tong are somewhat resigned toward the direction the church must take away from its Hakka origins. Although the older church members insist that parts of the service remain in Hakka language, they sense that the Hakka character of the church will inevitably diminish. Of the thirteen Tsung Tsin mission churches, Shung Him Tong is one of only two in which the sermon is still delivered primarily in Hakka. The other eleven churches are urban and conduct services in Cantonese, although two of the larger churches conduct two services each Sunday, one in Hakka and one in Cantonese.
Village Residence and Church Membership
During the first month of my research, as I met people at the church or walking through the village, I was repeatedly told that "everyone in the village is Christian" or "everyone in Shung Him Tong village belongs to the church." Before long, it became obvious to me that these statements were overgeneralizations, harmless exaggerations, or even wishful thinking. It was not until I was several months into my fieldwork that I learned that such overgeneralizations represented a particular view of the social reality of Shung Him Tong.
As we were walking through the village, on our way to the teahouse in Luen Wo market, my companion a young schoolteacher, mentioned an upcoming wedding to which "the whole village is invited—everyone will be there."
I pointed to the nearby house of some recent arrivals to the village and said, "Will they be there?""No, no, not them," she answered.
As we continued to walk through the village, I pointed to another small house and said, "What about the people who rent that house?" Again she answered no. Frustrated, I then pressed my companion to explain exactly who would be at the wedding—who comprised this "everyone"? She said that all the members of the "old" established Christian families in the village were invited. To Yee Ling, herself a descendant of one of the first families, "everyone" signified those in her own social category: relatives of the Lings, Tsuis, Cheungs, Pangs, and others who were active members of the church.
Recent arrivals and tenants in Shung Him Tong do not automatically become members of the community, but through a variety of avenues they can eventually be numbered among those who are respected members of the church, if not descendants of the founders. Such avenues include marriage to a respected church member, service in a church office, and exemplary behavior, all of which were factors in the acceptance of the three brothers mentioned earlier. Thus, for the most part, "everyone who is anyone" in Shung Him Tong is Christian and belongs to the church.
Not all who attend church are considered full-fledged members of the community, but members of the community are almost always members of the church. Community members need not live in Shung Him Tong, but as discussed above they must have a legitimate claim through kinship ties to a founding family or by model behavior—which usually means success and moral uprightness as well as contributions of time and money to the church. There is one interesting exception to the church membership requirement, however, with regard to the Catholic families in the village.
Catholics, to the people of Shung Him Tong, are not considered "Christians" at all but rather, as one young woman explained, little better than "idol worshipers." Yet, in certain social situations like weddings, there are two Catholic families who are considered to be members of the community. Both are Hakka, originally from Meixian; both are descended from old Shung Him Tong families; and both have members considered eminent in wider Hong Kong circles. The Tsuis were related to the first Basel mission convert in Wuhua and belonged to a Basel mission church. They were also related by marriage to Pang Lok Sam; Pang's wife was named Tsui, and her famous brother was the founder of Wah Yan College in Hong Kong (see Tsui Dou Leung in Appendix 2). Another prominent member of the Tsui family, Paul Tsui, was a district officer and also the first Chinese person in Hong Kong to hold the post of secretary for Chinese affairs. One branch of the Tsui family still belongs to Shung Him Church; the Catholic branch retains honorary membership in the community for certain occasions, and its members are cited as examples of educated and successful Hakka.
The people most frequently held up as model members of church and community, although they are not related by blood to the old families, are the three brothers on the board of directors. In contrast to members of the old set, these brothers had to work their way up to respected positions in the church. Indeed, the story is told like a fairy tale, complete with the eldest son's marriage to a woman who was both the granddaughter of one of the first village pastors and the daughter of a most respected church elder. Informants told of the parents of the three brothers, Hakka refugees from China who were forced to borrow money from their neighbors to plant the sweet potatoes they hawked in the market. They discovered Christianity, joined the Shung Him Church, and continued to work hard to put their children through school. All attained a college education—one daughter became a minister, one son attained a high position in Hong Kong's department of social services, and the other sons are in equally successful professions. All three men married women from old Shung Him Tong families, and they are looked up to as the future leaders of the church. Education, economic success, and model Christian behavior are considered the key elements of their high status in the community.
Another factor should not be neglected in the acceptance of these men as worthy members of the community. They are Hakka. Church members readily identify them as Hakka and even say that they display important Hakka traits of determination and hard work. Unlike Ming Lee, they do not need to announce or defend their Hakka identity in order to fit in; it is understood.
Economics, Education, and Politics
Economic status and political views are two of the most difficult topics to learn about in Shung Him Tong and in Hong Kong in general. I was warned by Yee Ling and other friends not to make hasty judgments about a person's economic situation, since a person's wealth is difficult to discern. As Yee Ling explained, someone who lives in a small run-down shack and is always working in the fields may have wealth stashed away for his children's education, for a new house, to spend for a New Year's Day banquet, or to emigrate. A woman who works as a farmer or a construction worker might have her teeth filled with gold and wear expensive jade bracelets, but they may be her only savings. Some people choose to appear wealthy and successful and flaunt their wealth by building new houses and buying new cars, while others choose to appear poorer than they are for fear that they are tempting bad fortune, or arousing the envy of their neighbors. Christians of Shung Him Tong claim they are not afraid of bad fortune, and yet they do not flaunt their wealth.
Of course, one way in which Shung Him Tong people are encouraged to demonstrate their wealth, or at least their generosity, is to contribute to the church. Weekly church contributions are anonymous, but annual contributions are carefully listed and published in commemorative bulletins, as are onetime donations to special fund-raising drives such as those for the new church building, or for the celebration of the 140th anniversary of the Basel missionaries' arrival in Hong Kong. Reminiscent of the carefully recorded and displayed lists of contributions made for festivals, new temples, and ancestral halls in other parts of Hong Kong, these lists of contributors serve to memorialize one's name and status in the community. The logic from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Weber  1958) would suggest that perhaps these contributions—as markers of wealth—are merely indications of "grace." To the people of Shung Him Tong, however, the donations are considered purely altruistic acts of generosity, and any suggestion that the Chinese concept of "buying" blessings from deities is in operation is of course condemned as erroneous (cf. C. K. Yang 1961:321). Nonetheless, as is discussed further in Chapter 6, some Shung Him Tong people believe that those who are "good Christians" are more likely to be "blessed" with success and happiness, though they admit that, in keeping with both Christian and traditional Confucian views, it is wrong to attempt to "calculate" reciprocity in such a way.
Larger contributions are expected from prominent members of the church, and board members are usually more generous than others. Contributing to church fund-raising campaigns serves at least to exhibit and reinforce, if not to raise, one's status in the eyes of the community. I was told of several "model church members" and their "generous contributions" of land and money to the church. People were impressed by contributions that were larger than they expected, and they still remember names of people who contributed money to build the On Lok bridge or land on which to build the church or cemetery.
A Shung Him Tong church member who works for the department of social welfare explained that, although there are some elderly people in Shung Him Tong who are "poor" in that they would qualify for public assistance, they all have sufficient food, shelter, and clothing. Some people who qualify for public assistance may not accept it, he said, "because they are proud and they prefer to work." Another man told me that the Hakka, even more than other Chinese, are too proud to accept charity. A distinction begins to emerge between the charity handed out by the government and the assistance given by missionaries in the past. Help from missionaries was acceptable because it provided education or employment, means through which to improve the future of one's family. Charity as an end in itself is unacceptable.
Many of the descendants of the four older families of Shung Him Tong continue to do well economically and are consistently those who make the largest monetary contributions during church collection drives. Their houses are generally larger and have been remodeled to include more modern amenities than others in the village, though most houses in Shung Him Tong have telephones, televisions, and indoor plumbing. Descendants of the older families also send their children to expensive private schools and universities, often overseas. Most have professional occupations and own land in the New Territories. Descendants of the four original families have also moved to Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and farther abroad. The overall opinion of these community leaders is that they have been blessed with economic success because they are good Christians. If they were to partake in un-Christian behavior such as gambling, drugs, or illegal activity, they would take the chance of forfeiting their success.
In 1950 D. Y. Ling (Lin[g] 1951) conducted a study of the economic situation of sixty farming families in the Fanling region. Twenty-eight of the families surveyed were from Shung Him Tong, where he found an extremely high tenancy rate of over 95 percent (1951:32, 19), higher even than those of coastal parts of China in 1945, which never reached 90 percent. Shung Him Tong residents told Ling in 1950 that tenant farming had greatly increased since 1920, when 50 percent of the farmland was cultivated by its owners (1951:19). The main reason for this shift was the source of labor. The "big" landowning families such as Tsui, Pang, and Ling never farmed their own land. At first poorer relatives farmed the land of their wealthier kin and eventually were able to buy small plots to farm themselves. By 1949, the large influx of refugees who fled to Hong Kong from China provided a cheaper source of labor. Land that had been used for rice cultivation shifted to vegetable crops that were in higher demand because of the rapidly expanding population and increasingly efficient transportation.
In 1950, the number of absentee landlords in Shung Him Tong was extremely low. According to Ling, in places such as Shung Him Tong, where the landlord typically lived on the farm with his tenants, "the effect [of tenancy] on the economy of the place, is not as bad" (1951:32). In Shung Him Tong, tenants and landlords seemed "to live [together] in a rather happy partnership or relationship; and this happy partnership has resulted in the development of some local cooperative effort quite useful to the life of the community" (ibid.). What appeared to Ling to be a happy partnership between his landlord relatives and their tenants might appear to other, more critical observers as exploitation facilitated by kinship ties (see R. Watson 1985), as well as religious ones.
Today, farming around Shung Him Tong is done almost exclusively by Cantonese emigrants from Guangdong who do not belong to the church (see Strauch 1984:192; Topley 1964). Some of the older church members once farmed for Shung Him Tong landlords, but today most of them have retired. The great majority of people from Shung Him Tong work outside of the community in a wide variety of occupations, including shopkeeping, factory work, construction work, architecture, business, banking, real estate, teaching, law enforcement, civil service, medicine, and so on. Some commute to work in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island, while others work in nearby market towns or industrial estates.
Unlike emigrants from nearby villages who return to Hong Kong to live when they retire, it is said that former residents of Shung Him Tong seldom build new houses there. Many come back to visit, but few to live. There are several reasons for this. Shung Him Tong people believe that, because the church provides them with greater exposure to western ideas and education, they are better adapted to life in western communities. Many Shung Him Tong people already speak English and have attended North American or European universities, and thus they assimilate more easily in America and Europe. In contrast, people of Shung Him Tong believe that villagers from elsewhere in Lung Yeuk Tau never learn English, stick more closely to Chinese relatives and acquaintances, and never feel at home in overseas communities—so they return to retire in their native villages.
Shung Him Tong people also believe that they fit in better overseas because they can activate an extensive network of church connections, which helps them to integrate into the community. Indeed, several households, motivated largely by the shift in government in 1997, have recently emigrated to Vancouver and Toronto, where they already have kin and friends from Shung Him Tong, and where they have joined Hakka churches established by people affiliated with the Tsung Tsin mission. Their social networks have a broader foundation than those of non-Christian Chinese, which are based more exclusively on kinship.
Another important factor is that emigrants from Shung Him Tong are not usually "working class" and do not settle in urban "Chinatown ghettos," but instead are more likely to live in middle- and upper middle-class suburban neighborhoods. A number of emigrants from Shung Him Tong work overseas in the restaurant business (a common phenomenon in the New Territories; see J. Watson 1975), but a large number are very well educated and work as ministers and missionaries in overseas Hakka churches, or in other professions.
One indication of overseas returnees to the New Territories are the three-story Spanish-style "villas" that have sprung up in many areas. In Shung Him Tong there are relatively few new houses of this kind. In addition to the reasons already given, Shung Him Tong people are discouraged from building houses because they do not share the rights and privileges of the Punti or "indigenous" villagers. Villagers with indigenous status have the legal right to build houses in their village for all male descendants. Unlike indigenous villagers, Shung Him Tong people today must petition for the right to build houses, the dimensions of their houses are strictly regulated, and they must pay fees from which native people are exempt.
Although many people consider themselves well rooted in Shung Him Tong, to others it is not the Hakka Christian promised land. Despite efforts to build the ideal community, they are still marginalized by government restrictions and regulations that prevent them from having the same rights as the Punti. When people return to Shung Him Tong, it is to visit the church and their friends, not because of material incentives to build a home there. This fact has important implications for the future of the community and its growth.
As one person contemplating a move to Canada explained, the Hakka are emigrants and are always looking for better places to settle; they still remember the discrimination their families faced in China and are making plans to emigrate before reunification in 1997. Since the failed Democracy Movement in the People's Republic of China in 1989, even members of prominent village families who claimed they would never leave Hong Kong have recently attained visas and are applying for foreign citizenship. Mr. P., a board member in his sixties, explained that he plans to get foreign citizenship as an "insurance policy"; later he will make the decision of whether to continue to reside in Hong Kong.
Just as attaining scholarly status and positions in the government bureaucracy by passing imperial examinations reflected well on the entire Chinese lineage in the past, so are university degrees and high government posts generally thought to reflect well on the people of Shung Him Tong today. Shung Him Tong is well known in Hong Kong for the large number of "scholars" it has produced. Among its most renowned are Paul Tsui, the first Chinese person to serve as secretary for Chinese affairs of the Hong Kong government, D. Y. Ling, the first president of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and a number of other government officials. Even before the 1950s, the Ling family alone is said to have produced over twenty graduates of American universities. Many members of the educated elite of Shung Him Tong have died or emigrated, but they are still considered members of the community and go far in reinforcing the image of the "successful Hakka Christian."
The Rural Committee, composed of village representatives, was formed by the British government in Hong Kong in order to provide representation to indigenous (pre-1898) New Territories villages. Village representatives were selected from Punti and old Hakka families and only the heads of household of indigenous families were entitled to vote. In 1982 the law was changed and people who had been village residents for more than seven years were given representation (Strauch 1984).
Unlike residents of other regions of the New Territories, however, the people of Shung Him Tong have shown little interest in village-level politics in recent years, for a variety of reasons. One is the drastic decline, mentioned earlier, of ethnic conflicts and competition in the region. Although several well-respected members of the church board would seem to make likely candidates for the office of village representative, they explain that it would not be worth their while. Mr. P., a descendant of one of the founders and a respected member of the church community, would be an obvious candidate, but as several people said to me, "Why would he want to? It's too much trouble and not really any power." One church member said that Shung Him Tong people do not consider the village representative system a way of gaining power and prestige. Representatives have to bother with settling minor disputes that take up a lot of time.
As Shung Him Tong villagers pointed out, the Rural Committee is more important to indigenous Punti villagers, while they themselves "have the church to depend on." Several board members are long-term friends and acquaintances of higher-level government officials and still have ready access to other networks of communication with the government, although there has been little need to activate these networks in recent years. When I asked for examples of how these networks are useful, informants could only provide cases from the early decades of village history. As Tin explained, "for example, when Shung Him Tong wanted the bridge built across from On Lok, Pang Lok Sam went right to the government and the bridge was built."
In the church community there are numerous people who have attained high government positions by virtue of their education; village representatives are usually less well educated. The process of becoming a village representative is also thought to require certain "immoral" activities of which the people of Shung Him Tong disapprove: one must, as one man explained, "pay people for their support which is not agreeable to church people."
Shung Him Tong has a village representative and a vice-village representative. These are elected positions, but so few people are interested in them that the same representatives have been reelected for as many terms as they are willing to serve. Many people feel that the man currently serving as the village representative "is not very interested in the position." He is the descendant of the Catholic Tsuis, is not a member of the church, and is rarely seen in the village. The vice-representative is more active in the community and is considered partially responsible for initiating such projects as the widening of the road and erecting new streetlights in the village. Because no one else wants the job, he is considered satisfactory, but not a model member of the community. He is a distant relative of the Lings and a nominal church member, but not a member of the church board. His reputation suffers because his family does not regularly attend church, and they run the corner shop, "which attracts bad characters" and where people from outside the church go to play mahjong.
To established members of the community today, in contrast to Pang Lok Sam's time, involvement in the village level of local government is not considered worthwhile. New residents of Shung Him Tong village who hope to become integrated into the community as full-fledged members must place greater value on church affairs. They cannot risk charges of corruption if they want to be considered good Christians. It is only to more marginal members of the church community, or to those who do not belong to the church at all, that local government seems worthwhile.
Marriage and the "Church Family"
In church the pastor refers to the congregation as "brothers and sisters," and young people often refer to each other as "my brother" or "sister in Christ." The congregation, however, particularly members of the old families and those who know each other well, follow the old rural Chinese pattern of referring to each other by kin terms such as "father's younger brother," "mother's younger sister," "mother's older sister," and so on. This is not unusual for a village community where there is continuing and frequent interaction among members (see R. Watson 1986), but in the case of Shung Him Tong these informal terms of address are often used with church members who have moved away, and can be used to distinguish between those who are accepted as members of the community and those who are not.
In contrast to the traditional Chinese pattern of village exogamy, marriage between residents of Shung Him Tong is fairly common. When asked, most people say that the ideal marriage is with a member of a different Tsung Tsin mission church—church exogamy. Shung Him Tong villagers, unlike the people of other parts of Lung Yeuk Tau, consider conversion to Christianity the primary requirement for a spouse. The ideal prospective spouse belongs to one of the churches affiliated with Tsung Tsin mission; otherwise, membership in another Protestant church is acceptable. If the prospective spouse is not Christian, he or she is usually baptized before the wedding. During the nineteenth century the Basel mission arranged marriages between Christian boys and girls from their schools. The present-day mechanism for introducing Christian young people is the Tsung Tsin missionwide youth group, youth group summer camp, and associated missionwide activities.
Many parents say they would be pleased if their sons or daughters married someone who is Hakka, but they consider this factor secondary to the requirement that he or she be a Chinese Christian. Young unmarried people say that Hakka background is not important, but in fact many marriages are between Hakka. The majority of married couples over forty in Shung Him Tong are Hakka, but there are numerous cases of Hakka men marrying Cantonese or non-Hakka women, including the church pastor and one of the board members. One older man told me "it doesn't matter" whether one's wife is Hakka or non-Hakka; yet his father, Pang Lok Sam, was seriously disappointed by his choice of a non-Hakka, non-Christian marriage partner. His father told him, "There are plenty of good girls in Wuhua who are Hakka and Christian. Why not pick one of them?" His wife converted to Christianity before marrying him; if she had not, he said, "my father certainly would not have permitted" the marriage. In many ways his wife, described by her daughter as strong and extremely hardworking, is archetypally Hakka.
While I was in Shung Him Tong, a number of young unmarried women complained to me that there were not enough eligible young men at the church and felt it unlikely that they would marry within the community. In the several years since, this has not proven to be the case. Despite the traditional Chinese attitude that villagers should not intermarry because they "grow up together and do everything together like brother and sister," many Shung Him Tong married couples—including several very recent ones—grew up together in Shung Him Tong.
The pattern of marriage in Shung Him Tong varies according to generation. The first arrivals and their children, who were married adults by the 1940s and 1950s, grew up together in a relatively small community and usually married people from outside the village, often from other Tsung Tsin mission churches. Today, young people grow up as neighbors but often attend different secondary schools and see each other only at church. The community has also grown to include recent immigrants from other parts of the New Territories. Today, marriages between members of the church community are more common than they were in the past and are no longer considered distasteful.
In the past five years, there have been at least four marriages between members of Shung Him Tong, all of whom are expected to become pillars of the community. As a friend wrote in a recent letter, "We are glad that these youngsters are getting married within the same Church group, so that they will not get scattered." Although I did not collect statistical information regarding marriage patterns, it is clear that village endogamy is unusual in the New Territories and more prevalent in Shung Him Tong because of its Hakka, Christian, and multisurname nature. This pattern has important long-range implications for the community because, as the man quoted above suggests, men and women who grew up in Shung Him Tong are more likely to perpetuate its traditions. On the other hand, this pattern means that fewer people are being brought into the community by marriage, which again demonstrates how the church is caught between its need to expand and its mandate for insularity.
The postmarital residence pattern in Shung Him Tong is also unlike the traditional Chinese pattern. Shung Him Tong has never been strictly patrilocal and the ideal of the extended family (cf. M. Wolf 1968) is rarely realized. Many sons and daughters of the village founders have moved away, but some have remained. There is no single overarching pattern of residence. The present households include men and women who were raised in the village and others who settled there after marriage. In still other cases, neither spouse grew up in the village. As in all of Hong Kong today, residence is often influenced by such practical considerations as space, expense, and access to work, family, and friends. Shung Him Tong has advantages in these regards. Although it is far from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, public transportation is such that one rarely hears of a commute of over an hour. Some young couples, however, prefer the convenience of living in a modern high-rise to remaining in the village.
As in other parts of Hong Kong, women marry at a later age than they did in the past and are often expected to work outside the home and contribute to the family income. Women are still primarily responsible for household chores and child rearing, but today these duties are more likely to fall on older mothers and mothers-in-law, while young women are more likely to be wage earners.
A few marriages in Shung Him Tong are arranged. This is more likely to occur with daughters from poorer or less-educated families. Several young women from the village had marriages arranged with young men who worked overseas and "did not have the time to look for their own wives." In most cases, the couple met a few times before the marriage took place, and soon after the young woman went overseas with her husband. Often older women at the church attempt to "introduce" people. In general, young people of Shung Him Tong resist the idea of arranged marriage as old-fashioned.
While I was there, a young man from Shung Him Tong who had moved to New Jersey with his parents and brothers several years earlier to work in a restaurant returned to marry a young woman from Luen Wo market. In this case the woman was not Christian so the wedding was not permitted to take place in the church. Before the tea ceremony, the minister was asked to come to the groom's house and bless the wedding. The minister asked the young woman if she spoke Hakka, which she did not, so he proceeded to bless the couple in halting Cantonese, which evoked several giggles from the onlookers. Hymnals were passed out, and the crowd of people who had gathered at the doorway after the Sunday service joined in and sang.
The church officially disapproves of divorce and polygyny, but as one older church member, Mr. C., explained at length, church policies are less strict today than they were when he was young:
As he suggested, though polygyny is disapproved of by the church, everyone wants to have children—preferably a son—and to many polygyny is preferable to being childless. I asked him to give me an example:
"Did anyone at the church mind?" I asked. He answered:
As reflected in the words of Mr. C., both Christian and non-Christian Chinese place great importance in maintaining the line of descent. Although Christians often say they do not mind whether the child is a boy or a girl, sons are still considered especially important and the celebration after the birth of a boy is often more elaborate. Some members of two very large and prominent families still follow the naming pattern for their sons that was established by a poem written by a Christian ancestor several generations earlier. That way, they explained, many generations from now, all patrilineal descendants of the same generation will be easily identified because they will have one of the several given names in addition to the same surname. This practice is also considered a display of respect for the ancestor who wrote the poem.
Because of the importance of maintaining the line of descent, several Shung Him Tong families who would otherwise have been childless are known to have adopted the son of a relative. In several instances, offspring of maternal kin were adopted. Adoption of a male relative also occurred for a Christian man who died without an heir about thirty-five years ago. In that case, a nephew of the deceased became his "son" for purposes of continuing his line of descent and visiting his grave at Easter. The natural father—brother of the deceased—continued to play the role of pater, but it was understood that the adopted son's own sons would contribute to his uncle's (i.e., his adoptive father's) line of descent.
Christian and non-Christian Chinese both believe that they have obligations to their ancestors, and one of these is to maintain the line of descent. The main difference, as discussed in the following chapter, is not so much in the practices and behavior surrounding the care of the ancestors—although these do differ—but in the Christian need to justify their actions as secular. Despite this constructed difference, there exist important continuities between Christian and non-Christian Chinese beliefs and practices concerning filial piety and familial duties and obligations. For Shung Him Tong Christians, furthermore, the obligation to continue the line of descent applies not only to their biological families but to the church family as well.
1. The stereotypical round, flat "Hakka hat" with black fringes is never seen in church.
2. Since I left Shung Him Tong in 1987, two young Hakka people from the village have made plans to enter theological seminaries.
3. Shung Him Tong also resembles the early Basel mission in its rejection of the ecumenical movement. Tsung Tsin mission is instead affiliated with the Lutheran church.
4. See also Liao (1972) for an explanation of the "failure" of Protestant missionaries among the Hakka in Taiwan, which he says was in part because becoming Christian was equated with giving up Hakka identity.
5. The Cantonese term Geiduktouh (Jidutu), meaning "Christian," is almost exclusively used to refer to Protestants, while the Cantonese term Tinjyugaau (Tianzhujiao) refers only to Catholics. Some Shung Him Tong people do not believe that Catholics worship the same God. This idea is reinforced by the fact that Protestants generally translate God in Cantonese as Seuhngdai (Shangdi), while Roman Catholics generally use the Cantonese term Tinjyu (Tianzhu). The fact that Catholic and Protestant Bibles originate from different European translations of earlier texts and translate such basic terms as "God" and "Christ" in different ways has contributed to the impression that these are vastly different religions. Many people I spoke to also were highly critical of the fact that Catholics "worship saints" and that their nuns "resemble'' Buddhist ones.
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