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7 Our Beloved Hakka People

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

In the preceding chapters I have described the decline in use of Hakka language in Shung Him Tong, the absence of practices or customs that can be labeled "Hakka," and the ambivalence toward Hakka identity among some people, particularly youth. In addition, I have noted that Shung Him Tong has not attracted many new church members in recent years, that some people have left the church, and that many of its older members have settled overseas. However, I maintain that these factors do not necessarily mean that Shung Him Tong will not survive as a community, or that Hakka identity is simply dying out. Membership has not decreased significantly over the past few years. Some new members have joined, and old members marry and raise their children in the church. A pattern of emigration has existed since the village was founded. With the approach of 1997 this process has merely accelerated. As of 1987, however, there were still some church members who could not afford to leave; some who could afford to go but said they had no intention of emigrating; and others who were planning to leave only temporarily until they attain permanent residence status or citizenship elsewhere. The significant point, however, is that emigration opens up contact between the provincial church and the wider Hakka Christian community. Of the emigrants from Shung Him Tong that I was able to trace, the vast majority continue to attend Hakka churches abroad, maintain contact with friends and relatives in the village, and continue to return for visits. So, true to their name, Hakka continue to move on. But the community, despite the appearance of disintegration, is not losing its identity.

An Irish Catholic priest who teaches at one Hong Kong school unequivocally told me when I began my research that "no one is Hakka anymore, or if they are, they'll never tell you." As we have seen, in Shung Him Tong this is certainly not the case. Some Shung Him Tong people express doubt or concern as to the ongoing importance of Hakka identity, but this does not mean that we should unconditionally conclude that Hakka identity is becoming obsolete.[1] The economic and political relevance of Hakka ethnicity, as we have seen, varies according to time and place. During the late nineteenth century and the first four decades of the twentieth century, the material advantages associated with belonging to the Hakka church community were substantial. These advantages enabled the people of Shung Him Tong to build houses, schools, a church, and a cemetery and to achieve their goals in the face of opposition from Punti and wealthy Cantonese. But despite a recent decrease in its explicit political and economic relevance, Hakka identity and distinctiveness in Shung Him Tong has not diminished—though it has changed.

In certain situations, the political and economic relevance of Hakka identity is evident (see Basu 1991b; Blake 1975, 1981; Martin 1992; Oxfeld 1993) and can be used to support the instrumentalist view of ethnicity. But such a perspective sheds little light on the contemporary situation of Hakka Christians in Shung Him Tong. The relevance of Hakka identity in Shung Him Tong is not due to its association with traditional occupational niches or contemporary economic concerns. If, as instrumentalists have suggested, ethnicity is to be seen as competition over scarce resources, then the resources are potential Hakka converts and the symbols of Hakka identity.

Although an instrumentalist model does not explain the persistence of Hakka identity or the form it has taken in contemporary Shung Him Tong, it does help to explain why Hakka identity is downplayed in other contexts. In many parts of Hong Kong, as in San Francisco's Chinatown, Hakka believe that Cantonese identity or a generic "Chinese" identity is of greater advantage than Hakka identity in business and commerce. As one Chinese American woman explained, her father never told anyone, including his children, that he was Hakka until after he had retired from his work in San Francisco's Chinatown fish industry. His business networks were not among Hakka people and he believed it would be disadvantageous for his colleagues to know he was Hakka.

Hakka identity is still immediately relevant in Shung Him Tong—and to some extent in the other Hakka churches in Hong Kong and elsewhere—because it is considered an intrinsic factor in the identity of the community. As I have argued in previous chapters, Hakka identity persists in Shung Him Tong because of the way it has been historically constituted and paired with Christianity.

Although only a small proportion of Hakka converted to Christianity during the nineteenth century, their numbers were significant enough for missionaries and Hakka Christians themselves to assert that Hakka converted in greater numbers than other Chinese. In the aftermath of the Taiping Rebellion and the Hakka-Punti wars, Hakka were discriminated against regardless of whether they were directly involved in the rebellion, and many turned to the Basel Missionary Society for support, education, and refuge.

In some cases, turning to the missionaries was likely to have been considered a last resort in an effort for individuals to help their families escape poverty, starvation, and homelessness. Such is the case of the poor, weak, abused, unwanted, and physically handicapped Hakka converts whose biographies are recorded in the Basel Mission Archives (1868a, 1868b, 1874, 1885, 1889; see Appendix 1). Poverty and deprivation were certainly important factors in the conversion of many Hakka, but such an explanation overlooks a number of other important factors that attracted the Hakka to the Basel mission and that resulted from this association.

The fact that the Basel mission was a Hakka church whose missionaries were more receptive to the Hakka and more knowledgeable about them, and who even idealized the Hakka—sometimes exhibiting their own "Hakka pride"—is certain to have played a role in attracting Hakka to their ranks as opposed to those of other missions. Hakka quickly became aware that the Basel mission welcomed them, recruited them as mission workers, and directed its evangelizing efforts in South China almost exclusively toward them. This was different from the Catholic mission in the region, which was not an exclusively Hakka mission. As one man from Shung Him Tong explained, in his native region ofWuhua there was a Catholic mission that had become associated with one particular group of villages. When the Basel missionaries arrived, his grandfather and the other villagers celebrated, because now they too had a group of missionaries to call their own. The Basel mission became known as the "Hakka church," providing—as did the Society of God Worshipers (Kuhn 1977)—an organizational structure drawing on ethnicity, not surname or native place, as one of the main organizing factors.[2]

For the people of Shung Him Tong and many other Basel mission converts and their descendants, Christianity did not serve as a way to escape Hakka ethnic identity but as a way to preserve and celebrate it. Within the context of the church, the meaning of Hakka identity was certainly adjusted, transformed, and to some extent consolidated. But as the case of Shung Him Tong illustrates, there was no question but that the community was conceived of as integrally Hakka, Chinese, and Christian. This community created a degree of Hakka consciousness and reflexivity not commonly found among other Hakka in Hong Kong.[3]

One important factor that explains the persistence of Hakka identity in Shung Him Tong is that the village has always been labeled by Punti, foreign missionaries, government officials, and non-Christian Hakka as a Hakka Christian community. It is thus difficult for Hakka Christians to escape their Hakka identity within the narrow context of Lung Yeuk Tau. Instead, they have taken the alternative route of trying to transform the image of the Hakka. One central feature of Hakka identity in Shung Him Tong is that it entails a reconstruction, or at least a positive reassertion, of the meaning of Hakka identity, rooted in historical examples that at once claim Hakka and Chinese identity. To some extent, this has been the goal of both Christian and non-Christian Hakka leaders and intellectuals. But Hakka Christians such as Pang Lok Sam and Luo Xianglin were in an ideal position to reinvent their identity.

With their better economic and educational situation, Hakka Christian intellectuals have actively advocated a positive Hakka image within their immediate community as well as through their broader ties to the international Hakka community. Their own social and economic positions contradicted the stereotype that Hakka were poor, uneducated, and backward, and so the positive Hakka image took hold. Hakka claims to moral superiority over non-Hakka were reinforced by their belief in proper Christian behavior. History demonstrates Hakka ability to compete with the local Punti, and to establish themselves as respectable, educated, and even elite members of Hong Kong society. The 140th anniversary celebration is a vivid example of a "ritualized" enactment and public production of many of these points as well as an illustration of the broader connection Shung Him Tong has with other Hakka churches, associations, and communities in Taiwan, Canada, Malaysia, and elsewhere.

Non-Hakka in Lung Yeuk Tau and other parts of Hong Kong may still hold on to negative images of the Hakka. Thus many Hakka, including some who grew up in Shung Him Tong but who no longer live there or attend the church, appear to be less committed to their Hakka identities than those who remain connected with the village and a Hakka church. For some it is more meaningful to assimilate into the broader identity of Hong Kong Chinese.

For those who live in Shung Him Tong or belong to the church, to conceive of themselves as Hakka is in part to assert that they are also Chinese. This they do by claiming their legitimate genealogical and blood relations and also by adhering to what they conceive of as "proper" Chinese rules of behavior. What many Chinese lineages aim to do with their genealogies—namely, claim authenticity and status as pure Chinese—Luo and other Hakka historians have attempted to do for all the Hakka. On occasions such as the anniversary of the church, the celebration of the construction of the new church building, and the anniversary of the Tsung Tsin mission, commemorative booklets are published that include articles on the history of the church. The church histories all draw on Pang's history of the community, which in turn draws on individual family histories and genealogies. Similarly, Luo's history of the Hakka draws on Shung Him Tong history. Conversely, the Hakka past is refleeted and reproduced in church history, and consequently the identity of Hakka Christians is situated and well-rooted in a Hakka Chinese past. As one nineteenth-century missionary suggested, Hakka history is "nothing else than an outline history of the Chinese in general" (Piton 1873:225; emphasis in original). The identity of Shung Him Tong Hakka Christians, then, is represented in their various nested histories: they are at once Chinese, Hakka, and Shung Him Tong Christians.

The Chinese identity of Hakka Christians is maintained because the church provides a situation in which the concept of descent and genealogy is reinforced. While the people of Shung Him Tong do not have ancestral halls, they do have a cemetery where the names of the ancestors are preserved and where genealogies are recorded. In a sense, their identity is inscribed in the physical formulation of their community. The village spatial organization commemorates and preserves the connection between past and present. While Hakka Christians of Shung Him Tong may be viewed by their non-Christian neighbors as "unorthodox" Chinese, the Hakka of Shung Him Tong adapt "orthodox" rules of filial piety and ancestor worship into secular expressions of respect and commemoration in everyday life (cf. Liu 1990). Like many other Chinese, some Hakka Christians of Shung Him Tong maintain contact with their Christian and non-Christian kin in the People's Republic of China. They preserve genealogies and express faith in moral righteousness as key issues in their claim to Chinese identity, but they do so as Christians.

The people of Shung Him Tong maintain their Hakka, Chinese, and Christian identities, but not without some ambivalence. During the Chinese New Year in 1987 I was invited to share a meal with a prominent Shung Him Tong family. The young woman of the house greeted me and, when I presented her with a box of sweets and a bag of oranges, she commented that I had "learned Chinese customs very well." She proceeded to offer me a variety of colorful new year snacks—candied fruits and seeds—from the special partitioned bowl designed for this occasion. Among its contents were lotus seeds, which she encouraged me to eat because they symbolize fertility and the prospective birth of many sons. During the meal the family explained the symbolic significance of the various dishes as bestowing longevity, success in business, stability in marriage, and so on. As the evening progressed the family described various new year "superstitions," and the young woman's father commented that I would find few traditional Chinese customs in Shung Him Tong, "because," he said, "we are not Chinese and we are not European. We are somewhere in between."

This statement can be interpreted in a number of ways. On one level it indicates his ambivalence toward his Chinese identity. It also illustrates that the people of Shung Him Tong are in an unusual marginal position—they are neither Chinese nor western, but something in between. His statement expresses a point I have tried to emphasize in this book, that combining Hakka, Chinese, and Christian identities is not straightforward and does not result in an entirely comfortable fusion, but rather one that is constantly reasserted and renegotiated within the context of the church and village.

A conversation I had with a Swiss missionary is also illustrative. We were discussing the disapproval several Shung Him Tong people expressed toward their non-Christian neighbors' religious practices—things like making offerings to the gods, worshiping at temples, setting up ancestral altars in their homes, and even hanging lucky papers at the Chinese New Year. The missionary voiced with regret his belief that the early missionaries, in their zeal to establish the church without "indigenizing" it, caused Hakka Christians to "become ashamed of being Chinese."

Unlike the Swiss missionary, I did not come to this conclusion. The people of Shung Him Tong may be "ashamed" or "embarrassed" by certain Chinese customs, but they are proud of being Chinese. Their criticism and rejection of certain non-Christian religious practices—those they cannot reconcile with their Christian beliefs—in part allows them to retain other Chinese beliefs and practices and thus maintain their Chinese identity. Beliefs and practices such asfeng-shui and filial piety are rationalized and retained despite the Christian orthodoxy that the people of Shung Him Tong have inherited from the early Basel missionaries.

The relationship between Christian and Chinese practices, like that between Chinese and Christian identities, has not been free of tension. It has required that Hakka Christians continue to define and redefine, to justify and rationalize their Hakka, Chinese, and Christian practices. This process hinges, I have argued, on Hakka identity and the construction of its relationship to Christianity and Chinese identity. A Hakka Chinese missionary from Taiwan in the 1970s wrote that the relative failure of Protestant missions among the Hakka in Taiwan has been because "'becoming Christian' has come to mean 'leaving our beloved Hakka people'" (Liao 1972:7). In Shung Him Tong, and to some extent in other related Hakka churches, one can argue just the opposite.




Notes:

1. Hakka identity in Taiwan provides an important lesson. As little as a decade ago, Hakka identity there appeared to be on the decline, but it has since made a striking comeback. Before 1986, Martin writes, ethnic consciousness in Taiwan was such that scholars "rightly collapsed the different ethnic origins of the Taiwanese population" and depicted Taiwan's Hakka, Hokkien, and aborigines all as native Taiwanese (1992:2). Today, Taiwan Hakka have organized into an active political movement. Martin asserts it is "no longer possible to discuss ethnicity in Taiwan without distinguishing Hokkien, Hakka and aborigines from one another" (1992:2).

2. That a nontraditional association has become the basis for the perpetuation and transformation of Hakka identity is not what some scholars might expect. J. Hsieh provides us with an interesting point of contrast. His work among Huizhuo Hakka associations in Hong Kong suggests that because Chinese voluntary organizations are based on traditional principles of locality, kinship, and occupation, they "not only constitute a modernizing agency for better adaptation to modern situations, but also work as a mechanism for perpetuating and preserving Hakka tradition" (1985:157). In accord with the point made by Shack in his work among ethnic groups in Ethiopia (1973), the case of Hakka Christians shows that ethnic identity can also persist and be perpetuated by nontraditional urban voluntary associations.

3. Just as the Hausa who live in Yoruba towns in Nigeria and who have adopted the Tijaniya religion to strengthen their identity (A. Cohen 1969), so the Hakka Christians described in this book have taken on a "new" religious identity to strengthen their ethnic identity. The difference between Cohen's study and my own is that Cohen uses the Hausa case to support an instrumentalist argument that ethnicity persists because it serves economic interests.

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