Hakka people

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"Hakka" redirects here. For the Maori chant and dance, see Haka. For other uses, see Hakka (disambiguation).
客家 Hak-kâ
Hakka Notable People.png
Total population
estimated 80 million worldwide[2]
Regions with significant populations
mainland China (Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi), Taiwan, Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore), Hong Kong, Macau, other East Asian countries, Australia, North America, Europe
Hakka Chinese + language(s) of their country of residence
Predominantly Chinese folk religions (which include Taoism, Confucianism, and ancestral worship) with Mahayana Buddhism, minority Christianity and others.
Related ethnic groups
Other Han Chinese groups
Hakka people
Chinese 客家
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 客人

The Hakka (Chinese: 客家), sometimes Hakka Han,[1][3] are Han Chinese people who speak Hakka Chinese and have links to the provincial areas of Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Sichuan, Hunan and Fujian in China. Though the majority of the Hakka live in Guangdong, they have a distinct identity from the Cantonese people.

The Chinese characters for Hakka (客家) literally mean "guest families".[4] The Hakka's ancestors were often said to have arrived from what is today's central China centuries ago and north China a thousand years ago. The Hakkas are thought to originate from the lands bordering the Yellow River (i.e., the modern northern Chinese provinces of Shanxi, Henan, and Hubei).[5] In a series of migrations, the Hakkas moved, settled in their present locations in south China, and then often migrated overseas to various countries throughout the world.[6] The worldwide population of Hakkas is about 80 million, though the number of Hakka speakers is smaller.[2] Hakka people have had a significant influence on the course of Chinese and world history; in particular, they have been a source of many revolutionary, government and military leaders.[7]

Origins, migrations and group identification[edit]

Hakka distribution in mainland China and Taiwan

It is commonly held that the Hakka are a subgroup of the Han Chinese that originated in northern China.[8][9] To trace their origins, three accepted theories so far have been brought forth among anthropologists, linguists, and historians:[10] firstly, the Hakka are Han Chinese originating solely from the Central Plain in China containing today's Shanxi and Henan provinces;[10] secondly, the Hakka are Han Chinese from the Central Plain, with some inflow of those already in the south;[10] or, thirdly, the majority of the Hakka are Han Chinese from the south, with portions coming from those in the north.[10]

The latter two theories are the most likely and are together supported by multiple scientific studies.[9][10][11] Clyde Kiang stated that the Hakka's origins may also be linked with the Han's ancient neighbors, the Dongyi and Xiongnu people.[12] This is disputed, however, by many scholars and Kiang's theories are considered controversial.[13]

Hakka–Chinese scientist and researcher Dr. Siu-Leung Lee states in the book by Chung Yoon-Ngan The Hakka Chinese: Their Origin, Folk Songs And Nursery Rhymes, which takes on the subject with a more mediatory approach, avoiding polarizing political and racial claims and insinuations, explains that the potential Hakka origins from the northern Han and Xiongnu, and that of the indigenous southern She (畬族) and Yue (越族) tribes, "are all correct, yet none alone explain the origin of the Hakka"; pointing out that the problem with "DNA typing" on limited numbers of people within population pools cannot correctly ascertain who are really the southern Chinese, because many southern Chinese are also from northern Asia; Hakka or non-Hakka.[14] It is known that the earliest major waves of Hakka migration began due to the attacks of the two afore-mentioned tribes during the Jin dynasty (265–420).[15]

Since the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), the ancestors of the Hakka have migrated southwards several times because of social unrest, upheaval and invasions.[5] Subsequent migrations also occurred at the end of the Tang dynasty in the 10th century and during the end of the Northern Song dynasty in the 1120s, the last of which saw a massive flood of refugees fleeing southward when the Jurchens captured the northern Song capital of Bianliang (modern-day Kaifeng) in the Jingkang Incident of the Jin–Song Wars.[clarification needed] The precise movements of the Hakka people remain unclear during the 14th century when the Ming dynasty overthrew the Yuan and subsequently fell to the Manchus who formed the Qing dynasty in the 17th century.

During the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1661–1722) in the Qing Dynasty, the coastal regions were evacuated by imperial edict for almost a decade, due to the dangers posed by the remnants of the Ming court who had fled to the island of Taiwan. When the threat was eliminated, the Kangxi Emperor issued an edict to re-populate the coastal regions. To aid the move, each family was given monetary incentives to begin their new lives; newcomers were registered as "Guest Households" (客戶, kèhù).


The existing Cantonese-speaking inhabitants (Punti or 本地, indigenous or "original land") of these areas were protective of their own more fertile lands, and the newcomers were pushed to the outer fringes of fertile plains, despite having migrated legitimately, or they settled in more mountainous regions to eke out a living. Conflict between the two groups grew and it is thought that "Hakka" became a term of derision used by the Punti aimed at the newcomers. Eventually, the tension between the two groups (the Hakkas had by then been settled for several hundred years and could not be regarded as migrants in any sense) would lead to a series of 19th-century skirmishes in the Pearl River Delta known as the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (土客械鬥). The problem was not that the two groups spoke a different tongue. In fact, the "locals" comprised different peoples speaking several mutually unintelligible tongues, as was typical of the Chinese countryside all over southern China, but they would regard each other as "locals" or Puntis, but exclude the Hakka from such designation.

The term "Punti" is not synonymous with "Cantonese", as Cantonese people in any other part of China, Beijing for example, would not be able to call themselves "Punti", as the Punti of that area would be the Beijing or Hebei people.

Over time the newcomers adopted the term "Hakka" to refer to themselves, not least due to the migratory tendencies inherent in their own culture. However, because the term also covers Hakka speakers (in the same way that Punti covered several people speaking different tongues), and because the Han Chinese registered as Guest Families who migrated may not have been Hakka speakers, and because of intermarriages among Hakka and Punti members (which showed that relations between the two were very good at times) identification as Hakka was largely a matter of self-selection. Through studies of both Cantonese and Hakka genealogies, some Hakka and Punti people with the same surnames claim the same ancestors, although their descendants strongly identify with one group to the exclusion of the other.

Other areas[edit]

The Hakka ancestors are but one of many groups that migrated to other parts of southern China, retaining cultural similarities yet picking up linguistic features of the areas where they settled. Outside of Guangdong, Hakka people live in the southern Chinese provinces, including south-western Fujian, southern Jiangxi, southern Hunan, Guangxi, southern Guizhou, south-eastern Sichuan, and on Hainan and Taiwan islands, where there are television news-broadcasts in Hakka Chinese. The Hakka dialects across these regions differ phonologically, but Meixian (Meizhou) Hakka is considered to be the prestige dialect by linguists.[16]


Although different in some social customs and culture (e.g., linguistic differences) from the surrounding population, they belong to the Han Chinese majority. Historical sources shown in census statistics relate only to the general population, irrespective of particular districts, provinces, or regions. These census counts were made during imperial times. They did not distinguish what Chinese variety the population spoke. Therefore, they do not directly document Hakka migrations. The study by Lo Hsiang-lin, K'o-chia Yen-chiu Tao-Liu / An Introduction to the Study of the Hakkas (Hsin-Ning & Singapore, 1933) used genealogical sources of family clans from various southern counties.

According to the 2009 studies published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Hakka genes are slightly tilted[clarify] towards northern Han people compared with other southern Han people.[11] Nevertheless, the study has also shown a strong common genetic relationship between all Han Chinese with only a small difference of 0.32%.[11] Lingnan Hakka place names indicate a long history of the Hakka being culturally Han Chinese.[17]

Social and cultural influences[edit]

Hakka culture is an important part of Southern Chinese culture. Taiwan's Hakka Affairs Council declared February 20 "Hakka Day".[18]

Due to their agrarian lifestyle, Hakka have a unique architecture based on defense and communal living (see Hakka architecture), and a hearty savory cuisine based on an equal balance between texturised meat and vegetables, and fresh vegetables (see the Food section below).

When Hakka expanded into areas with pre-existing populations, there was often little agricultural land left for them to farm. As a result, many Hakka men turned towards careers in the military or in public service. Consequently, the Hakka culturally emphasized education.

Hakka people built several types of tulou and fortified villages in the southwestern Fujian and adjacent areas of Jiangxi and Guangdong. A representative sample of Fujian Tulou (consisting of 10 buildings or building groups) in Fujian were inscribed in 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[19]

Historically, Hakka women did not bind their feet when the practice was commonplace in China.[20]

Martial arts[edit]

The Hakka community is also a source for a variety of martial arts including Southern Praying Mantis, Bak Mei and Southern Dragon Kung Fu.


Main article: Hakka Chinese

Hakka Chinese is the native Chinese variety of the Hakka people. In Taiwan, the Ministry of Education named "Taiwanese Hakka Chinese" as one of the languages of Taiwan.[21]


In China, China National Radio's Easy radio (神州之声) has a Hakka Chinese radio break. In Taiwan, there are seven Hakka Chinese radio channels.

Hakka TV was the first Hakka Chinese TV channel in the world. Meizhou TV-2 was the first Hakka Chinese TV channel in China.


Typical traditional hillside tombs. Hukeng Town, Yongding County, Fujian

The religious practices of Hakka people are almost identical to those of other Han Chinese. Ancestor veneration is the primary form of religious expression.[22]


Main article: Hakka cuisine

The Hakka people have a marked cuisine and style of Chinese cooking which is little known outside the Hakka home. It concentrates on the texture of food – the hallmark of Hakka cuisine. Whereas preserved meats feature in Hakka delicacy, stewed, braised, roast meats – 'texturized' contributions to the Hakka palate – have a central place in their repertoire. In fact, the raw materials for Hakka food are no different from raw materials for any other type of regional Chinese cuisine: what you cook depends on what is available in the market. Hakka cuisine may be described as outwardly simple but tasty. The skill in Hakka cuisine lies in the ability to cook meat thoroughly without hardening it, and to naturally bring out the proteinous flavour (umami taste) of meat.

The Hakka who settled in the harbour and port areas of Hong Kong placed great emphasis on seafood cuisine. Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong is less dominated by expensive meats; instead, emphasis is placed on an abundance of vegetables. Pragmatic and simple, Hakka cuisine is garnished lightly with sparse or little flavouring. Modern Hakka cooking in Hong Kong favours offal, an example being Deep-Fried Intestines (炸大腸 or Zha Da Chang). Others include tofu with preservatives, along with their signature dish Salt Baked Chicken (鹽焗雞 or Ham Guk Gai). Another specialty is the Poon choi (盆菜).[23] While it may be difficult to prove these were the actual diets of the old Hakka community, it is at present a commonly accepted view. The above dishes and their variations are in fact found and consumed throughout China including Guangdong, and are not particularly unique or confined to the Hakka Chinese population.

Besides meat as source of protein, there is a very unique vegan dish call lei cha (擂茶). It comprises combinations of vegetables and beans. Although not specifically unique for all Hakka people but are definitely famous among the Hakka-Hopo families. This vegetable based rice tea dish is gaining momentum among others especially in multicultural country like in Malaysia. Cooking of this dish requires the help from others family members to complete all eight combinations. It helps foster the relationship between family members in return.

Mainland China[edit]

Meizhou Prefecture (in yellow) in Guangdong Province, where Xingning and Meixian are located


Hakka who live in Guangdong comprise about 60% of the total Hakka population. Worldwide, over 95% of the overseas-descended Hakka came from this Guangdong region, usually from Meizhou and Heyuan: Hakka there live mostly in the northeast part of the province, particularly in the so-called Xing-Mei (Xingning-Meixian) area. Jiangxi contains the second largest Hakka community. Unlike their kin in Fujian, Hakka in the Xingning and Meixian area developed a non-fortress-like unique architectural style, most notably the weilongwu (Chinese: 圍龍屋, wéilóngwū or Hakka: Wui Lung Wuk) and sijiaolou (Chinese: 四角樓, sìjǐaolóu or Hakka: Si Kok Liu).


Tradition states that the early Hakka ancestors traveling from north China entered Fujian first, then by way of the Ting River they traveled to Guangdong and other parts of China, as well as overseas. Thus, the Tingjiang River is also regarded as the Hakka Mother River.

The Hakka who settled in the mountainous region of south-western Fujian province developed a unique form of architecture known as the tulou (土樓), literally meaning earthen structures. The tulou are round or square and were designed as a combined large fortress and multi-apartment building complex. The structures typically had only one entrance-way, with no windows at ground level. Each floor served a different function: the first floor contained a well and livestock, the second food storage, and the third and higher floors living spaces. Tulou were built to withstand attack from bandits and marauders.


Nearly all of southern Jiangxi province is Hakka, especially in Ganzhou. In the Song Dynasty, a large number of Han Chinese migrated to the delta area as the Court moved southward because invasion of northern minority. They lived in Jiangxi and intermixed with the She and Yao minorities. Ganzhou was the place that the Hakka have settled before migrating to western Fujian and eastern Guangdong. During the early Qing Dynasty, a massive depopulation in Gannan due to the ravage of pestilence and war. However, while western Fujian and eastern Guangdong suffered population explosion at that time. Some edicts were issued to block the coastal areas, ordering coastal residents to move to the inland. The population pressure and the sharp contradiction of the land redistribution drove a few residents to leave. Some of them moved back to Gannan, integrating with other Hakka people who lived there already for generations. Thus, the modern Gannan Hakka community was finally formed.[24]


The Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722), after a tour of the land, decided the province of Sichuan had to be repopulated after the devastation caused by Zhang Xianzhong. Seeing the Hakka were living in poverty in the coastal regions in Guangdong province, the emperor encouraged the Hakka in the south to emigrate to Sichuan province. He offered financial assistance to those willing to resettle in Sichuan: eight ounces of silver per man and four ounces per woman or child.


As with those in Sichuan, many Hakka emigrated to Xinyang prefecture (in southern Henan province), where Li Zicheng carried out a massacre in Guangzhou (now in Huangchuan) on Jan. 17th, 1636.[25]


In the latter half of the 20th century, a stronger emphasis has been placed on Hakka preservation through folk art and customs. A Hakka dictionary has also been completed auspiciously in 1997 by Dr. C.F. Lau ISBN 962-201-750-9, a devoted contributor to the preservation of Hakka Chinese in Hong Kong.

Hakka worldwide[edit]

The Hakka have emigrated to many regions worldwide, notably Taiwan, Suriname, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, East Timor and Burma.

Hakka people also emigrated to Australia, Brunei, Canada, the United States, and to many countries in Europe, including Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Hakka people also are found in South Africa and Mauritius, on the islands of the Caribbean (Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago), and in Central and South America, particularly in Panama and Brazil. Most expatriate Hakka in Great Britain have ties to Hong Kong; many emigrated when Hong Kong still was a British colony during a period coinciding with the Cultural Revolution of China and economic depression in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong[edit]

During the late Ming and Qing dynasties, Hong Kong was in the imperial district of Xin-An (now Shenzhen) County.[26] The 1819 gazetteer lists 570 Punti and 270 Hakka contemporary settlements in the whole district.[27] However, the area covered by Xin-An county is greater than what was to become the British imperial enclave of Hong Kong by 1899. Although there had been settlers originating from the mainland proper even before the Tang dynasty, historical records of those people are non-extant, only evidence of settlement from archaeological sources can be found.[28] The New Territories lowland areas had been settled originally by several clan lineages in Kam Tin, Sheung Shui, Fanling, Yuen Long, Lin Ma Hang and Tai Po, and hence termed the Punti before the arrival of the Hakka, and fishing families of the Tanka and Hoklo groups to the area.[29] Since the prime farming land had already been farmed, the Hakka land dwellers settled in the less accessible and more hilly areas. Hakka settlements can be found widely distributed around the Punti areas, but in smaller communities. Many are found on coastal areas in inlets and bays surrounded by hills.

Hakka dialect speaking communities are thought to have arrived in the Hong Kong area after the rescinding of the coastal evacuation order in 1688,[30] such as the Hakka speaking Lee clan lineage of Wo Hang, one of whose ancestors is recorded as arriving in the area in 1688.

As the strong Punti lineages dominated most of the north western New Territories, Hakka communities began to organise local alliances of lineage communities such as the Sha Tau Kok Alliance of Ten or Shap Yeuk as Patrick Hase writes.[30] Hakka villages from Wo Hang to the west and Yantian to the east of Sha Tau Kok came to use it as a local market town and it became the center of Hakka dominance. Further, the Shap Yeuk's land reclamation project transforming marshland to arable farmland with the creation of dykes and levees to prevent storm flooding during the early 19th century shows an example of how local cooperation and the growing affluence of the landed lineages in the Alliance of Ten provided the strong cultural, socioeconomic Hakka influence on the area.

Farming and cultivation has been the traditional occupations of Hakka families from imperial times up until the 1970s. Farming was mostly done by Hakka women while their menfolk sought labouring jobs in the towns and cities. Many men entered indentured labour abroad as was common from the end of the 19th century to the Second World War. Post war, males took the opportunity to seek work in Britain and other countries later to send for their families to join them once they sent enough money back to cover travel costs.

As post war education became available to all children in Hong Kong, a new educated class of Hakka became more mobile in their careers. Many moved to the government planned new towns which sprung up from the 1960s. The rural Hakka population began to decline as people moved abroad, and away to work in the urban areas. By the end of the 1970s, agriculture was firmly in the decline in Hakka villages.[31] Today, there are still Hakka villages around Hong Kong, but being remote, many of their inhabitants have moved to the post war new towns like Sheung Shui, Tai Po, Sha Tin and further afield.

Due to the influence of Cantonese, there are few young Hakka people who speak Hakka Chinese for daily conversations in Hong Kong. For the middle age and elder Hakka people, they may speak Hakka Chinese for daily conversations within their society, or family.


There used to be sizable Hakka communities at Tangra in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, and Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. However, starting from the 1960s, when the Vietnam War broke out, there has been a steady migration to other countries, which accelerated in the succeeding decades. The majority moved to Canada, while others went to the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Austria and Sweden. The predominant Hakka dialect of these communities is Meixian.

It should be noted that during the time he held office in Kolkata until the late 2000s, Yap Kon Chung, an ambassador for The Republic of China (Taiwan), protected and helped the Chinese residents in India. Specifically, during the Indo-Chinese war of 1962, oppression of Sino-Indian residents was escalated. Mr. Yap then made appeals to Prime Minister Nehru to bridge a bond between the Indian and Chinese people. During his office, he was also a principal at a highly regarded school as well as a political facilitator who helped many families migrate to other countries such as Canada, the United States and parts of Europe until he himself migrated to Toronto, Canada to join his family. Mr. Yap died surrounded by family on April 18, 2014, at the age of 97.


Indonesia Hakka Museum in Jakarta.

Migration of Hakka people to Indonesia happened in several waves. The first wave landed in Riau Islands such as in Bangka Island and Belitung as tin miners in the 18th century. The second group of colonies were established along the Kapuas River in Borneo in the 19th century, predecessor to early Singapore residents. In the early 20th century, new arrivals joined their compatriots as traders, merchants and labourers in major cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, etc.

In Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Hakka people are sometimes known as Khek, from the Hokkien (Minnan) pronunciation kheh of 客 (Hakka: hak). However, the use of the word 'Khek' is limited mainly to areas where the local Chinese population is mainly of Hokkien origin. In places where other Chinese subgroups predominate, the term 'Hakka' is still the more commonly used.


Hakka also live in Indonesia's largest tin producer islands of Bangka Belitung province. They are the second majority ethnic group after Malay. The Hakka population in the province is also the second largest in Indonesia after West Kalimantan's and one of the highest percentages of Chinese living in Indonesia.

The first group of Hakka in Bangka and Belitung reached the islands in the 18th century from Guangdong. Many of them worked as tin mining labourers. Since then, they have remained on the island along with the native Malay. Their situation was much different from those of Chinese and native populations of other regions, where legal cultural conflicts were prevalent since the 1960s until 1999, by which Indonesian Chinese had finally regained their cultural freedoms. Here they lived together peacefully and still practiced their customs and cultural festivals, while in other regions they were strictly banned by government legislation prior to 1999.[32] Hakka on the island of Bangka spoke Hopo dialect mixed with Malay, especially in younger generations. Hakka spoken in Belinyu area in Bangka is considered to be standard.

West Borneo[edit]

Hakka people in Pontianak live alongside Teochew speaking Chinese. While the Teochews are dominant in the centre of Pontianak, the Hakka are more dominant in small towns along the Kapuas River in the regencies of Sanggau, Sekadau and Sintang. Their Hakka dialect is originally Hopo which influenced by Teochew dialect and also has vocabulary from the local Malay and Dayak tribes. The Hakka were instrumental in the Lanfang Republic.

The Hakka in this region are descendants of gold prospectors who migrated from China in the late 19th century.

The Hakka in Singkawang and the surrounding regencies of Sambas, Bengkayang, Ketapang and Landak speak a different standard of Hakka dialect to the Hakkas along the Kapuas River. Originally West Borneo has diverse Hakka origin but during the 19th century, a large people came from Jiexi so more Hakkas in the region speak Hopo mixed with Wuhua and Huilai accents that eventually formed the dialect of Singkawang Hakka.[33]


Hakka people in Jakarta mainly have Meizhou origin who came in the 19th century. Secondary migration of the Hakkas from other provinces like Bangka Belitung and West Borneo came later.

East Timor[edit]

There was already a relatively large and vibrant Hakka community in East Timor before the 1975 Indonesian invasion. According to an estimate by the local Chinese Timorese association, the Hakka population of Portuguese Timor in 1975 was estimated to be around 25,000 (including a small minority of other Chinese ethnicities from Macau, which like East Timor was a Portuguese colony). According to a book source, an estimated 700 Hakka were killed within the first week of invasion in Dili alone. No clear numbers had been recorded since many Hakka had already escaped to neighbouring Australia. The recent re-establishment of Hakka associations in the country registered approximately 2,400 Hakka remaining, organised into some 400 families, including part-Timorese ones.

The Timorese Hakka diaspora can currently be found in Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia; in Portugal; in Macau; and in other parts of the world in smaller numbers. They often are highly educated, and many continue their education in either Taiwan or the People's Republic of China, while a majority of the younger generation prefer to study in Australia. The Australian government took some years to assess their claims to be genuine refugees and not illegal immigrants, as partially related to the political situation in East Timor at the time. As Asian countries were neither willing to accept them as residents nor grant them political asylum to the Timorese in general, they were forced to live as stateless persons for some time. Despite this condition, many Hakka had become successful, establishing restaurant chains, shops, supermarkets, and import operations in Australia. Since the independence of East Timor in 2000, some Hakka families had returned and invested in businesses in the newborn nation.


Hakka form the second largest subgroup of the ethnic Chinese population of Malaysia. During this time, Chung Keng Quee, "Captain China" of Perak and Penang was founder of Taiping, leader of the Hai San, a millionaire philanthropist, an innovator in the mining of tin and was respected by both Chinese and European communities in the early colonial settlement. A well known Hakka man was Yap Ah Loy, a Kapitan Cina in Kuala Lumpur from 1868 to 1885, where he brought significant economic contributions, founded Kuala Lumpur and also was an influential figure among the ethnic Chinese. There are also less significant numbers of Hakka people in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, particularly in the town of Miri where there is a notable population of Hakka people who speak the "Ho Poh" variant of Hakka. In the district of Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, Hakka people make up more than 90% of the Chinese subgroup and the dialect itself acts as a lingua franca there. This has contributed greatly to the fact that the place is commonly known among Hakka Chinese as "Hakka Village".

The greatest concentration of Hakkas in northern peninsular Malaysia is in Ipoh, Perak and in Kuala Lumpur and its satellite cities in Selangor; however, even in areas of Hakka majority amongst the Chinese in these areas, Cantonese tends to be used as a lingua franca when conducting business or eating out whereas the Hakka Chinese is generally only spoken locally or at home. Concentrations of Hakka people in Ipoh and surrounding areas are particularly high.


In the Bornean state of Sabah, most of the ethnic Chinese are of Hakka descent. According to the 1991 census, there were 113000 Hakkas in the state. This constituted 57% of the total ethnic Chinese population in Sabah. The second largest Chinese subgroup were the Cantonese with only 28000 persons.[34] Most of the Hakkas in Sabah speak with the Huiyang accent (Hakka: Fuiyong, 惠陽). Hakka is the lingua franca among the Chinese in Sabah to such an extent that Chinese of other subgroups who migrate to Sabah from other states in Malaysia and elsewhere usually learn the Hakka dialect, with varying degrees of fluency.

In 1882 the North Borneo Chartered Company opted to bring in Hakka labourers from Longchuan County, Guangdong. The first batch of 96 Hakkas brought to Sabah landed in Kudat on April 4, 1883 under the leadership of Luo Tai Feng (Hakka: Lo Tai Fung). In the following decades Hakka immigrants settled throughout the state, with their main population centres in Kota Kinabalu (then known as Jesselton), Sandakan (mainly ex-Taiping revolutionists), Tawau and Kudat. The British felt the development of North Borneo was too slow and in 1920 they decided to encourage Hakka immigration into Sabah.[34] In 1901, the total Chinese population in Sabah was 13897; by 1911, it had risen 100% to 27801.[35] Hakka immigration began to taper off during World War 2 and declined to a negligible level in the late 1940s.


Most Chinese Jamaicans are Hakka; they have a long history in Jamaica. Between 1845 and 1884, nearly 5000 Hakka arrived in Jamaica in three major voyages. The Hakka seized the opportunity to venture into a new land, embracing the language, customs, and culture. During the 1960s and 1970s, substantial migration of Hakka Jamaican Chinese to the USA and Canada occurred.[36]


The vast majority of Mauritian Chinese are Hakkas. Most of the Mauritian Hakkas emigrated to Mauritius in the mid-1940s came from the Guangdong province, especially from the Meizhou or Meixian region.

As of 2008, the total population of Sino-Mauritian, consisting of Hakka and Cantonese, is around 35,000.


Main article: Chinois (Réunion)

Many Chinese people in Réunion are of Hakka origin.[37] They either came to Réunion as indentured workers or as voluntary migrants.[37] Today, most do not speak Hakka Chinese.[37]


The Hakka population in Taiwan is around 4.6 million people today.[38] Hakka people comprise about 15 to 20% of the population of Taiwan and form the second-largest ethnic group on the island. They are descended largely from Hakka who migrated from southern and northern Guangdong to Taiwan around the end of the Ming dynasty and the beginning of the Qing dynasty (ca. 1644).[5] The early Hakka immigrants were the island's first agriculturalists and formed the nucleus of the Chinese population, numbering tens of thousands at the time.[39] They resided in "savage border districts, where land could be had for the taking, and where a certain freedom from official oppression was ensured."[40] During the Qing era, the Hakka on Taiwan had gained a reputation with the authorities of being turbulent and lawless.[41]

Taiwan's Hakka population concentrates in Hsinchu and Hsinchu County, Miaoli County, and around Zhongli District in Taoyuan City, and Meinong District in Kaohsiung, and in Pingtung County, with smaller presences in Hualien County and Taitung County. In recent decades,[when?] many Hakka have moved to the largest metropolitan areas, including Taipei and Taichung.

Approximately half of the population of Hakka in Taiwan also speaks Taiwanese Hokkien, and it is highly likely[original research?] that many Taiwanese-speaking households descend from Hakka families.


In 2006, a Taiwanese political party, the Hakka Party, was founded to represent the Hakka people and their interests in Taiwan.


There are no records as to when Hakka descendants arrived in Thailand. In 1901, Mr. Yu Cipeng, a Hakka member of The League Society of China came to visit Thailand and found that the establishment of many varied organizations among the Hakka was not good for unity. So, he tried to bring the two parties together and persuaded them to dissolve the associations in order to set up a new united one. In 1909 "The Hakka Society of Siam" was established, and Chao Phraya Yommarat, then Interior Minister, was invited to preside over the opening ceremony for the establishment of the society's nameplate, located in front of the Chinese shrine "Lee Tee Biao". Mr. Yang Liqing was its first President.[42]

United States[edit]

Hakka from all over the world have also migrated to the USA. One group is the New England Hakka Association, which reminds its members to not forget their roots. One example is a blog by Ying Han Brach called "Searching for My Hakka Roots".[43] Another group is the Hakka Association of New York, which aims to promote Hakka culture across the five boroughs of New York City.[44] In the mid 1970s the Hakka Benevolent Association in San Francisco was founded by Mr. Tu Chung. The association has strong ties with the San Francisco community and offers scholarships to their young members.


In Vietnam, Hakka people are known as "Người Hẹ" and were made up largely by the 唐 (Mandarin: Tang; Cantonese: Tong; Vietnamese: Đường) families located around the Sài Gòn and Vũng Tàu areas. In Vũng Tàu, one of the most recognizable Hakka merchants was Mr. 唐玉魁 (Đường Ngọc Huy), founder and owner of Nam Nguyên company. Mr. 唐玉魁 managed the company alongside his wife Mrs. 周玉燕 (Châu Ngọc Yến) until 1980. In February 1989, Mr. 唐玉魁 and family migrated to America and lived in San Diego/California.

Children: 唐世云 (Đường Thế Dân) in San Diego/California/U.S., Đường Thế Hiền in San Francisco/California/U.S., Đường Nhật Hồng in San Diego/California/U.S., Đường Phí Nguyệt in Anaheim/California/U.S., Đường Thụy Phương in Canada, 唐世明 (Đường Thế Minh) in Australia, and Đường Thế Kiệt in Anaheim/California/U.S.

唐世云 (Đường Thế Dân) family: wife Trương Xiếu Lan and four children Đường Thúy Châu, Đường Thuý Ngọc, 唐俊英 (Đường TuấnAnh (Andy)), Đường Tuấn Phong.


The population of the Hakka people was estimated to be some 30 million Hakka worldwide in the early 1990s.[45]

At a 1994 seminar of the World Hakka Association held in Meixian, statistics showed that there were 6,562,429 Hakkas living abroad.[15] The countries that were represented included Malaysia, with the largest number of Hakka numbering 125,000. The second was Thailand, which had a Hakka population of 55,000. The rest were America (28,400), Singapore (20,000), Peru (20,000), Britain (15,200), Vietnam (15,000), Jamaica (10,000), Canada (8,000), Burma (5,500), Australia (4,300), Mauritius (3,500), France (3,000), India (2,500), South Africa (2,500), and Korea (2,000)[15]

In 2000 the worldwide population of Hakka was estimated at 36,059,500 and in 2010 it was estimated at 40,745,200.[citation needed]

Another estimate is that approximately 36 million Hakka people are scattered throughout the world. More than 31 million inhabit over 200 cities and counties spread throughout seven provinces of China: Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Fujian, Hong Kong, Hunan. An additional two million Hakka live in Taiwan, 1.4 million in Malaysia and 170,000 in Singapore.[46]

Revolutionary, political and military leadership[edit]

The Hakkas have had a significant influence, disproportionate to their smaller total numbers, on the course of Chinese and overseas Chinese history, particularly as a source of revolutionary, political and military leaders.[20]

Hakkas started and formed the backbone of the Taiping Rebellion,[47] the largest uprising in the modern history of China. The uprising, also known as Jintian Uprising (金田起义), originated at the Hakka village of Jintian in Guiping, Guangxi province. It was led by the failed Qing scholar, Hong Xiuquan, who was influenced by Protestant missionaries. Hong's charisma tapped into a consciousness of national dissent which identified with his personal interpretations of the Christian message. His following, who were initially Hakka peasants from Guangxi, grew across the southern provinces. The hugely disciplined Taiping army, which included women in their ranks, captured stoutly defended towns and cities from the Qing defenders. Four of the six key Taiping leaders are Hakkas: Hong Xiuquan, Feng Yunshan, Yang Xiuqing and Shi Dakai. In 1851, less than a year after the uprising, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (太平天国) was established. It had, at one stage, occupied one-third of China and almost toppled the Qing Dynasty. Hong Rengan, the Premier of the Kingdom, was the first person in China to advocate modern-style government and opening-up reforms. The kingdom lasted for thirteen years from 1851 to 1864.

Hakkas continued to play leading roles during the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty and the republican years of China. When Sun Yat-sen was small, together with other children in his village, he used to listen to an old Taiping soldier telling them stories about the heroics of the Taipings.[48] This influenced Sun and he proclaimed that he shall be the second Hong Xiuquan. Sun was to become the Father of modern China and many of his contemporaries were his fellow Hakkas. Charlie Soong, a businessman and close friend of Sun, provided the main financial support and raising of funds for the revolutionary movement.[49] Zheng Shiliang, a medical student and classmate of Sun, led the Huizhou Uprising (惠州起义) in 1900. Huizhou is an area in Guangdong province where most of the population are Hakkas. Zou Rong's deeply patriotic book, "The Revolutionary Army" (革命军), written in 1903, was widely read and had a profound influence on the revolutionary movement. Deng Zhiyu led the Huizhou Qinuhu Uprising (惠州七女湖起义) in 1907. All of the Four Martyrs of Honghuagang (红花岗四烈士) are Hakkas - one of which was Wen Shengcai who assassinated the Manchu general, Fu Qi, in 1911.[50] Brothers Hsieh Yi-qiao and Hsieh Liang-mu raised the 100,000 Chinese Yuan needed for the Huanghuagang Uprising (黄花岗起义) from the overseas Chinese community in Nanyang (Southeast Asia) in 1911.[51] At least 27 of the 85 (initially 72 because only 72 bodies could be identified) martyrs of Huanghuagang (黄花岗七十二烈士) are Hakkas. Yao Yuping led the Guangdong Northern Expeditionary Force (广东北伐军) to successive victories against the Qing Army which were vital in the successful defence of the Provisional Government in Nanjing and the early abdication of Xuan Tong Emperor.[52] Liao Zhongkai and Deng Keng were Sun Yat-sen's main advisors on financial and military matters respectively. A big majority of the soldiers in the Guangdong Army (粤军) were Hakkas.[53] Eugene Chen, whose father was a former Taiping, was an outstanding foreign minister in the 1920s. The Soong Sisters: Ai-ling, Ching-ling and May-ling were influential figures during the period. The best of Nationalist China generals: Chen Mingshu, Chen Jitang, Xue Yue[54] and Zhang Fakui amongst many others are Hakka as well.

The Communist Party of China already have many Hakkas in its ranks before the outbreak of the Civil War. Li Lisan was the top leader of the party from 1928 to 1930. The Jiangxi-Fujian Soviet was the largest component territory of the Chinese Soviet Republic (中华苏维埃共和国) which was founded in 1931. It reached a peak of more than 30,000 square kilometres and a population that numbered more than three million, covering mostly Hakka areas of two provinces: Jiangxi and Fujian. The Hakka city of Ruijin was the capital of the republic. When it was finally overrun in 1934 by the Nationalist army in the Fifth of its Encirclement Campaigns, the Communists began their famous Long March with 86,000 soldiers, 11,000 administrative personnel and thousands of civilian porters, of which more than 70% were Hakkas. Ironically, the Fifth Encirclement Campaign was led by Nationalist Hakka general, Xue Yue. During the retreat, the Communists managed to strike a deal with the Hakka warlord controlling Guangdong province, Chen Jitang, to let them pass through Guangdong without a fight. When the People's Liberation Army (人民解放军) had its rank structure from 1955 to 1964, the highest number of generals, totalling 54, came from the small Hakka county of Xingguo in Jiangxi province. The county had also previously produced 27 Nationalist generals. Xingguo county is thus known as the Generals' County (将军县) in China. During the same period, there were 132 Hakkas out of 325 generals in Jiangxi, 63 Hakkas out of 83 generals in Fujian, and 8 Hakkas out of 12 generals in Guangdong respectively, not mentioning those from Guangxi, Sichuan and Hunan. The number could have been significantly higher if the majority of the personnel who started the Long March had not perished before reaching its destination. Only less than 7,000 of the original 100,000 personnel had survived it.[55][56][57] Prominent Hakka communist leaders include: Marshal Zhu De, the founder of the Red Army (红军), later known as the People's Liberation Army; Ye Ting, Commander-in-chief, New Fourth Army, one of the two main Chinese communist forces fighting the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War (the other main communist force, Eighth Route Army, was commanded by Zhu De); Marshal Ye Jianying, who led the overthrow of the Gang of Four in 1976; and Hu Yaobang, where the memorial service for his death sparked off a pro-democracy movement which led to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. In Guangdong, China's most prosperous province, the "Hakka clique" (客家帮) has consistently dominated the provincial government. Hakka governors include Ye Jianying, Ding Sheng, Ye Xuanping and Huang Huahua.[58]

Besides playing leading roles in all the three major revolutions of China, Hakkas had also been prominently involved in many of the wars against foreign intrusion of China. During the First Opium War, Lai Enjue led the Qing navy against the British at the Battle of Kowloon in 1839 and Yan Botao commanded the coastal defence at the Battle of Amoy in 1841. Feng Zicai and Liu Yongfu were instrumental in the defeat of the French at the Battle of Bang Bo which led to the French Retreat from Lang Son and the conclusion of the war in 1885. During the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1895, the Taiwanese militia forces led by Qiu Fengjia and which was formed mainly by Hakkas, were able to put up a stiff resistance to the Japanese when the Qing army could not. The heroism of Xie Jinyuan and his troops gained international attention and lifted flagging Chinese morale in their successful Defence of Sihang Warehouse against the numerically superior Japanese Imperial Army in Shanghai, 1937. However, in the ensuing Battle of Nanjing, seventeen Nationalist generals were killed in action, of which six were Hakkas.[59] During the Second Sino-Japanese War, both the commander-in-chiefs of the two main Chinese communist forces fighting against the Japanese, Eighth Route Army and New Fourth Army, are Hakkas: Zhu De and Ye Ting. On the Nationalist side, Xue Yue and Zhang Fakui were commander-in-chiefs for the 9th and 4th War Zones respectively. Called the "Patton of Asia" by the West and the "God of War" (战神) by the Chinese, Xue was China most outstanding general during the war, having won several major battles which killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops. Luo Zhuoying was the commander-in-chief for the 1st Route Expeditionary Forces, Burma (China first participation of a war overseas), 1942. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong from 1941-1945, the Dong River Column guerilla force (东江纵队) was a constant harassment to the Japanese troops. The force, whose members were mostly Hakkas and led by its legendary commander, Zeng Sheng, was highly successful due to its strong Hakka network. Noteworthy accomplishments of the guerilla force included the aiding of British and Commonwealth prisoners of war to escape successfully from Japanese internment camps and the rescuing of twenty American pilots who parachuted into Hong Kong when they were shot down.[60] Since the Xinhai Revolution, Meizhou alone which consisted of 7 Hakka counties has produced 474 generals (there are more than 200 Hakka or partial-Hakka counties in China).

Overseas Hakkas have also been prominent politically in their adopted countries, many of which are leading political figures of the countries or the Chinese communities there. In the last 100 years, there have been at least twenty Hakkas who had become heads of state or heads of government in nine different countries.[61] Some of the prominent politicians are:-

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Erbaugh, Mary S. (December 1992). "The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise". The China Quarterly (Cambridge University Press) (132): 937–968. JSTOR 654189. 
  • Leong, Sow-Theng (1997). Wright, Tim, ed. Migration and Ethnicity in Chinese History: Hakkas, Pengmin and Their Neighbors. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press. ISBN 0804728577. 

External links[edit]