Sunday, June 18, 2006

hakka- on being hakka

My Chinese ancestry is Hakka. There are thousands of different Chinese dialects and the people of the same dialect usually are found together in different parts of China-each speaking their own dialect and eating their own cuisine. There is an official dialect which is mandarin and only one form of written Chinese. The amazing thing is the written form could be read in any dialect. It is not a special thing to be Hakka, in fact, it is almost shameful. Hakka people are peasants and are classless. Growing up, I have other Hakka people who told me in whispers they were also Hakka and in the same breath, say that they don't speak Hakka. If possible, you'd rather not be Hakka. Who are the Hakka people of China? Lynn Pan, in her book, "A history of the Chinese Diaspora" said it the best that I can't improve on it. "The Hakkas, whose name means 'guest families', have been described as the gypsies of China, people who live side by side with speakers of different dialects in enclaves scattered across six Southern Provinces, without a homeland of their own. They were a rugged lot and even their women had to be hardy. Little wonder that the Hakkas were the only Chinese to refrain altogether from binding their daughters' feet into the 'golden lilies' that were de rigueur everywhere else. One thing Hakka women were not was dainty". These remarks, rather than incensed me, actually excited me. I am proud to be of Hakka stock. I am a Hakka woman, a hardy Hakka woman, as Lynn Pan called us. She is Shanghainese, from the North. Northerners always felt more superior to Southerners. It gave her more confidence growing up. She has gone on to be a successful author. I have some of her books. Apart from being both Chinese, we share a more common background in that we spent a good part of our lives in than British North Borneo.

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