Uncle Reggie Stories: We’re All Hakkas
Uncle Reggie 叔叔的故事:我们都是客家人 (Sonic 翻译 )

There is a classical Chinese expression, “within the four seas, we are one family, shihaiyijia,” traditionally indicating the family of those with Chinese ethnicity, but at times expressing that all races are one family, onejia, in a more “magnanimous” gesture. Except there is one race of Chinese actually called KeJia, who have been historically outside this jia because they were considered guests or strangers. Their name clearly shows this, since ke客 is guest,jia家 is family, literally guests or strangers family, not exactly within the big family.To flip this story, however, I would like to suggest, that actually “we are all Kejias,客家,” or Hakka, the common English term, meaning we are all guest or stranger peoples.

I am actually ethnically Hakka, hence my special interest. Some ethnologists claim Hakkas are a “minority group” of China, who reportedly migrated from the northern plains of China where they originated, particularly moving to the south and southwest, and throughout the country. Because they were considered strangers, hence their name, they were often relegated, over many generations, to the mountainous areas. There they generally remained relatively poor, and had limited access to the lowland richer areas, with their much better transportation and communication systems.

Photo 1A: Hakkas were among the first Chinese to become Christians, and the Hakka Christian communities in Southern China became organized into regions; a regional conference of Hakka Christian leaders including my paternal grandfather, left front second seat.
图1A 客家人是中国较早成为基督徒的,中国南方的客家基督教团体成为有组织的区域性团体;我的曾祖父在内的客家基督教地区领导人合影,前排左侧第二位。

One striking fact about Hakkas is that there is no such place called Hakka land, anywhere in China. Every language group of people in China probably has their so-called homeland, (eg Shantou or Chaozhou speakers come from Shantou, or Chaozhou respectively), but Hakkas do not; they are always considered strangers and wanderers!

Growing up in an English-speaking environment, I was actually not very aware of my heritage, until, strangely, in my teen years, I read James Michener’s famous book, “Hawaii.” In the preface to the book, he wrote about the Hakkas who populated Hawaii from China, which in a round-about way, stimulated my own interest in finding out more about my own heritage! From a “white guy.”
因为生长于英语环境,我一直不太留意我自己的出处,直到青春少年时,很特别,那时我读到James Michener的名著《夏威夷》。在前言里,他描述了来自中国定居夏威夷的客家人,它激发了我的兴趣,从白人的思维逆转,去探寻我自己的血脉渊源。

Photo 1B: Patriarchal societies have dignified patriarchs. Doesn’t my grandfather look impressive?
图1B 氏族社会有一个威严的教会长老。我的祖父给你留下深刻印象了吗?

The Hakkas, feeling discriminated against by the lowland people, often explored other venues of opportunity. They began in particular to migrate to many of the islands of the world, including the Hawaiian Islands, the Caribbean islands, the Indonesia archipelago, Singapore, and Taiwan. They also targeted closer areas of Asia like Thailand and Malaysia; and, surprisingly, countries as far away as South Africa.

Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised very recently (2017) to be invited to a gathering of more than 100 South African Hakkas, to celebrate the 90th birthday of one of their own, in a Chinese banquet hall in Vancouver, Canada. What an amazing network that represented, spanning 3 continents, 7,000 miles from China to South Africa, and 10,000 miles from South Africa to Canada, often with a United Kingdom arm.

Photo 2. More than 100 South African Hakkas gathered in Vancouver, in 2017, to celebrate one of their own’s 90th birthday. Amazingly, there were more than 5,000 years all together in one room, each with their own story of migration, wandering, and survival, from many islands and lands of the world. Gordon Lee, a “cousin” related by marriage, pictured with Linda and family.
图2. 2017年100多南非客家人齐聚温哥华庆祝他们中的一位的90寿辰。惊讶的是一个屋子的人加起来超过5000岁,每一个都有自己的从岛屿或者陆地迁徙、漂泊和幸存下来的故事。姻亲表兄Gordon Lee 和Linda一家的合影。

The story is often told that Hakkas have always been very hard working, possibly because they felt they had to work harder, in view of their disadvantaged positions in life. So, the story is usually that they did extremely well in the lands that they migrated to, and often became prominent business people in their new adopted homes. Of the Hakkas who migrated, probably the most famous island Hakka is Lee Kuan Yew, or LǐGuāngyào, Oxford educated founder of the Republic of Singapore and the longest-serving, 31 years, very popular Prime Minister. A stranger and a wanderer can certainly rise to the top.

Meanwhile, back in the home country, being discriminated against brought pressure often to band together. The ancient Hakka ancestral homes were often described classically as circular with members of many related families congregated together for community and safety. This I have only seen from drawings and pictures, especially in Fujian and Taiwan; when I went back to visit the ancestral home in Guangdong province, in the 1990s, our village had the more conventional Chinese village structure.

Photo 3A and 3B: Ancient ancestral Hakka villages in typical circular fashion for community and safety.
图3A 和3B :古代的客家村寨为了氏族和安全建成特有的圆形

But the concepts of clannishness, gathering together for community and safety, had important value, especially when Hakkas migrated to foreign countries. Hakka “clan houses” were located in most towns where there were large numbers of Hakka migrants, and served importantly in welcoming new immigrants, settling them down in the new country, and even providing necessary loans and mechanisms to transfer moneys to and from the home villages. I am not aware, however of these overseas houses taking on the traditional unique architecture.

In the home country, some of the Hakkas became rather famous revolutionaries, maybe because they felt especially over-burdened and upset by the ruling classes. The most famous one was Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, a Hakka from Guangdong province, who is revered as the founder of the Chinese Revolution of 1911.He led the overthrow of the great Qing Dynasty, finishing off thousands of years of dynasties of China, and beginning a dramatic new phase of Chinese history, with varying degrees of democracy, minus the Emperor. Even though his Nationalist Government was later overthrown, and succeeded by a Communist Government, Sun Yat-Sen is still highly respected by both Nationalists and Communists, as the founding revolutionary that started the post dynastic order.

Dr Sun Yat- Sen was truly a unique person, and I have always felt a special pride that he was not only Hakka, and a Christian, he also attended my Christian high school in Hong Kong. He was among the first graduating class of the Medical College that preceded Hong Kong University Medical School, also my alma mater. And this year, 2017, is his 150th birthday, and 130th anniversary of the medical school, so it is a good time to remember all this.

Less known is the fact that the Taiping rebellion, which nearly overthrew the Qing Dynasty in the late 19th century, was led by Hong Xiu-Quan, also from Guangdong, and a Hakka. He had received Christian tracts, by missionaries, which so inspired him that he decided that he was now the 2ndson of God, after Jesus Christ. He began a new Taiping Kingdom cult, that took elements of Christianity into his new culture and military system. He declared that he was invincible, and gathered many Hakkas around him for his revolt. For a while, it looked like he could achieve the overthrow of the dynasty, fighting even all the way to the great city of Shanghai. However, he was defeated there, partly because British and other foreigners joined with the Qing Dynasty to stop him. Unwelcome strangers can start rebellions. And cults that severely distort religions can be really dangerous.

Photo 4 Famous Hakkas. 4A: Dr Sun Yat-Sen(孙中山), Founder of Chinese Republic, in DBS High School courtyard, Hong Kong; my old high school. 4B: Hong Xiu-Quan (哄秀全), mid-19th Century Founder of the nearly successful Taiping Rebellion against the great Qing Dynasty. 4C: Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), Founding Father and 31-year tenure Prime Minister of Singapore.
图3 著名的客家人4A 孙中山博士塑像,中华民国奠基人,塑像位于我曾就读的香港DBS高中校园内。4B 洪秀全,19世纪中叶差点推翻大清朝的太平天国的开创者。4C 李光耀,新加坡国父,执掌总理职位长达31年

People who are discriminated against, but who can preserve their own culture, often seem to develop remarkable resiliency. I have always particularly admired the Jews, wandering in the world for 2000 years, and discriminated against in many countries. I like to think, they were like “Hakkas without a homeland.” Surprisingly to some, many rose above their circumstances, and assumed high positions, becoming fine businessmen, lawyers, doctors and scientists.

One of my outstanding fellows in training at our Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, was a direct descendent of Maimonides, chief Jewish Rabbi, and physician in chief for Queen Isabella of the Catholic Spanish Empire, equivalent to Queen Elizabeth I ruling the historic British Empire. A member of a small discriminated minority, becoming chief physician of the Queen of a huge Empire! Consistent with the concept of “God’s chosen,” this unique race of truly strangers and wanderers, after years of being persecuted and slaughtered, have remarkably returned to their original Holy Land. This return was foretold in the Bible thousands of years earlier, which many have declared a miracle of God. Other discriminated minority tribes can take inspiration from this impressive and moving story.
我的一个在辛辛那提儿童医院进行专科培训的医生是迈蒙尼德(Maimonides) 的直系后裔,迈蒙尼德是犹太人大学者、天主教西班牙帝国伊莎贝拉皇后的首席医生,相当于伊丽莎白一世统治伟大的大英帝国。来自一个被歧视的小小部族中的一员,却成为了庞大帝国皇后的首席医生!坚信是“上帝的拣选”,这个独特的真正的陌生人、流浪者的民族,经历了数年的迫害和杀戮,终于奇迹般的回到了他们最初的圣地。这个回归在数千年前圣经就已经预言,这是上帝的神迹。其他的被压迫的少数部落可以从这个感人至深的故事里受到鼓舞。

When the Chinese were “imported” for the gold mines of California, and the building of the groundbreaking railroads from America’s East to West, they were obviously considered as strangers, discriminated against, and looked down upon, with reputations as denizens of gambling (the “Chinese vice”) and opium dens. But, with the American born ethnic Chinese population becoming “fully American,” and coincident with increasing numbers of ethnic Chinese students and scholars coming to America, this minority group of people, rose from the ashes of their history to be called, somewhat condescendingly, “the model minority.”

My mother’s parents were very unusual, in that they were invited to come from Shantou, China, to Seattle at the beginning of the 20th century, at a time of minimal Chinese immigration, to pastor a very small beginning congregation of Chinese in Seattle. Reports vary of some 7 to 14 families of Chinese only at the time in the city, although presumably there were other single men around also. Greater Seattle now has an estimated 100,000 people of Chinese ancestry, and ethnic Chinese descendants are found in all walks of life, beyond the more stereotypical laundry and restaurant businesses of the beginning years. Strangers and wanderers sooner or later become settlers.

However, I like to think that everyone on earth, not just Hakkas, Jews, and migrant Chinese, is actually a Hakka, Kejia, guest, stranger or wanderer of some kind, either now or in their past history. I’m sure it’s not just in Seattle, London, Oslo, Kolkata, or Shanghai. Everyone likely has had some history of migration and a sense of being a stranger or wanderer, if we search far enough in our background. How about you?

Plus, the terrible refugee crises all over the world seems rather dismal at this moment, but in a sense, we are all some kind of refugee also. From the very long view of history, many of these refugee flows of large numbers of strangers, ultimately settle down, and become a vital force in many societies. You might call me an incorrigible optimist, but hope is something that helps to drive us also to not give up. And then the Good Book reminds us that we are all actually even considered pilgrims and strangers on this earth, before we go to the final true Holy Land. We are all Hakkas on this journey of hope.