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THE HAKKAS

t is important to distinguish between the term  [ke ren] (guests or visitors) and [ke jia ren], the Hakkas.

 

The Hakkas, as they are called in their own dialect, is an important dialect group who were migrants from the Central or Northern parts of China to the South. This historical reality is reflected in the close resemblance of the Hakka dialect to northern languages such as Mandarin, rather than local dialects in the South such as Cantonese, Hokkien or Hainanese. Known as nomads of China, their migration to South East Asia and elsewhere was a continuation of earlier southward movement. It is not surprising then to find that the “Hakka” (as Ke jia is pronounced in their own dialect) is found in pockets of concentration in several places over several locations, rather than concentrated in one place.

 

In addition to Guangdong , Fujian , and Taiwan, Hakkas are also found in Jiangxi and in pockets of Sichuan , Hunan, Guangxi, Yunnan and Hainan Island. The Hakkas of Fujian and Guangdong migrated to southern China in two separate waves: during the tenth century and between the twelfth and thirteen centuries.

 

According to Ethnologue, (www.ethnologue.com) there are 33 million Hakka speakers worldwide, 25,725,000 in mainland China, 2.5% of the population (1984).Population total in all countries amount to 33,000,000 (1999).

 

Today, the Hakkas formed the fourth largest Chinese dialect group in South East Asia. Outside China there are:

 

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3,000 in Brunei (1979)

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5,000 in French Guiana (1987)

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19,200 in French Polynesia (1987)

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985,635 in Malaysia, including 786,097 in Peninsular Malaysia, 109,060 in Sarawak, 90,478 in Sabah (1980).

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6,000 in Panama (1981)

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69,000 in Singapore (1980)

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6,000 in Surinam

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2,366,000 in Taiwan (1993)

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58,800 in Thailand (1984)

 

It is interesting to note that several prominent politicians are of Hakka descent. They include Sun Yat-Sen (father of modern China), Deng Xiaoping (the post-Mao Chinese leader who modernised China), Ye Jianying (Chinese Military and Political Stewart), Lee Kuan Yew (Prime Minister of Singapore from 1965-1991) as well as Lee Teng Hui (the former Taiwanese President). In Malaysia Yap Ah Loy, another Hakka was considered to be the founder of Kuala Lumpur, though the Hakkas were subsequently out­numbered by Cantonese.

More information could be found in Chapter four of the book

For more information please contact the author