Where there is seawater, you’ll find Chinese people. Where you find Chinese people, you will find Hakka people. To date, Hakka people have called back from nearly 80 different countries and regions. They now form an impressive network. The migratory history of the Hakka people is a story of their struggle for survival, their cultivation of inhospitable land and their entrepreneurship in modern society.
The Ting River 汀江 flows 300km from Ninghua County in western Fujian south to the port and Special Economic Zone of Shantou, Guangdong. It is a main tributary of the Han River and is also referred to as the Hakka Mother River with Hakka settlements dotted along its banks from Fujian, all the way to Guangzhou. This is where the Hakka people have finally settled after nearly 1,000 years of migration.
However, the Hakkas are actually northern people who originate from the mountainous Shan Xi (山西 not 陕西) province in northern China. During the Jin Dynasty (265–420 AD), the Uprising of the Five Barbarians from 317 AD onwards caused chaos and devastation in many parts of northern China. A group of Han Chinese residents from Shanxi migrated to neighbouring Henan and Anhui provinces as “guests”.
From 880-1126 AD, wars erupted and chaos ensued again towards the end of the Tang Dynasty. The “guests” in Henan migrated once more, this time to Jiangxi and northern Fujian. This was the second great migration of today’s Hakka people.
The 3rd great migration. 1127-1644, towards the end of the Song Dynasty, the Jins were invading, the ailing Song Dynasty shrank southwards and the guests from the north had by then established their identity as a clan. Most spread out within Fujian and Guangdong. Their language evolved into one blending northern and southern tongues.
The 4th great migration of the Hakka people was also the most scattered and it took place between 1645-1795. The invasion of the Manchus caused Hakkas in Fujian and Guangdong to flee in several directions. One group fled to Taiwan, other groups fled to the mountains of Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Hongkong. Some groups also fled north to Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi.
The 5th and final great migration of the Hakka people took place around 1840. Affected by the Opium War, the Boxer Rebellion and various other calamities, the Hakka people from Guangdong migrated even further south, reaching the coastal regions of Guangxi and Hainan Island. Many others also migrated to Southeast Asia.
Guangdong Hakka Luo Fang Bo founded the Lanfang Republic in Borneo. Guangdong Hakka Yap Ah Loy was appointed Kapitan Cina in Malaya and built up the city of Kuala Lumpur. Later Hakka leaders included Guangdong Hakka Sun Yat Sen, Sichuan Hakka Deng Xiaoping, Taiwan Hakka Lee Teng Hui and Cai Yingwen, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Myanmar’s Newin and Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra.
Hakka communities in Fujian Province are often characterised by their unique fortress-like homes, known as tulou 土楼. For more on my tulou explorations discoveries, do check this out .
在福建平和县有一座客家土楼，叫绳武楼，是福建土楼中最精致之一。继承祖先业迹为“绳武”。This is Shengwu Lou, a tulou located at Pinghe County, Fujian. It is a small but also one of the most exquisite tulou in Fujian Province. The name “Shengwu” sound very unusual. Taken apart, they mean rope and combat. It is no longer in use during modern times. It is derived from ancient Chinese texts and the one named “Shengwu” is expected to inherit the family’s legacy.