Hakka people

"Hakka" redirects here. For other uses, see Hakka (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Haka or Akha people.
客家 Hak-kâ
Total population
(estimated 80 million worldwide[2])
Regions with significant populations
Mainland China (Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hainan, Guizhou), Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Timor-Leste), India, Australia, Africa (South Africa, Mauritius, Réunion), North America (United States, Canada), Europe (United Kingdom, France, Netherlands), Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Jamaica), Central and South America (Panama, Brazil, Peru, Argentina)
Hakka Chinese + language(s) of their country of residence
Predominantly Chinese folk religions (Taoism, Confucianism, ancestral worship and others), Mahayana Buddhism, Christianity, non religious and others
Related ethnic groups
Other Han Chinese groups
Hakka people
Chinese 客家
Literal meaning "Guest Families"

The Hakkas (Chinese: 客家), sometimes Hakka Han,[1][3] are Han Chinese people whose ancestral homes are chiefly from the Hakka-speaking provincial areas of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Zhejiang, Hainan and Guizhou. The Chinese characters for Hakka (客家) literally mean "guest families".[4] Unlike other Han Chinese groups, the Hakkas are not named after a geographical region, e.g. a province, county or city. The Hakkas are usually identified with people who speak the Hakka language or share at least some Hakka ancestry.

The Hakkas are thought to have originated from the lands bordering the Yellow River (the modern northern Chinese provinces of Shanxi, Henan, and Hubei).[5] In a series of migrations, the Hakkas moved and settled in their present areas in Southern China, and from there, substantial numbers migrated overseas to various countries throughout the world.[6] As the most diasporic among the Chinese community groups, the worldwide population of Hakkas is about 80 million.[2]

The Hakka people have had a significant influence on the course of modern Chinese and overseas Chinese history; in particular, they have been a source of many revolutionary, political and military leaders.[7]

Origins, migrations and group identification


Hakka distribution in mainland China and Taiwan

It is commonly held that the Hakkas 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]

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

Hakka–Chinese scientist and researcher Dr Siu-Leung Lee stated in the book by Chung Yoon-Ngan, The Hakka Chinese: Their Origin, Folk Songs And Nursery Rhymes, 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]


Migrants were referred to as Hakka and no specific people were referred to as Hakka at first. Northern China's Yellow River area was the homeland of the Hakka.[16]

Since the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), the ancestors of the Hakka people 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. The precise movements of the Hakka people remain unclear during the 14th century when the Ming dynasty overthrew the Yuan dynasty 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, 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).


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 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]

Unlike other Han Chinese groups, the Hakkas are not named after a geographical region, e.g. a province, county or city. The Hakka people have a distinct identity from the Cantonese people. As 60% of the Hakkas in China reside in Guangdong province, and 95% of overseas Hakkas ancestral homes are in Guangdong. This is especially so as sometimes Guangdong is thought to be synonymous with Cantonese. Hakkas from Chaozhou, Hainan and Fujian are also mistaken to be Chaoshanese, Hainanese and Hokkiens.

As Hakkas tend to be very clannish, strangers who found out that the other party is a Hakka will affectionately acknowledge each other as "zi-jia-ren" (自家人) meaning "all's in the same (Hakka) family".

Hakka culture

Hakka culture have been largely shaped by the new environment which they had to alter many aspects their culture to adapt, which helped influence their architecture and cuisine. When the Hakka expanded into areas with pre-existing populations in the South, 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, however this is by no means unique to the Hakkas as most of the other Han Chinese also culturally emphasized education.


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.[18]


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]


Hakka cuisine is known for the use of preserved meats and tofu as well as stewed and braised dishes. A popular dish known as Yong Tau Foo is a Hakka Chinese food consisting primarily of tofu that has been filled with either a ground meat mixture or fish paste (surimi).


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

Martial arts

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


Hakkapop is a genre of Hakka pop music made primarily in Taiwan, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.


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.[21]

Hakkas in mainland China

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

Hakka populations are found in 13 out of the 27 provinces and autonomous regions of mainland China.


Hakkas who live in Guangdong comprise about 60% of the total Hakka population. Worldwide, over 95% of the overseas-descended Hakkas came from this Guangdong region, usually from Meizhou and Heyuan. Hakkas live mostly in the northeast part of the province, particularly in the so-called Xing-Mei (Xingning-Meixian) area. 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).


Gun port of Chengqilou in a Hakka Fujian Tulou.
A firearm for defence against enemies in a Hakka Fujian Tulou.

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 Hakkas 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.

Today, western Fujian is inhabited by 3 million Hakkas, scattered around 10 counties (county-level cities and districts) in Longyan and Sanming cities, 98% of whom are Hakkas living in Changting, Liancheng, Shanghang, Wuping, Yongding, Ninghua, Qingliu and Mingxi counties.[22]


Jiangxi contains the second largest Hakka community. 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, there was a massive depopulation in Gannan due to the ravage of pestilence and war. However, western Fujian and eastern Guangdong suffered population explosion at the same 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 some 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.[23]


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 Hakkas in the south to migrate 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.

Sichuan was originally the origin of the Deng lineage until one of them was hired as an official in Guangdong during the Ming dynasty but during the Qing plan to increase the population in 1671 they came to Sichuan again. Deng Xiaoping was born in Sichuan.[24]


Hakka people are mainly concentrated in the eastern part of Hunan.


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]

Hakkas worldwide

There is a Chinese saying, “有阳光的地方就有华人, 有华人的地方就有客家人”, which literally means "Wherever there is sunshine, there will be Chinese. Wherever there is Chinese, there will be Hakka."

The Hakka have emigrated to many regions worldwide, notably Taiwan, Suriname, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam (known as Ngai people), Thailand, Timor-Leste 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, Netherlands and Italy. 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 as many migrated there when Hong Kong still was a British colony during a period coinciding with the Cultural Revolution of China and economic depression in Hong Kong.


The Hakka population in Taiwan is around 4.6 million people today.[26] 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.[27] They resided in "savage border districts, where land could be had for the taking, and where a certain freedom from official oppression was ensured."[28] During the Qing era, the Hakka on Taiwan had gained a reputation with the authorities of being turbulent and lawless.[29]

In Taiwan under Qing rule the Hakka on Taiwan owned matchlock muskets. Han people traded and sold matchlock muskets to the Taiwanese aborigines. The Aboriginals used their matchlock muskets to defeat the Americans in the Formosa Expedition. During the Sino-French War the Hakka and Aboriginals used their matchlock muskets against the French in the Keelung Campaign and Battle of Tamsui.

Liu Mingchuan took measures to reinforce Tamsui, in the river nine torpedo mines were planted and the entrance was blocked with ballast boats filled with stone which were sunk on September 3, matchlock armed "Hakka hill people" were used to reinforce the mainland Chinese battalion, and around the British Consulate and Customs House at the Red Fort hilltop, Shanghai Arsenal manufactured Krupp guns were used to form an additional battery.[30]

At Tamsui, the entrance of the river had been closed by laying down six torpedoes in the shape of a semi-circle on the inside of the bar. The Douglas steamers Fokien and Hailoong running to the port, as well as the German steamer Welle, were, whenever necessary, piloted over the torpedoes by the Chinese who had laid them down. The mandarins engaged in planting the guns that had been brought to the island by the latter steamer.

Trade was resumed during the middle of the month at Twatutia, it being regarded for the time as safe, and the country thereabouts had quieted down to such an extent that a good deal of tea was brought in. Life for the foreigners was very much cramped. They were prohibited from making trips into the country; and even in the settlement, with religious processions, crackers, and, gongs going at all times of day, and the watchmen making a great noise with bamboos all night, rest was well nigh impossible except to the Chinese guards told off to protect foreign hongs, who after disappearing all day, except at meal times, "return at night, and instead of guarding the property, turn in early and sleep as soundly as Rip van Winkle did till morning."

Under the impression that the French would attempt to enter the Tamsui river, ballast boats and junks loaded with stones were sunk at the entrance. A number of Hakka hillmen were added to the government force. They were armed with their own matchlocks, which in their ignc ranee they preferred to foreign rifles. Much was expected of them, as the life of warfare they had led on the savage border had trained them to be good shots and handy with their knives. By the end of August the French had succeeded in holding the shore line at Kelung, but were unable to advance beyond it; and as Chinese soldiers had for some days been erecting earthworks and digging entrenchments on the hills on the east side of the bay overlooking the shipping, the French sent word ashore for the Europeans to come on board the Bayard, as they intended opening fire on the earthworks which were now just visible.1 The firing was not successful either that day or the next, the nature of the country being in favor of the Chinese; and for many days the shelling was a regular event, the Chinese not apparently suffering much damage themselves, or being able to inflict any upon the French. This condition of affairs continued through September, the French having gained only the summits of the near hills surrounding the harbor.

General Liu Ming-chuan left Kelung on the 9th to visit Tamsui and Taipehfu. On his arrival at the latter place he was met at the wharf by some 200 soldiers, 5 buglers, and 2 or 3 drummers. The march up the street with the soldiers in front, the band next, and the general in the rear in his chair, made an imposing parade. His presence is also said to have had a most stimulating effect on the soldiers on guard in the foreign hongs. All appeared in full force with uniforms and rifles, although for several days the muster in one hong had produced only one soldier and a boy in a soldier's coat.

— James Wheeler Davidson, "The island of Formosa, past and present: History, people, resources, and commercial prospects. Tea, camphor, sugar, gold, coal, sulphur, economical plants, and other productions, 1903,[31] also published as "The Island of Formosa: Historical View from 1430 to 1900"[32]
Liu Ming-chuan with some 6,000 men was stationed at Taipehfu in the Banka plain, while the forces at Hobe were daily strengthened, until, in the middle of October, there were assembled about 6,000 men in the neighborhood. Among these were new levies of Hakka hillmen. They were considered by the foreigners to be a dangerous lot to have in the neighborhood, and as they did not speak the same language as the general and other officers, it was feared that misunderstandings might arise with serious results. The other soldiers present were principally northern men, and were said to be well armed. The Hakkas, although armed with their primitive matchlocks, were considered to be brave men and were hardened to the privations of warfare. Their matchlocks are described as long-barrelled guns, fixed into semi-circular shaped stocks, with pans for priming powder, and armlets made of rattan, worn around the right wrist and containing pieces of bark-cord, which, when lighted, would keep alight for hours, if necessary. When in action the Hakka pours a charge of powder down the muzzle; on top of that are dropped two or three slug shot or long pieces of iron, withouL wadding. The trigger is made to receive the lighted piece of bark, and when powder covers the priming pan and all is ready, • the trigger is pulled and if,—if the weather is dry, off goes the gun. The ordinary method of handling these weapons is to place the lower end of the butt against the right breast, high enough to enable the curved end to rest against the cheek, and the eye to look down the large barrel, upon which there are ordinarily no sights. This method is sometimes varied by discharging the guns from the hip, and it is quite customary for the Hakka to lie flat on his back, place the muzzle between his toes, and, raising his head sufficiently to sight along the barrel, to take deliberate aim and fire. He is able to make good practice; while his presence, especially when surrounded by rank grass, is decidedly difficult to determine.

Rev. Dr. Mackay's Tamsui Mission Hospital, with Dr. Johansen in charge, which had rendered such great services to the Chinese wounded and had no doubt been the means of saving many lives, was visited on the 19th by General Sun, who thanked the doctor in charge as well as Dr. Browne of the Cockcliafer (who had given valuable assistance) for their attentions to the sick and wounded. The patients then numbered only a dozen, a good many of the wounded having left, fearing that the French might land again and kill them; others, seeing their wounds healing nicely, went away into the town. One man who had been shot through the left shoulder, in the region of the collar bone, after a week or ten days' treatment suddenly shouldered his rifle and left for the front, preferring life with his comrades to being confined in the hospital. It was supposed that the bullet had pierced the upper part of his lungs. Another instance occurred seven days after the French landing, when a Chinese walked into the hospital with his skull wounded and the brain visible. Several others, shot through the thighs and arms, bones being splintered in many pieces, bore their pain most heroically. Soon after the engagement, when there were seventy men in the hospital, some being badly wounded with as many as three shots apiece, there was scarcely a groan to be heard. One of the wounded came to the hospital after having had a bullet in his calf for nine or ten days. Dr. Browne extracted the bullet, and off the man went back to the front. Many other instances like the foregoing might be recorded, all of which indicated that the Chinese could recover in a few days from wounds, which, if not actually fatal, would have laid foreign soldiers up for months.

— James Wheeler Davidson, "The island of Formosa, past and present: History, people, resources, and commercial prospects. Tea, camphor, sugar, gold, coal, sulphur, economical plants, and other productions, 1903,[33] also published as "The Island of Formosa: Historical View from 1430 to 1900"[34]

Lin Ch'ao-tung (林朝棟) was the leader of the Hakka militia recruited by Liu Ming-ch'uan.[35]

The Hakka used their matchlock muskets to resist the Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895) and Han Taiwanese and Aboriginals conducted an insurgency against Japanese rule. The Hakka rose up against the Japanese in the Beipu uprising

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, many Hakka have moved to the largest metropolitan areas, including Taipei and Taichung.

On 28 December 1988, 14,000 Hakka protestors took to the streets in Taipei to demand the Nationalist government to "return our mother tongue", carrying portraits of "Sun Yat-sen". The movement was later termed "1228 Return Our Mother Tongue Movement".

Hakka-related affairs in Taiwan is regulated by the Hakka Affairs Council. Hakka-related tourist attractions in Taiwan are Dongshih Hakka Cultural Park, Hakka Round House, Kaohsiung Hakka Cultural Museum, Meinong Hakka Culture Museum, New Taipei City Hakka Museum, Taipei Hakka Culture Hall and Taoyuan Hakka Culture Hall.

Hong Kong

During the late Ming and Qing dynasties, Hong Kong was in the imperial district of Xin-An (now Shenzhen) County.[36] The 1819 gazetteer lists 570 Punti and 270 Hakka contemporary settlements in the whole district.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39] 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,[40] 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.[40] 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.[41] 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.


Further information: Chinese Singaporeans

In 2010, 232,914 people in Singapore reported Hakka ancestry.


Hakka people form the second largest subgroup of the ethnic Chinese population of Malaysia, particularly in Peninsular Malaysia, with several prominent Hakka figures emerging during colonial British rule. Chung Keng Quee, "Captain China" of Perak and Penang, was the founder of the mining town of Taiping, the leader of the Hai San, a millionaire philanthropist, and an innovator in the mining of tin, having been respected by both Chinese and European communities in the early colonial settlement. Another notable Hakka was Yap Ah Loy, who founded Kuala Lumpur and was a Kapitan Cina of the settlement from 1868 to 1885, bringing significant economic contributions, and was also an influential figure among the ethnic Chinese.

In the district of Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, Hakka people make up more than 90% of the Chinese subgroup with dialect itself acting 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. Concentrations of Hakka people in Ipoh and surrounding areas are particularly high.

A smaller number of Hakka people are also found in Sarawak, particularly in the city of Kuching and Miri, where there is a notable population of Hakka people who speak the "Ho Poh" variant of Hakka.


In 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.[42] 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 Daifeng (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), with significant miniority in 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.[42] In 1901, the total Chinese population in Sabah was 13897; by 1911, it had risen 100% to 27801.[43] Hakka immigration began to taper off during World War 2 and declined to a negligible level in the late 1940s.


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.[44] 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 Kalimantan

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.[45]


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. Mostly Hakka people in Jakarta resided along Kelapa Gading, Pluit, Penjaringan and surrounding areas, while other Chinese in Glodok, Taman Sari are Hokkien speakers.


There are no records as to when Hakka descendants arrived in Thailand. In 1901, 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. 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". Yang Liqing was its first President.[46]


In Vietnam, Hakka people are known as "Người Hẹ" and were made up largely by the 唐 (Mandarin: Tang; Vietnamese: Đường) families located around the Sài Gòn and Vũng Tàu areas.


About 65% of the Hakka trace their roots back to Meizhou and Heyuan prefectures in Guangdong province. About 70% of the Hakkas are found in Phnom Penh where they dominate professions in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and shoemaking. Hakkas are also found in Takeo province, Stung Treng and Rattanakiri who consist of vegetable growers and rubber plantation workers. Hakka communities in the provinces migrated to Cambodia through Tonkin and Cochinchina in the 18th and 19th centuries.[47]

East Timor

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.


There used to be sizable Hakka communities at Tangra in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, and Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. However, 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. Yap then made appeals to Prime Minister Nehru to bridge a bond between the Indian and Chinese people. During his office, he was also the 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. Yap died surrounded by family on April 18, 2014, at the age of 97.

South Africa

Further information: Chinese South Africans

Some Hakka people, notably Taiwanese, immigrated to South Africa.


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.[48] They either came to Réunion as indentured workers or as voluntary migrants.[48]

United States

Main article: Hakka Americans

Hakka from all over the world have also migrated to the USA. One group is the New England Hakka Association, which reminds its members not to forget their roots. One example is a blog by Ying Han Brach called "Searching for My Hakka Roots".[49] Another group is the Hakka Association of New York, which aims to promote Hakka culture across the five boroughs of New York City.[50] In the mid 1970s, the Hakka Benevolent Association in San Francisco was founded by Tu Chung. The association has strong ties with the San Francisco community and offers scholarships to their young members.

There are around 20,000 Taiwanese Hakka in the United States.[51]


There are several Hakka communities across Canada. One group that embraces on Hakka culture in this diverse country is the Hakka Heritage Alliance.


Most Chinese Jamaicans are Hakka; they have a long history in Jamaica. Between 1845 and 1884, nearly 5000 Hakkas arrived in Jamaica in three major voyages. The Hakkas seized the opportunity to venture into a new land, embracing the language, customs, and culture. During the 1960s and 1970s, substantial migration of Jamaican Hakkas to the USA and Canada occurred.[52]


At a 1994 seminar of the World Hakka Association held in Meixian, statistics showed that there were 6,562,429 Hakkas living abroad.[15]

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

Another estimate is that approximately 36 million Hakka people are scattered throughout the world. More than 31 million lives in over 200 cities and counties spread throughout seven provinces of China: Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Fujian, Hong Kong, Hunan.[53]

Country Hakka
Percentage of
Chinese population
Majority Source
TaiwanTaiwan 4,202,000 22,813,000 23,374,000 18.4% Second largest Hakka Affairs Council, Taiwan, 2014[54]
Hong KongHong Kong Special Administrative Region, ChinaPeople's Republic of China 1,250,000 est 6,643,000 7,300,000 18.8% Second largest Prof Lau Yee Cheung, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2010 [55]
SingaporeSingapore 232,914 2,794,000 3,771,700 8.3% Fourth largest Singapore Census, 2010[56]
MalaysiaMalaysia 1,650,000 6,550,000 30,116,000 25.2% Second largest Malaysia Census, 2015[57][58]
ThailandThailand 1,502,846 9,392,792 67,091,371 16.0% Second largest The World Factbook, 2012[59]


Hakkaology (客家學) is the academic study of the Hakka people and their culture. It encompasses their origins, identity, language, traits, architecture, customs, food, literature, history, politics, economics, diaspora and genealogical records.

The study of the Hakka people first drew attention to Chinese and foreign scholars, missionaries, travellers and writers during the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom era in the middle of the nineteen century. Many wanted to know more about the Hakka people who had started the Taiping Rebellion which almost overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Ernest John Eitel, a prominent German missionary, was one of those who took a great interest in this area.[60]

Many foreign scholars were full of admiration of the Hakka people. According to prominent sinologist Victor Purcell, the Hakkas "have a stubbornness of disposition that distinguishes them from their fellow Chinese".

Anti-Hakka sentiment

Anti-Hakka sentiments traced it roots back when Hakkas moved into Southern China when Hakkas fought for land against the Southern Chinese locals which resulted in resentment and hatred of Hakkas by the Southern Chinese locals.

Hatred of hakkas was especially prevalent amongest Cantonese people.

Anti-hakka sentiment among Cantonese people intensified when Hakkas helped the Qing army to attack Cantonese villages, sparking the largest clan war in China:the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars, where Cantonese killed huge numbers of hakkas. During the clan war, Anti-Hakka Slogans were commonly used by Cantonese people against Hakkas such as "Hate the hakkas and differentiate the province"(仇客分省).[61] The Cantonese massacred and killed Hakkas without pity and exterminated whole Hakka villages. By the time the clan war ended, 1 million people, most of them Hakkas, had been killed. Hatred of Hakkas was also prevalent amongst Hoklo people in Taiwan due to land competition with Hakkas, resulting in clan fights against Hakkas. Hakkas were seen as barbarians and closely related to tribal people by the Cantonese.[62]

Anti-Hakka sentiment was also found overseas outside China as well. When Cantonese people arrived in Madagascar they colluded to prevent any Hakkas from migrating to Madagascar.[63]

Generally Hakkas have been despised and hated by most Southern Chinese people. Hakkas are stereotyped as decietful, immoral, greedy, dishonest, selfish, heartless and unethical people.

World Hakka Conference

The World Hakka Conference (世界客属恳亲大会) is a global event where Hakkas from different parts of the world gather to celebrate and showcase the Hakka spirit and cultural legacy. It is also a venue to promote Hakka fellowship and where Hakkas strategise their economic resources.

The global conference was initiated by the Hong Kong Tsung Tsin Association (香港崇正總會), the umbrella body for Hakkas in Hong Kong. The First World Hakka Conference was held in Hong Kong in 1971. The conference is attended by more than six thousand delegates representing their associations from all over the world. The bidding to host the conference is similar to that of a major international sporting event. The Hakkas are the first Chinese community to hold a global conference and the event remains unsurpassed for grandeur and size.[22][64][65][66][67]

List of World Hakka Conferences host countries and cities

No Year City Country
1 1971 Hong Kong British Hong KongHong Kong
2 1973 Taipei TaiwanTaiwan
3 1976 Taipei TaiwanTaiwan
4 1978 San Francisco United StatesUnited States of America
5 1980 Tokyo JapanJapan
6 1982 Bangkok ThailandThailand
7 1984 Taipei TaiwanTaiwan
8 1986 Port Louis MauritiusMauritius
9 1988 San Francisco United StatesUnited States of America
10 1990 Kota Kinabalu MalaysiaMalaysia
11 1992 Kaoshiung TaiwanTaiwan
12 1994 Meizhou, Guangdong ChinaChina
13 1996 Singapore SingaporeSingapore
14 1998 Miaoli TaiwanTaiwan
15 1999 Kuala Lumpur MalaysiaMalaysia
16 2000 Longyan, Fujian ChinaChina
17 2001 Jakarta IndonesiaIndonesia
18 2003 Zhengzhou, Henan ChinaChina
19 2004 Ganzhou, Jiangxi ChinaChina
20 2005 Chengdu, Sichuan ChinaChina
21 2006 Taipei TaiwanTaiwan
22 2008 Xi'an, Shanxi ChinaChina
23 2010 Heyuan, Guangdong ChinaChina
24 2011 Beihai, Guangxi ChinaChina
25 2012 Sanming, Fujian ChinaChina
26 2013 Bali IndonesiaIndonesia
27 2014 Kaifeng, Henan ChinaChina
28 2015 Hsinchu TaiwanTaiwan
29 2017 Hong Kong/Meizhou ChinaChina
29 2019 Kuala Lumpur MalaysiaMalaysia

Revolutionary, political and military leadership

The Hakkas have had a significant influence, disproportionate to their smaller total numbers, on the course of modern 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,[68] 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 top 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.[69] 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.[70] 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. 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.[71] 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.[72] 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.[73] 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.[74] Eugene Chen, whose father was a former Taiping, was an outstanding foreign minister in the 1920s. Some of the best of Nationalist China generals: Chen Mingshu, Chen Jitang, Xue Yue[75] 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, 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 86,000 personnel had survived it.[76][77][78] 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, which marked the end of the Cultural Revolution; 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. Guangdong's Hakka governors include Ye Jianying, Ding Sheng, Ye Xuanping and Huang Huahua.[79]

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 formed mainly by Hakkas, were able to put up a stiff resistance to the Japanese when the Qing army could not. During the Battle of Shanghai in the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the heroism of Xie Jinyuan and his troops, known as the "Eight Hundred Warriors" (八百壮士) in Chinese history, gained international attention and lifted flagging Chinese morale in their successful Defence of Sihang Warehouse against the more superior Japanese Imperial Army. However, in the ensuing Battle of Nanjing, seventeen Nationalist generals were killed in action, of which six were Hakkas.[80] During the war against the Japanese, both the commander-in-chiefs of the two main Chinese communist forces, 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's 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.[81] 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).

According to some books, the Soong family from which the Soong Sisters had been influential figures during the Republican period, has been cited to have Hakka ancestors.[82] In the book, "My father Deng Xiaoping" (我的父亲邓小平), by China paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's daughter, Deng Rong, she had mentioned that the Deng family's ancestry is possibly Hakka, but not definitely.

Overseas Hakkas have also been prominent politically in the countries they had migrated to, many of which are leading political figures of the countries or the Chinese communities there. Since the 20th century, there have been twenty Hakkas who had become heads of state or heads of government in nine different countries.[83]

Prominent political leaders



See also

Further reading

People and identity





Family stories

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hakka.


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