The University of Nottingham Ningbo China


Hakka is one of the oldest Chinese dialects in China. Hakka people have a strong preservation of the heritage, particularly in the dialect. Whether Hakka tongue should be called a dialect or language is still a question. It is believed to be the official tongue for the Middle Kingdom prior to the immigration of the northern tribes of Xiongnu, Turkistan, Liao, Jin, Yuan, and Manchurian. The pronunciation and expressions of Hakka have changed after all these years of migrations.

Strong supporting evidence is that many poems from the Warring States Era to Tang dynasty, only rhyme when recited in Hakka and not in Mandarin. While it is well-known that rhyming is a structural imperative in Chinese poems, it is highly likely that Hakka was the actual common language used during these 1400 years. Certain proverbs, idioms used in Ming dynasty still rhyme better with Hakka than other Chinese dialects.

The Hakka people are a unique ethnic group of Han Chinese originally active around the Yellow River area. They are thought to be one of the earliest Han Chinese settlers in China. One theory has it that many of the early Hakka people were affiliated with the “royal bloods”. The truth may be more complicated than that. It is highly likely that while Hakka may be a stronghold of Han culture, Hakka people also have married other ethnic groups and adopted their cultures during the long migration history of 2000 years. Due to the infusion of other ethnic groups from the northwest, north and northeast, these original settlers gradually migrated south and settled in Jiangxi, Fujian, and Guangdong. They were called Hakka by the locals when they first settled in.

Among all the Chinese people, Hakka people are among the most conservative in keeping the traditions. Yet, many are willing to take risks and seek new opportunities elsewhere to establish themselves. The migratory tradition results in the distribution of Hakka in the most remote part of the world. Hakka people, paradoxically conservative and endeavoring, hard-working and enduring, is reflective of the spirit of Chinese culture.

Learn more about Chinese history, people and languages, please visit Why Study Abroad in China

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