Taiwan, July 7

Today was officially day 1 of my research!  So my grandma and I took the bus to Longtan, where we visited the Taoyuan Hakka Culture Hall.

First we went on a tour of the museum, which featured famous Hakka people of Taiwan who made great contributions in literature and music.

The outside of the museum was decorated with posters featuring Hakka dishes, and Hakka lanterns hung from the ceiling. My grandma (who is Hakka) said that the Hakkas often use floral-print cloths for lanterns, clothing, tablecloths, etc.

It was fascinating to learn about the contributions to music and literature of Hakka people in Taiwan, and I am especially interested in learning more about the poet Du Pan Fang-ge, one of the most influential female poets in Taiwan.  She wrote poems in Mandarin, Hakka and Japanese.  Apparently, she currently lives in Zhongli (where I’m living now). Here are a couple poems she wrote in Hakka, translated to English:

After the tour, we went to the Taoyuan Department of Hakka Affairs, and I interviewed Liang Cheng Liang, Deputy Director-General of the Taoyuan Department of Hakka Affairs.  Taoyuan has the largest population of Hakka people, where 40 percent of people are Hakka.  Before the interview, he and my grandma chatted in Hakka, and turns out, my grandma’s cousin was his teacher!  Anyway, during the interview, he talked about how it is rare for young Hakka people to know how to speak Hakka.  Only 13 percent of people under 13 can speak Hakka.  Liang talked about how he spoke to a young person who did not know he was Hakka, but later on realized his identity and that the language his grandparents spoke was Hakka.  The culture park and Department of Hakka Affairs are trying to encourage more young people by holding events, but it is usually difficult to find young people to come to the events.  Usually, the events they hold have an audience of older Hakka people. They also try to encourage learning the Hakka language with contests.  Currently, they are holding a contest for Hakka young people to create Hakka films, which will run this entire summer.  Liang emphasized the importance of preserving this language, culture and identity as it is declining, and he said without the Hakka language, there is no culture.

Now comes the hard part: transcribing (which will be even harder in Chinese)!

Anyway, after the interview, I walked around the culture park and took some photos, and then my grandma and I ate lunch at a nearby restaurant.  We ate pumpkin noodles, beef with mangoes and tofu with oysters and black beans.

Since our bus ticket allows us unlimited bus rides the entire day, we decided to go to the Shimen Reservoir.  When we got there, we realized we had to walk up a tall hill.  Fortunately, we hitched a ride up and got to walk around and view the reservoir.

Also fortunately, we were able to hitch a ride back down.  We saw a fruit stand on the side of the road. The vendors had grown the crops themselves.  We bought some white peaches, dragon fruits and vegetables called kong xin cai, which means empty heart vegetable.  Finally we took the bus home.  While we waited for the bus, my grandma taught me some Hakka phrases.  It’s a bit similar to Mandarin.  For example, “hello” is ni ho and “thank you” is xi mo ni.  I’ll definitely have to learn more Hakka from my grandma this summer, especially since my research is all about how nowadays, fewer young Hakka people know the Hakka language and culture.

Overall, it was a productive day, and we even got some fresh produce! (Even though they were a pain to carry home).  Tomorrow, I will be going to National Central University in Zhongli to interview a professor.