Research on Taiwanese Hakka Youth Cultural Identity

Hi, my name is Rosalie!  I'm a rising junior majoring in journalism and computer science.  I'll be spending six months abroad: two weeks in the Philippines visiting family, two months in Taiwan doing research and a quarter in Beijing studying abroad.  I will be writing about my time in Taiwan here.  I'm doing research on Hakka cultural preservation and youth, where I will interview Hakka studies professors and other experts and most importantly, Hakka youth ages 18-25 about their background and perspectives on Hakka cultural preservation and their Hakka identity.  I became interested in this project because my grandma is Hakka, and I realized how little my mom and I knew about the Hakka language and culture.

Goodbye Taiwan, Hello Beijing

So I’m in Beijing now!  Crazy, right?  I’ll be here for the entire quarter for study abroad.  I flew into Beijing yesterday from Taipei, thus finishing my summer research.

It’s been a crazy week, which is why I haven’t blogged in a while, but here’s what I’ve been up to.  Sorry, this is going to be quite a long post because I’ve been quite busy, and now that I’m finished, I’m going to add in some reflections.

Aug. 12 – Stayed home, didn’t do much.

Aug. 13 – In the morning, I took the bus to Taoyuan High Speed Rail Station to take the high speed rail to Kaohsiung! I went to visit my host family, who hosted me when I did a volunteer English teaching program in Taiwan three years ago.  I got from Taoyuan to Kaohsiung in just an hour and a half.  I wondered how the children have changed, and I spent most of the train ride sleeping.

When I got to Kaohsiung, the last stop, Yu Mama (the name of the mom in the host family) picked me up, and it was so great to see her again!  We drove to Neipu in Pingtung where her family lives, and on the ride there, we updated in each other about our lives.  She updated me on her family and the school I worked at.  I was able to spend the weekend with her and her two children, but the two other children I met during my stay, Kai Kai and Yo Yo (who are her niece and nephew) had moved away, so I wasn’t able to see them.

We arrived at their house, and I saw the two kids, Jia Jia (she is now 16) and Shane (he is now 12).  I was like, wow, they’re so old now!  But at the same time, they look the same, except they grew.  I mean well obviously, but that was my first thought when I saw them.  And of course I was really happy.  I only stayed with them two weeks, but I’ve had some of my best memories with their family.

First, we visited Chung Wen Elementary School, which was the school I taught at.  It was absolutely surreal seeing it again.  And it was so empty!  (Of course, it’s because it’s summer and classes haven’t started, but when we taught at their summer camp, it was full of kids and full of energy).  I was secretly hoping I might see some of the kids I taught before, but I didn’t.  I was also hoping to see one of the English teachers who worked with us, Christine.  Maybe she would be in a summer teacher’s meeting or something.  But she wasn’t.  Anyway, the school looked exactly the same, from the trees to the rainbow mural to the basketball court to the quadrangle like building.  We took some pictures at the school, and then left.

Shane did the AID summer camp three years ago. I asked him if he did AID this year, and he said he was too old for it this year.  I thought, oh right.

But also, three years ago he absolutely refused to speak English. This time around, he would throw in some English phrases when he talked, like “Let’s go!” And he would ask how to say some words in English.  I’m glad to see he’s more comfortable with it.

We also stopped by their grandparents’ house, where I stayed three years ago.  I greeted their grandparents and pet their new dog.  They used to have talking birds (I don’t know what kind of birds they are), but they gave them away.

We then ate lunch at the dumpling restaurant Yu Mama works at. We ate dumplings, wonton soup, noodles and hot and sour soup.  We also bought bubble tea (which Taiwan is famous for).

After lunch, we were off to Kenting!  Kenting is on the coast.  The ride there was a lot of fun, and the view was phenomenal, a sweeping view of mountains rolling into the ocean.  Finally, we arrived at the hotel we were staying at, which is owned by 7-Eleven.  7-Eleven is a really big thing in Taiwan, and it even has mascots.  The mascot of 7-Eleven is named Open.  Don’t ask me why.

We settled into our room and then went swimming.  Afterwards, we ate dinner.  At night we went to Kenting Da Jie, which is a street filled with food vendors, kind of like a night market.  We got various snacks like a papaya shake, bubble tea, fried milk (it’s so good!).

I also saw that it was very touristy.  But touristy among Taiwanese and Chinese people.  Like Taipei is very touristy, and I often see white tourists there, but Kenting is touristy for people from China and other parts of Taiwan, so there are a lot of bars and night clubs.  A lot of people go to Kenting because of the coast, and as a result, it has become a touristy location.

At night I introduced Jia Jia to Spotify.  Apparently no one in Taiwan uses Spotify, which is weird to think about because I pretty much rely on Spotify for music.

Aug. 14 – After breakfast, we did a lot of activities at the hotel, like archery, playing DDR and air hockey at the arcade and making arts and crafts.  We painted a picture frame and a toy frog.  Then we packed up and drove to the Kaohsiung High Speed Rail Station.  There we said goodbye, and they said to visit again, and I think I started tearing up while walking up the stairs to the station.  I really hope to see them again, whenever I go back to Taiwan.

I took the high speed rail to Taichung to meet up with my grandma because we had planned to meet up with her friend Aunt Guan there (she’s the one that told our fortunes).  When we met up with her, we went out for dinner and ate potstickers, peanut noodles and spicy dumplings.

Aug. 15 – In the morning, my grandma and I visited Tunghai University, where my grandma used to live nearby.  We visited her old neighbors and then we walked around the university. Sadly, many trees fell over from the typhoon, but there was one pathway that was beautiful, as it is lined on both sides with large trees.  It started raining really hard though, and although we had umbrellas, we got pretty soaked, so we went to her old friend’s house to dry off.

In the afternoon, my grandma, Aunt Guan and I went to a buffet, and it was crazy!  (Yeah I’ve gone to two crazy buffets this time in Taiwan, but this one tops them both).  There was sashimi, crabs, fresh fish, soups, clams, Peking duck and more.  The cool thing about it is, each table has numbers, and if you want fresh grilled fish or clams or whatever, you put your number by the raw food you want, and they’ll cook it for you and bring it for you.

I was so full, and I knocked out on the bus ride home to Zhongli.  At night I went to church.

Aug. 16 – In the morning, I took the bus to Hsinwu, which is in Taoyuan.  I visited Hsinwu Catholic Church and went to Mass there, and afterwards I interviewed three people.  Hsinwu has many Hakka people.  One girl knew Hakka but said she wasn’t interested in learning more Hakka.  One man said he identifies as Hakka but doesn’t know how to speak the language, but he wanted to learn some so he took a course in college.  The third man I interviewed turned out not to be Hakka.  He is actually a wai shen ren, which means both his parents are from China.  However, he grew up in Hsinchu, which has many Hakka people.  The interesting thing about the interview though was he has a very different perspective from everyone else I interviewed.  He’s not as interested in language preservation, but he says that learning the Hakka culture should be more inclusive of everyone in Taiwan, since it often is just aimed at the Hakka people.

Aug. 17 – In the afternoon, I went to Miaoli.  I think this day was an awesome day of interviews, which was great because it was my last.

First I interviewed Yin Chang, a DJ at a Hakka radio station.  Both her parents are journalists and opened the station, and Chang ended up working there.  What’s interesting is that although she is Hakka and grew up in Miaoli, a Hakka speaking area, she did not know Hakka growing up.  Also, she went to college in Australia and studied computer science, but she ended up working here because her parents wanted her to design a website for the station.  Then, because of her outgoing personality, she started running a program.  Since she didn’t know Hakka at the time, she did the late night Mandarin program, where she would play music, and people would call in to request music.  She said that one night, a girl from New Zealand sent in a song she sang in Hakka, and Chang was touched that this girl had already been living in New Zealand for so long, but she still knew her mother language.  From then on, Chang decided to learn the Hakka language, which she learned by studying for the Hakka language test, listening to Hakka music and practicing with her grandma.  Now, she DJ’s a Hakka program, and she is passionate about promoting Hakka music. She also talked about the radio station, which promotes Hakka language and culture by teaching Hakka phrases, promoting Hakka music and music artists, using social media, and hosting events, such as Hakka cultural learning and radio broadcast camps for children and youth, and community service events to help Hakka people.

Chang was such a pleasure to interview, and she showed me around the station and took pictures.  Also, I got interviewed about my research by another journalist who works there, so I guess I’m famous now!


The next person I interviewed also lived in Miaoli.  He picked me up at Miaoli Station and took me to a Hakka restaurant, where we had dumplings and wonton.  We also went to a shaved ice place for dessert.  He is very passionate about promoting language culture, and he actually knew Chang because he listens to Hakka radio and goes to the events run by the radio station.  He also went to a university in Pingtung, where there were many Hakka people, so he tries to use the language as much as possible with his friends, and he talked a lot about writing in Hakka.  He hopes to go back to school one day to do a Hakka studies graduate program.

Aug. 18 – I pretty much worked on stuff I needed to do all day, but for dinner my grandma and I went to a restaurant nearby, where we had taro rice noodles, shou zhua bing (a kind of flat bread that you can rip apart and eat with your hands) and bantiao.

Aug. 19 – Today we went to Taipei and went to a homestyle restaurant owned by my grandma’s friend and met up with my grandma’s erhu teacher.  Erhu is a Chinese instrument. We ate yam leaves with duck egg, spicy eggplants with ground pork, bamboo and more. Also, he cooked anchovies for me to take to China.  I used to not really like anchovies that much. Like my mom would cook them with rice and I would eat it, but I didn’t love it.  But I really liked them when coming to Taiwan.  My grandma buys anchovies and cooks them with peanuts, and it’s delicious. This guy was even better at it.  He cooked them with peanuts and hot chili peppers.  So. freaking. good.

After lunch, my grandma and I went to the almond tofu place we went to last time, and I had some.  It was delicious and cool, especially since the weather was so hot.  My last hurrah of Taipei.

When we got home, I helped my grandma cleaned, and I packed my baggage.

Aug. 20 – My grandma’s friend picked me and my grandma up to go the airport.  There, we said goodbye.  I’ll miss the food she cooks and our nightly walks.  I will definitely keep in touch with her more (before, we talked to my grandma when my mom was talking to her).  I’ve definitely bonded with her a lot over these past seven weeks, and I’m going to miss her so much!

I flew from Taiwan to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong to Beijing.  Both flights were very smooth.  The Taiwan airport is great, and it has themed lounges, like Hello Kitty, flowers and aviation.  We arrived at Hong Kong earlier than planned.  This is a first.  I’ve never been on a plane that arrived earlier than expected.

At Beijing, two of my parents’ friends, Fr. Niu and Grandma Liu picked me up.  As we drove to Grandma Liu’s house, I was dizzy with excitement and trying to wrap my ahead around the fact that I was in Beijing and I was going to live here for the next four months.

Grandma Liu invited many friends over for dinner, and we ate a lot of dumplings and drank a lot of Chinese beer.  After they left, I showered, and I fell asleep almost immediately after a long day of travel.

Aug. 21 – Today I moved in to Beijing Foreign Studies University, where I will be studying abroad! I moved into my dorm room. It’s really small. There is a bunk bed with a desk underneath, and a normal bed, as well as another desk, some wardrobes/drawers and a TV. I chose the bottom bed so I won’t have to climb up.
After moving in, Fr. Niu took me on the subway, which was surprisingly really good and clean. Not quite as good as Taiwan’s, but way way way better than Chicago’s. We had lunch and ate these really delicious spicy beef noodles, and we also visited an old church, which I’ll be going to on Sundays.
This university is pretty nice. There’s a track, a gym and a swimming pool, so I guess I’ll start working out again! There’s also a lot of universities nearby, so this area is like a college town. There are a lot of bars and small restaurants. There are also a lot of trees, and we’re right around the corner from the subway station.  I’m really excited to be studying abroad here!

Research Reflection

So now that I’ve left Taiwan, I’d like to announce that I’ve officially completed my first long research project!  I’ve interviewed 40 people, which included college students, young adults in the workforce, Hakka Affairs Council members, a DJ, a 90-year-old man, Hakka studies professors and more.  I learned so much from meeting all these people and listening to their perspectives, and I also learned a lot about my own culture.

Some were fluent in Hakka, some didn’t know any at all.  Some grew up in the city, some grew up in Hakka language regions.  Some had decided to dedicate their lives to learning about and promoting their culture.

It’s very interesting to see how Taiwan has been promoting the Hakka culture, and how Hakka youth view preservation efforts.  Some know nothing about these efforts and didn’t see any success coming out of them, while others are active in attending the Hakka Affairs Council events and watching and listening to Hakka media.  Every Hakka young person I interviewed said the same thing, that they believed it was important to preserve the culture because it was a part of their identity, and it would be a pity if it was gone.  However, their surroundings have a major influence in how they view cultural preservation.

For those who grew up in Hakka language regions, the Hakka identity and language was just a normal part of their life.  For those who grew up in urban areas, it was rare for them to know Hakka.  Students who were not as interested in learning more about the Hakka language and culture differed depending on where they came from.  If they came from Hakka language regions, it was because they did not see it as useful, but they knew about it because they grew up with it. For those from urban areas, it was because they had never come in contact with it.

However, students who were interested in Hakka language and culture were quite passionate about it, especially the Hakka people are a minority and they are aware that the language and culture are quickly disappearing. They explore their culture by attending events, using the language as much as they can, using social media to learn more about the language, doing research and more.  This was an important part of their identity, and they wanted to share it with others and make sure it does not go extinct.  Those who grew up speaking Hakka were more likely to be interested in exploring and promoting their culture.  If they grew up in a Hakka speaking region, it was because it was something they grew up with.  If they grew up in an urban area, it was because they saw how the language and culture are quickly declining.

I’ve typed my data on a spreadsheet, and I hope to write a story to pitch it to a publication.

I’d like to thank:

Albert Lo for giving me a kick start in finding student sources

Hanbi Chang, Wei-An Chang and Ya-Chung Chuang for doing interviews and giving me guidance in my research

Jill Blackman for being such an enthusiastic sponsor

Peter Civetta for giving me guidance in writing a research proposal and being an awesome resource overall (if you are thinking about applying for an undergraduate research grant in the future, definitely talk to him!)

Principal Zhang and his wife for sharing their experiences growing up Hakka during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan

Tracy Liao, Liang Cheng Liang and Mr. Peng for talking with me about Taiwan’s efforts to reach out to Hakka youth

all the Hakka youth I interviewed – it was a pleasure to meet all of you and speak with you!

DJ Yin Chang for being so enthusiastic and showing me around the Hakka radio station, making me excited about both the Hakka language and journalism

David Abrahamson for giving me advice on pitching stories

Ms. Lue and Ms. Liu for pointing me to more sources in Hakka speaking areas

Ms. Peng for introducing me to students at St. Aloysius School

my amazing host family for being amazing hosts three years back and for taking me to Kenting and Chung Wen Elementary School

anyone I might have missed who helped me out or who I’ve interviewed

my parents for supporting me in my endeavors, even if it means that I’ll be traveling around Asia for six months

most of all my grandma for taking care of me and cooking amazing food

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much!

Taiwan, Aug. 11

I would like to announce that I am officially finished organizing my interview data on the spreadsheet I made!

So now what are my next steps?

  • Write articles/reflection, which may lead to some follow up questions.  Goal is to get a framework for these pieces by the end of this week.  Since I am leaving Thursday for Kaohsiung, I really need to get working tomorrow.
  • I plan on doing a couple more interviews. Next Sunday, I plan on interviewing people in Xinwu and possibly a student in Taipei.  I might also interview some people in Miaoli.

Taiwan, Aug. 10

Today was my sister’s last day in Taiwan.  Most of the day was spent helping her clean and pack.  In the morning we went to the doctor to get some medicine from her cough, and I was amazed at how efficient the doctor and pharmacist was!

For lunch, I treated my grandma, my grandma’s friend and sister to a restaurant my grandma said was really delicious.  And indeed it was!

For about the equivalent to $22, each person got:

1. Seafood soup served in a kettle

2. A salad (I got fish skin salad)

3. A seafood dish (I got fish on a hot stone)

4. Rice with either beef or fish.  I chose the fish.  The rice was cooked in a hot stone pot over a flame for 25 minutes before we could take the lid off the rice pot.

5. A meat dish. I got raw slices of beef, onions and a slice of pumpkin, and I cooked it on a hot stone.

6. A drink (I got lychee milk tea)

7. Dessert: fruits and pineapple cream

Also, since my grandma has been to this restaurant many times and knows the owner or someone, we got a spicy beef dish.

I was absolutely full the rest of the day, which was as said before, spent helping my sister pack and clean.  At night, we saw my sister off, which was sad because it’s the last time I’ll see her until December when I return from study abroad.  It’s also crazy because she’s starting college soon!

Anyway, before my blog transforms from a research blog to a food blog, I’ll give some updates on my research.  I interviewed two sisters who grew up in Miaoli and currently are in Taichung via Skype.  Since they grew up in a Hakka family, they definitely identify as Hakka, and this identity is important to them, especially since Hakkas are a minority in Taiwan.  They know the Hakka language, but they do not use it as much.  The younger sister said she was not as interested in learning more, but the older sister said she was interested because she wants to work in a hospital, and knowing Hakka will be useful so she can speak to older Hakka people.  They also talked about some Hakka traditions their family has observed, such as in marriage, cuisine and venerating ancestors.  The younger sister has taken a government Hakka language test because it offered money as an incentive (many people I interviewed have taken this test).  The older sister also talked about living in an environment of mostly Taiwanese people in Tainan, where Taiwanese people expect Hakka people to know the Taiwanese language, but not vice versa. She said it was good that the Hakka Affairs Council is catering more to young people, such as promoting modern Hakka songs.  She also said it’s up to Hakka people to speak the language to others and introduce their culture to others.

My goal tomorrow is finish organizing my data before my grandma comes home at 4 p.m., and then I’ll do some writing!

Taiwan, Aug. 9 (Typhoon Soudelor)

So now that Typhoon Soudelor has passed through Taiwan, here’s what it was like.

The typhoon took place from Aug. 7-8.  It was already starting to rain a lot all day on Friday.  But I couldn’t sleep all that night.

I kept on going in and out of sleep, and when I was sleeping, I would dream about the typhoon. All night, I heard the wind howling, and the windows shook from the wind’s force.  I dreamed about building a wall out of large wooden logs to block the wind from blowing into our apartment.  I dreamed that when I went outside, the wind was blowing dust and sand around, and it was so strong that the sand and dust stung when it hit you. When I woke up, I realized the wind’s force was not a dream.  In fact, I heard glass shattering.  The wind was so powerful, it demolished windows.  Anyway, I thought it was pretty scary.

More on the typhoon:

Needless to say, we didn’t really go out at all the next day.  My grandma’s friend crashed at her place that night because traveling in the typhoon would be dangerous.  She knows how to tell fortunes with Chinese bazi, so she told me and my sister our fortunes, which was quite interesting.  Also a couple friends came later the following day, and she also told them their fortunes.

This morning, I went grocery shopping with my grandma, and I saw all the wreckage the typhoon caused.  At the park, many small trees had fallen over, and there was foliage all over the ground.  Even a huge beautiful tree was uprooted.  We saw a crane lifting up a huge metal sign that had fallen over and was completely bent by the wind.  When we went to the marketplace, there wasn’t that much produce, and the ones that were there were small and expensive.

On the way back, my grandma and I ate fairy grass popsicles. The rest of the day, I just relaxed and helped my sister with packing.  Also, my grandma and I went out to buy fruits, and my sister and I went to 7-Eleven.  My sister bought some Asian snacks and candy to bring home to our sister, and I bought a high speed rail ticket to go to Kaohsiung this week!

Taiwan, Aug. 7

It’s been more than a week since I last blogged.  But it definitely has been an exciting and busy week.

July 31 – I went to Hsinchu to go to a Catholic high school in Hsinpu, St. Aloysius Technical School.  Hsinpu is a region with a large concentration of Hakka people.  A computer teacher there took me and the other students out to lunch, where we ate bantiao, a Hakka dish that is soup with wide rice noodles.  Hsinpu is famous for its bantiao.

After lunch, I interviewed the students, who just graduated from the school this year.  The interviews were relatively brief, but most of them knew how to speak Hakka and have many Hakka traditions at home, such as eating Hakka cuisine.  For them, Hakka culture was just something that they have always grown up with and have always been surrounded by, as compared to Hakka youth who live in urban areas.

Aug. 1 – I traveled to Taipei to pick up my sister from Chientan after a month of taking part in a volunteer teaching program.  She was a bit sick though, because the cough passed around to all the members in her teaching group.  When we got back home, we went to the pharmacy in the evening to buy medicine for her, and we went to a beef restaurant for dinner.  Now that my sister’s back, it’s a bit crazier at my grandma’s place!

Aug. 2 – Once again I went to Taipei, this time with my sister.  We met up with our cousins (the ones I met up with last time) for lunch.  Also, that day was the first time I ever rode a motorcycle.  My cousin took me to the restaurant, and I was terrified for my life.  In the afternoon, we went to an amusement park.  Most of the rides were kiddie rides, and we rode a ferris wheel, a small roller coaster and a pirate ship ride.  What’s interesting about the amusement park is that you pay for everything via Easy Card.  So an Easy Card is basically everything you need if you’re in Taipei, and it allows you to conveniently pay for public transportation.  It’s kind of like a Ventra Card, except it’s way more efficient.  Like with a Ventra Card, there’s a flat fare for the bus or el, but you swipe your Easy Card before and after you get off the MRT and many buses.  Plus it’s cheap.  Anyway, the entire day, my sister was telling me about all the drama that happened in her teaching group at AID. At night, we went to the night market, where we had foods like fish balls, pepper pies (hu jiao bing) and shakes.

Aug. 3 – We were going to go to YeLiu, which has various cool rock formations, including one shaped like a queen’s head.  However, my sister was feeling sick, so we stayed home.

Aug. 4 – In the afternoon, I went to Miaoli. The train ride seemed to last forever.  When I got there, the student who I set up an interview picked me up via motorcycle.  Although I was really scared the first time, I really enjoyed the ride this time around, and I loved riding around Miaoli after the interview.

Anyway, first I went to her dad’s veterinary office, where I interviewed her.  She knows how to speak Hakka, but she says she doesn’t use it as much at home.  However, since Miaoli has a high concentration of Hakka people, she does use it often at work with customers (she works at the vet office), most often with older people.

After the interview, she took me to the stationery store, where I bought a new notebook (my old one finally filled up).  And then we ate dinner together and talked about our lives in Taiwan/U.S.  She was really nice, and it was cool getting to know her!

I went back to the train station and waited for my next interview.  While I was waiting, I met some white guys from Texas who were part of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and they were promoting free English classes.  Apparently, they were on their mission in Taiwan, and they have been here for a few months.

Finally, the research from the Hakka Affairs Council, the one who works at the Miaoli Hakka Cultural Park who I interviewed last time I went to Miaoli, picked me up and drove me to a nearby coffee shop.  I interviewed two friends of his.  One is a Miaoli Hakka radio journalist, and the other used to work at the Miaoli Hakka Cultural Park. Both interviews were interesting, although I wish I had prepared more ahead of time, as I did not realize I would be interviewing a journalist.  The Hakka Affairs Council promotes Hakka media, such as Hakka radio and TV channels, and she definitely has an interesting voice to add to the research.

Finally, I went home, and I slept most of the ride back.

Aug. 5 – I went to Taipei with my grandma and my sister, where we met up with my grandma’s friend and had lunch at the Sheraton hotel.  The hotel was very fancy, and the sashimi and desserts were spectacular.  In fact, the dessert bar had shelves of desserts, two chocolate fondues, a crepe station, an ice cream bar and more.

Yes, I mostly ate desserts, and I’m not even a dessert person.  I especially liked the chocolate pudding dessert that had a pink macaroon on top.

Since we were so full, after lunch, we went walking around Taipei, and we didn’t eat dinner.  We did take a walk around Zhongli at night.

Aug. 6 – Again, I went to Taipei.  I spent much of the day riding public transportation.  Early in the morning, I took the train to Taipei.  From Taipei Main Station, I took the bus to New Taipei City to the Hakka Affairs Council office!

It was so exciting to actually be at this office, which is a part of the Taiwanese government and promotes Hakka rights, culture and language.  I interviewed Tracy Liao, the deputy director of the department of planning at the Hakka Affairs Office.  She told me about efforts to engage young people, such as a service program where Hakka youth can go to Hakka regions and do community service.  For example, one group of Hakka youth interested in journalism started a Hakka broadcast program for children.  She also talked about opportunities for Hakka youth to do research and go abroad, as well as promoting Hakka popular music.  Something else interesting she said was that in more recent years, the number of youth who choose to identify as Hakka has risen, probably because promotion of Hakka language and culture has become more visible.

After the interview, Liao was kind enough to show me around the office. It was a great opportunity to meet her, and I learned much about the Hakka Affairs Council.

Next, I took the bus from New Taipei City to Songshan Airport, and from there, I took the MRT to Neihu for my next interview.  I interviewed a student who is half Taiwanese and half Hakka.  He does not know much about the Hakka language or culture due to his surroundings (no one spoke Hakka to him) and due to living in an urban setting, but he says he identifies as half Hakka because it makes him different from his peers, who are mostly Taiwanese.  We had lunch together, and after the interview, we ended up talking for a while about our lives in the U.S./Taiwan, especially about school.  He just graduated from college, and he’s interested in attending graduate school after serving in the military (in Taiwan, all men are required to do military service).  He said he considered the University of Illinois, but then he realized how cold it was, so he’s more interested in going to graduate school in Texas or California.

After the interview, I took a detour on the way home.  I visited Chientan temple and rode a ferris wheel at Miramar Mall, which is 95 meters tall!  Plus it’s even higher because it’s on the roof of a mall.  I think the mall was doing some kind of promotion of stuffed bananas.  The bananas are based on the Banao stickers, which are LINE stickers.  LINE is a popular messaging app used in Taiwan.  From the ferris wheel, I could see a beautiful view of Taipei and the mountains.

Finally, I went back to Zhongli.  I was quite exhausted.

After dinner, my sister, my grandma and I went on a walk, and we bought fairy grass jelly and popsicles.  However, on the way back, it started raining hard.  A serious typhoon is hitting Taiwan this weekend, hence all the rain.  With the receptionist’s permission, we borrowed some random guests’ umbrellas from a karaoke bar to get home, and then my sister and I had to go back to the karaoke bar to return them.  It was raining like crazy by the time we walked out again.

Aug. 7 – Stayed home today and was mostly unproductive. The typhoon is going on.  In the meantime, I need to continue working on my interview spreadsheet.  I’ve updated it, but I’m still probably only halfway through.

So how does the rest of my trip in Taiwan look like?  Well, most if not all my interviews are pretty much wrapped up. I might do a couple more.  In the meantime, I’m going to organize my data and start writing an article and reflection.  Next Monday, my sister is going back to the U.S.  After she leaves, I will have a lot more free time.  Also, I have some exciting news.  I will be visiting Kaohsiung and Pingtung next week!  When I went to Taiwan three years ago, I did the volunteer teaching program that my sister did this year, and I lived with an amazing host family.  I will be visiting them next week, and I’m absolutely thrilled to see them again!


Taiwan, July 30

So I’ve pretty much just stayed home these past couple of days, but I think I’ve been pretty productive.  I contacted a few new sources, and actually tomorrow, rather than staying home like I originally thought, I’m going to Neisi High School to do some interviews with students who recently graduated.  I have to leave the house at around 9:20 tomorrow to take the train and bus there to get there before noon.  I’m also halfway through the interview data sheet, and as I do my last few interviews, I’m going to fill in the sheet with information.  I worked on a story pitch today, and I spent yesterday working on a new website with Rails. I’ve also learned how to use the canvas HTML element.  A longer term coding goal of mine is to create a game.

Other than being productive and setting up other interviews, other exciting things that have happened are that my grandma and I went on a walk and bought bread yesterday, and yesterday she also made three cup fish. Three cup fish is a dish with sesame oil, rice wine, soy sauce, basil and some hot sauce.  The actual dish is three cup chicken, but my grandma used fish instead.  Prior to cooking it, she had covered the raw fish in salt.  Three cup fish is so delicious.

Here are some photos of a bridge and a temple near my grandma’s place.



Taiwan, July 28

A thunderstorm just ended, which is a relief because it’s been a while since it rained in Zhongli, and it was burning hot today.

This afternoon I traveled to Chung Yuan Christian University in Zhongli to interview a Hakka student.  The interview went great.  The student I interviewed was born and raised in Guanyin, a Hakka village, and her father and relatives speak Hakka, which is how she learned it.  As a child, her aunt taught her Hakka songs, and during holidays they cook Hakka food.  In middle school, she participated in a Hakka speech contest, and this sparked her interest in exploring Hakka history, language and culture on her own.  Although she does not use Hakka as much now (since she usually speaks Mandarin with her parents), she still watches Hakka TV so she does not forget the language.  In addition, she researches Hakka history and culture on the Internet because she never learned about it in school.  She has also joined Hakka Facebook groups that focus on learning the Hakka language.  She believes it is important to keep the culture as aspects such as the language and culture may be lost through the generations.  She says it is up to the Hakka people to preserve these aspects because once it’s gone, they are just the same as others in Taiwan.  In addition, she believes schools should also teach Hakka history as a part of Taiwanese history.

I don’t have anything planned for the rest of this week, other than picking my sister up from Chientan.  I may not blog for a while unless anything interesting happens.  So here are my goals by the end of this week, in order of priority.

Research goals

1. Contact two new sources that I was introduced to.

2. Finish the interview data spreadsheet that I have created.

Coding goals

3. Review Ruby on Rails and practice building apps.

4. Learn how to use the canvas element in HTML.

5. Learn Python.


Taiwan, July 27

This morning I worked on some coding, and in the afternoon I took the bus to National Central University to interview a Hakka studies graduate student.  She majored in ethnic and indigenous studies in college, and now she is focusing on Hakka studies.  She is interested in Hakka studies because it is an important part of her.  Although she grew up in Taipei (usually young Hakka people in urban areas do not know how to speak Hakka), she can speak Hakka because she spoke it with her parents and grandparents.  Her grandparents live in Meinong, an area in Kaohsiung where most people are Hakka, and Hakka is often spoken in public (as opposed to only within Hakka families).  She often goes to Meinong to visit her grandparents and to do research.

After the interview we chatted for a while about our research projects, and then I took the bus home.

In the evening, my grandma and I took a long walk, and we bought some fruits at a fruit market: pineapple, grapes, watermelon and bananas.

Tomorrow I will be going to Chung Yuan Christian University to interview another student.

Taiwan, July 26

It’s been a more chill four days.  I stayed home Thursday and spent a good portion of it sleeping (I was exhausted).

On Friday I went to Taipei.  First I interviewed a student who is half Hakka and half Taiwanese (or Mi-Nan), and she grew up in Taipei.  I interviewed her at her internship office, and it’s pretty cool.  There was a coffee shop at the bottom, lots of space and white walls you could write on.

Afterwards, I met up with one of my mom’s friends, Aunt Shuyin.  We went out to lunch and ate ba-wan, or fried meat dumplings from Changhua City. These dumplings are stuffed with pork, bamboo shoots and mushrooms, and the skin is thick and somewhat transparent. I also ate wonton noodles.

After lunch, we went to Bopiliao Old Street, which has old red brick buildings from the Qing period, Japanese occupation period and post-war periods.  There were museums explaining the history of the district.  Some of the buildings were falling apart and were in the process of renovation.  Here are some photos from the day.





Afterwards, we went to YongKang Street in Dongmen, and we ate fruit ice.  Taiwan is known for this.  Basically, it’s shaved ice served with fruits and ice cream.  It’s so delicious in the summer.

On Saturday I met up with my friend Albert in Taipei, and we ate at a curry restaurant and caught up.  I went to Mass at night.

This morning my grandma and I went grocery shopping in Taoyuan.  We took the bus there.  The place was crazy, kind of like an outdoor market with different vendors selling different kinds of produce, but there was a roof above.  We mainly went there to buy fresh fish and clams, which were just caught.  When we bought the clams, they were still alive, and my grandma made clam soup for lunch (it’s quite tasty and simple: water, clams, ginger, green onions, salt).  Also, we bought green onion bread, and it was freshly baked and delicious.  We ate most of it on the bus ride home.

We spent the rest of the day at home, and I’ve been learning JavaScript online and contacting interviewees.  In the evening, my grandma and I went on a walk, and while we were at it, we visited my grandma’s cousin and her husband (the principal).  We stayed and chatted for a while.  At night, I met up with a professor near the train station, and we talked about my research project.  She talked about possible places where I can obtain information, and she said she would give me contact information for people who live in places where most people know how to speak Hakka, such as Xinwu and and Meinong (up to this point, I’ve mostly been interviewing students who live in urban areas).

I have a couple interviews this week.  Other than that, my goals are to continue improving my JavaScript skills and organize the information I have.  I’m making a spreadsheet of all the people I interviewed, noting their age, where they live, whether they can speak Hakka and interesting points in the interview.  I will also take note of information I need to do more research on.

Taiwan, July 22

This morning, my grandma, her cousin, her cousin’s husband (the retired principal who I previously interviewed) and their grandson drove to Guanyin visit some relatives and old houses.

Our first stop was my grandma’s grandfather’s old home (so my great-great-grandfather’s home).  He was a doctor and quite well-off, and his family lived in a type of house called si-he-yuan, a house with a courtyard surrounded by buildings on four sides, also called a quadrangle. Although the houses we visited had buildings on three sides.



As we drove in, we were greeted by large dogs running around and barking.  My grandma’s cousin’s family lives there, and they have the dogs to protect the house. They were quite fierce, and I counted six of them. There were three at the front (pictured below), and there was another one right in front of the house (pictured above, resting in the shade)

The center room is a shrine for the ancestors, and there were large portraits of my great-great-grandparents.  If you look closely at my great-great-grandfather’s portrait, he had long fingernails.  Chinese doctors back then grew long fingernails so when they are measuring their patients’ pulse, their nails steady their hands.



The doors also had pictures of gods on them.  These are door gods, and they are supposed to protect the house.

My grandma showed me around the house, and she talked about how as a kid she used to play in the courtyard, and about how people cooked back then.

Next we visited a relative of my grandma’s cousin (the one who we were traveling with).  He is skilled in Hakka weaving. When we got there, there were a few people weaving baskets.




He owns many old Hakka artifacts, such as baskets, cages for holding ducks and chickens, cages for catching shrimp and lobsters, tea kettle warmers, etc.  The middle picture is the tea kettle warmer, and it is lined with traditional Hakka floral fabric.



He has participated in a Hakka arts festival and showed us a hut with woven objects inside.



He also had a couple garages filled with old Hakka objects, including a millstone to grind rice and a thresher for harvested grains.


For lunch, we went to a nearby restaurant and ate Hakka foods like bantiao (soup with wide rice noodles) and duck with a sauce that is a mixture of soy sauce and orange flavor.


The restaurant is right next to a Buddhist temple that my grandma’s family used to live right next to.  The temple has been around for probably 100 years, although it probably got renovated at some point.  My grandma said that when she was little, her mother took her and her siblings to the temple to look at a picture of Hell.  It depicted souls getting punished for bad things they did in their lives, such as liars getting their tongues cut off.  My grandma said it scared her and her siblings from doing bad things.  Unfortunately, the picture is no longer there.  The temple was beautiful though.




We also stopped by to look at a lighthouse and the coast, which had a lot of wind turbines nearby.


Finally, we went to Mr. Zhang’s old home.  It was also a quadrangle.  Mr. Zhang and his wife go there every week to sweep the house and to burn incense for their ancestors.  Their house was not as big as my great-great-grandfather’s house, but it was quite organized.  They have family photos on the walls with labels next to them about who the people in the photos were, and the old Hakka artifacts are also labeled.  Since they grew up in the Japanese occupation era, they also had some old newspapers from World War II.





They showed us around their house and told us about the artifacts, including old wardrobes that belonged to their parents, wine vessels, dishes and more.  After they paid respects to their ancestors, we went home.

In the evening, I interviewed two students.  Fortunately, they live really nearby, so we met at a tea shop called Lattea that is a two-minute walk from where my grandma lives.  Unfortunately, the music was quite loud in there, so we moved to the park across the street to do the interview.  They are both half Hakka and don’t know the language well, but they learned Hakka in elementary school because now elementary schools have mother tongue education.  However, they said what they learned was not helpful because it just taught the Hakka language from a book and did not teach practical phrases.

Afterwards, I went on a walk with my grandma.

And that’s my day.  I definitely learned much today about my family history and Hakka culture from long ago.  It’s amazing to see people so dedicated to preserving family history and culture.