In the 5-part documentary series, Chang goes in search of the transience or immortality of different parts of Chinese culture in Amsterdam and Hong Kong. In this first episode of the new season, Chang dives into the world of Hakka culture.
Chang’s father is a Hakka Chinese. The Hakka have their own identity and culture within China that distinguishes them from other Chinese. Because Chang himself grew up without a father, he doesn’t know much about the Hakka culture. When you translate Hakka literally, the word means ‘host families’. The ancestors of Chang emigrated from northern China to southern China more than a thousand years ago, the name Hakka was then used to distinguish the group from the original inhabitants.
One of the Hakkas Chang visits is Tony Chung of the European Hakka Cultural Association. According to Chung, the most important characteristics of the culture are respect for one’s ancestors, parents, food and dialect. He emphasizes the importance of preserving this culture: “Today’s young people no longer speak Hakka. Especially the people in Hong Kong consider Hakka as a language of the countryside, it is not modern enough. Young people are even afraid that they will be laughed at when they speak Hakka.”
“The young people of today no longer speak Hakka, they are afraid that you will be laughed at”
Showing respect and caring for the elderly is important within the culture. According to Chung, that is also the reason why Hakka Chinese like to have a son. “Your son is expected to take care of you in your old age. A daughter can do that too, but she is married to another man and therefore also have a joint obligation to take care of the man’s family,” he said. Chung.
Chang was therefore not brought up with the Hakka culture. He therefore wonders whether he should consider himself Hakka. Chung thinks so. “If you recognize yourself as Hakka, you belong to the Hakka, so welcome.”
“If you recognize yourself as Hakka, you belong to the Hakka”
Chang visits another Hakka family in the Netherlands. One of them is Paul Lee, he explains why they have chosen not to pass the Hakka language on to their daughter. “Most second-generation Chinese in the Netherlands are Cantonese. Then it is most practical to speak Cantonese, because otherwise you learn a dialect that you cannot use most of the time.”
Chang continues his search for Hakka culture in Hong Kong, where there are still entire Hakka villages where Hakka Chinese live together. In one of these villages, Lam Tsuen, he visits village chief Lucas Cheung, he tells Chang about a special tradition of Hakka: the unicorn dance. The dance is a village tradition that they try to nurture. “At Hakka, the unicorn is highly valued, it brings prosperity and chases away diseases. It stands for a long life,” said Lucas Cheung.
In the other episodes of the new season, the traditions in the Netherlands and Hong Kong around Chinese New Year, Kung Fu and Cantonese opera are discussed.
Every Thursday there is a new episode of CHANG. Watch all episodes at at5.nl/chang.
This program was developed in collaboration with Orange Fever.