This year marks the 10th year of my life living in Taipei. My life is pretty ordinary. Apart from the route from work to home, Guting and Dongmen are the places I visit the most. Over time, I have found a few favorite stores, made friends with locals, and life here has become gradually familiar.
Since the government began its promotion of the concept of “Cheng-Nan,” I have often seen these two words appearing in many exhibitions and events. The scope determined by “Cheng-Nan” covers almost all of my favorite places in Taipei. Though there is no such definite boundary for “Cheng-Nan,” there is a rough saying that during the Japanese colonial rule, the Governor-General of Taiwan called the area to the south of the Taipei Walls “Cheng-Nan,” meaning literally: “the south of the city.”
A vague definition of “Cheng-Nan” refers to the areas of Nanmoncho, Ryukocho, Sakumacho, Kodamacho, Chitosecho, Shineicho, Koteicho, Kawabatacho, Babacho, Suidocho, Tomitacho and other areas, which have become today’s Guting , Zhongzheng, and Da’an Districts.This areas ranges from the South Airport, Botanical Garden, Treasure Hill, Toad Mountain, to National Taiwan University.
Just a couple days ago, when I was hanging out at Mr. Zeng’s shop, he told me...
I came to Taipei from Chaozhou to work after finishing school, and now I work and live in Guting. Did you know that in the early days there were many Hakkas doing business on Tingzhou Road, Nanchang Street, and Roosevelt Road? They ran many different kinds of businesses, including snack bars, bicycle and clock shops, pharmacies, and electrical and plumbing supply stores. However, there are far fewer of these types of shop nowadays, and there are fewer people who can speak Hakka. Except for some regular customers, people communicate mostly in Mandarin. Occasionally, while visiting Dongmen Market, I will hear some Hakka conversations, and feel a sudden sense of connection.
The chief of this district is also a Hakka, and we both come from the south. Normally we only chat briefly. After all, we are both busy. However, an invisible mutual network was established. That’s pretty much it. There is no Hakka village in Taipei. Hakka people live seperatly in different areas. It is said that the area with the highest proportion of Hakka population in Taipei is here, in the Zhongzheng, Wenshan, and Da'an districts.
Taiwan is a place where diverse ethnic groups merge. Hakka is the second largest ethnic group in Taiwan today. During the Qing dynasty rule, there was a period during which immigration to Taiwan was prohibited, which influenced the population and ratio between Minnan people and Hakka people. Most of the Hakka came from Guangdong, and some came from Fujian. Back in that time, conflicts between the Hakka, the Fujian, and Taiwanese Aboriginals, fighting for resources and survival, were very frequent. Due to armed conflicts, camphor gathering, and other factors of economic development, the Hakkas kept migrating in Taiwan. The areas with a higher Hakka population today are Taoyuan, Xinzhu, Miaoli, Pingtung Liudui, and Huadong Valley.
The Earliest records of Hakka development in Taipei dates back to the early Qing dynasty, at Wanshengzhuang, which is the area around Wansheng Street today. In the 7th year of the rule of Yongzheng (1729), Liao Jianyue, the head of the Cantonese settlers, navigated the Danshui River inland to the Xindian River, where he encountered the Xiulang aboriginal tribe. Only after a treaty was signed was the land developed by the Hakka. This development later extended to the Gongguan area. The settlers Guo Xiliu (Liugong), Liao Jianyue and Deng Yisheng signed a treaty in the 25th year of the rule of Qianlong (1760), agreeing to jointly excavate the Liugong ditch. These are the records left by the Hakkas in the southern part of Taipei during the Qing dynasty rule. During the same period, the armed fighting between Fujian and Guangdong people continued, which also forced many Hakka south.
During the Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945), there was a continued relocation of Hakka people moving to eastern parts of Taipei. In northern Taiwan, many people moved to Yonghe, Sanchong, Banqiao, or into Tonghua, Wuxing, Hejiang, or Nanchang Streets… in Taipei City. Most of these people came from working class backgrounds.
After the Second World War (1946~), the Hakka underwent another wave of internal migration, moving from the countryside to the city. Many Hakkas migrated from other counties and cities to Taipei to seek a living, which reflected the rise of industry and the decline of agriculture at that time. In addition, damage from the August 7th Typhoon in 1959 caused many affected residents to leave their hometowns for Taipei. At that time, very few people could afford living in the city, and the government was not able to resettle them. As a result, these new residents built their own sheds at the margin of the city.
I have lived in Taipei for a long time but have not met that many friends who speak Hakka. If I speak Hakka, friends who don’t speak Hakka would not understand it. This is a headache for me. But now, my Hakka is not so fluent anymore. In fact my Taiwanese is better. This has happened without me even noticing. It must have something to do with the general environment.
And then, I got married and had children, so my life is centered here now. I go back to my hometown several times a year, but I can never stay for long. When my children were young, they would be sent to my parents in the south during the winter and summer school breaks, so that they could spend some time with my parents. It’s also very relaxing for children to play in the country side. They can also learn a bit Hakka. However, due to our living surroundings, the Hakka experience has become more and more blurred for me, and so it is for our two children. Schoolwork and future jobs are, after all, still more important. In short, their own ideas are more important!
What should I say? The policy of banning dialects has indeed exacerbated the rupture of language. The inheritance of Taiwanese, Hakka and Aboriginal languages have all suffered greatly. Language is a part of life. Once the person can't speak the language, they seem to be even more alienated from the culture. However, the current world is in a state of urbanization and globalization. As time passes, everyone's habits seem to become more and more similar. After a long time, it is really difficult to tell the difference between that which is Hakka, and that which is Hokkien.
It is you asking me the question that makes me think about these things. There were quite a few young people who came to me, wanting to hear about my life and the move from my hometown to Taipei, as well as the changes in this area. I have never thought of these as special. Perhaps you should tell me what it is that is so interesting about all this.
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8. 劉彥甫，〈台北城南舊夢〉 https://www.thinkingtaiwan.com/content/5811