A Tradition of Agriculture and Education

A unique characteristic of Hakka people was their attention to education. Their traditional view of ideal life was ‘farming when sunny, studying when raining’ and a ‘legacy of poems and written works’. Hakka people treasured written language, respected knowledgeable scholars and revered civilization. These had become a tradition and attitude that were passed down from generation to generation 

An important old habit that characterized Hakka people’s reverence for civilization was ‘respect and treasure written words and papers’. In the eye of traditional Hakka people, word creation was not easy and characters were deity personified. Therefore papers with written words should not be discarded lightly. They must be gathered and burned at dedicated ‘Holy Event Pavilion’ or ‘Treasured Word Pavilion’. Hence every first and fifteenth of the lunar month there would be some old folks who automatically collected written papers in the village. This lasted until mid-20th century when printing technique was quite advanced and written papers prevalent. However, in Wanluan of Pingtung, there was still an old man who persisted in this gentle and ancient tradition until the end of the 20th century. As a consequence of the respect and treasure of written paper, in their folk religion they also revered especially the creator of word characters ‘Changjie’.      

They also worshipped Wen Chang Ti Jun and Han Yu who revitalized literacy when it had become decadent for over eight dynasties as a reflection of their emphasis in education. In almost every Hakka village and township of Taiwan, there is a Wen Chang Temple. If there is no Wen Chang Temple, there will be a Wen Chang Ti Jun in large temples of other gods. This god, who is in charge of civilization, is not only worshipped by educated but also farmers and hawkers, even laymen. Every 3rd day of lunar February, the birth date of Ti Jun, all households would prepare sumptuous offerings and worship in the temple. Aside from this, Han Yu who revitalized literacy when it had become decadent for over eight dynasties had also become a god of civilization worshipped by Hakka people. This was due to his important contribution in initiating and raising literacy among the Hakka people when he was exiled to Linnan to be an official there. There is a dedicated Changli Temple in Neipu of Pintung County worshipping Han Yu. The San Shan Gou Wang Temple of Tainan City also worshipped Han Yu as one of its gods. Every September 9 of the lunar calendar, worshippers there would prepare sumptuous offerings and worship him.

Hakka people were a migratory ethnic group. As they had been living in adverse environment for a very long time, they knew the best avenue to change current situation was to become successful through studying. They perceived culture and knowledge as major means of competitiveness and survival. That was the reason for their literary profusion and renowned personnel cultivation. There were many Hakka idioms that conveyed this message, such as ‘if a son does not study, it is better to rare a pig’ and ‘does not know how to make judgment if one does not study’. The best portrayal is: more than 60 years after the war, the Hakka people have bettered their societal and economic status through higher education, due to their emphasis on the importance of education.          

(Many thanks to Legislator Chen Yun-Tong for providing the information)