Culture and History


Architectural Space

In mentioning Hakka architecture, people always think of old houses, more specifically, examples of historical architecture or ancient sites. The three-wing courtyard house in which the Hakka live (also called the kuofangwu) does indeed have a high profile, and especially throughout the process of social change the old houses in the Hakka villages seem to have survived better than the houses of other ethnic groups.

For this reason, mentioning Hakka architecture today very naturally leads one to think of Fanjiang's Old Houses in Hsinwu, the Fan House and the Liu House in Hsinpu, the Six Clan Wen-li Hall, and Peipu's Tien-shui Hall and Chin Kuang Fu. In southern Taiwan Meinung's Kuofangwu, Chiatung's Hsiao House and Wukoushui's Liu House come to mind. Certainly, outstanding and elegant old Hakka houses are always bound to attract admiration. The shops are full of books on old Taiwan houses, and Hakka architecture regularly accounts for half of them.

Hakka architectural space as cultural property

There are indeed many individual cases of extraordinary elegance in Hakka architecture but if we only talk about the very top level of traditional Hakka architecture it is difficult to get an idea of the values of the Hakka ancestors with regard to the development of architectural space. Reading the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (Preservation Act) announced in 2005, the closest thing relating to "architectural space" was that the architectural space of "antiquities, historical architecture and traditional gathering habitations" should cover antiquities, historical architecture and traditional gathering habitations and that the overall vision and thinking in this area should be broadened from a cultural perspective, especially given the many architectural types to be found in Hakka villages.

Diversified Architectural Types

The Preservation Act can be boiled down to several key words and phrases: antiquities, historical architecture, traditional gathering habitations, construction methods, buildings and their associated elements. We can extrapolate further from this to: shops, courtyard-style houses (residences), ancestral shrines (public and private), ancestral temples (of the ruling house), shrines, religious buildings, warning stones, fengshui, barracks, police stations, jails, fire stations, official dormitories, colleges, schools, theaters, gymnasiums, meeting places, guild halls, general stores, foreign company buildings, banks, post office, tobacco barns, farmer's association halls, irrigation association halls, sugar refineries, breweries, markets, kilns, train stations, ports, ferry stations, light houses, bridges, ancient roads, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, memorial tablets, memorial arches, city walls, defensive gates, parks (and gardens), and ancient wells.

The above is by no means a complete list of Hakka architectural types. To be complete, it would have to include the types the Hakka people themselves have continued to add with their imagination.

Concrete Manifestations of a Way of Life

Every level of government has numerous projects focusing on living space in Hakka villages, and these projects are not at a loss for older style construction. But there are also many new constructions, and even more up-to-date older but not ancient styles. The emphasis is by on means on the building's design aesthetic but on its cultural significance and function. For example in Taiyuan, Hsinwu's Yewumei office building (and the environs), Pingzhen's new use of the old buildings in the Tungshih zhuang, the renovation of the Shitouwu at Fentien Village, Hengshan, Hsinchu, the delineation of Hsinwawu as a "Hakka Cultural Preservation Area" and the renovation of the Lin Family Clan Temple, the old mountain dwellings in Shuili, the reuse of the tobacco barns in Fenglin, Hualien and in Meinung, Kaohsiung. In these places you can see the more diversified Hakka architectural typologies, and even more significant is that in rediscovering all of this, the significance of Hakka culture is enriched. (text: Chen Pan)