Saturday, 19 September 2009

Have a spliff on me! Hakka villagers

Here's a photo of two village women smoking traditional pipes. This was taken in the 60's by which time such sights were already a novelty. The big hats offer shelter from the sun when you're working in rice fields. Click on photo to enlarge.

There used to be an "old farmer" who'd dress up and smoke a similar pipe right next to where the tourists buses stopped at a popular scenic spot. The old man made a fortune because tourists would always give the "poor old man" money because he looked so sad. He'd be there waiting for the first tour bus every day, leaving after the last bus left. Never did any farming. One night someone - not a tourist, a local - saw a Mercedes Benz drive up and pick the old man up. Why not? It was his car and he'd had a hard day at work. Time to hit the jacuzzi!

These two old ladies look authentic enough. They are Hakka, a fiercely clannish group that inhabited coastal South China in the 17th century when the local Cantonese there were forcibly removed en masse inland. Hence the name "Hakka" which means "guest families" in Cantonese. They lived in walled villages, some with moats, which could be locked at night to fend off pirates and brigands, which were part of life well into the 1940's. Even now they're proudly distinct. There are Hakka clan groups, associations etc. In the 70's my uncle took me into a "restricted area"where you had to have a pass to get in. To my surprise he spoke Hakka and was warmly welcomed ! So I got to see a bit of traditional Hakka life as it was. A few years ago, out in the mountains I found a fairly remote village. It wasn't walled, not that ancient and most of the locals had PC's and TV's and worked in town. No one else about. So I approached two old ladies for directions. "Go away", they said "We don't speak Cantonese !" The last hang outs from an almost forgotten past.

For more links to Hakka culture plasee see HERE. and HERE.
You can download some authentic Hakka Hill songs HERE

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