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From the Pavilion of Righteous Men to the Shrine of Righteous Men: The Transformation of Hakka Society of Liudui, Taiwan

Special Issue
Lihua CHEN (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
1 & 2
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The relationship between "righteous men" (yimin) and Hakka collective identity has historically attracted the interest of scholars. In the Liudui region of southern Taiwan, local social organizations with a militaristic character began to develop in the early Qing. Members of these organizations played the role of "righteous men" in assisting the Qing state in suppressing unrest. The image of "righteous men", which was freighted with a strong sense of national consciousness, played a critical role in the construction of local society. This is evident from a study of the local sacrifices at the Pavilion of Righteous Men in Liudui. This shrine was first built by order of state officials, and the central object of sacrifice was a tablet of the Qing emperor. This illustrates how local people sought to use the symbol of "righteous men" to build a longdistance relationship with the Qing court. Since that time Taiwan society has undergone multiple regime changes. Through changes to ritual and sacrifice, the former symbol of relations with the Qing dynasty has become an expression of relations with current political authority. In this process, history has become an infinitely renewable resource for local society.

At the same time as local people used ritual forms to draw themselves closer to national orthodoxy, they were also constructing their own notions of identity. This was closely connected to changes in prevailing theories of nationalism and its relation to cultural systems. In this respect, Barbara Ward's theory of "conscious models" can be very useful. The Qing conception of identity was expressed through social organizations based on place of origin on the mainland and place of settlement on Taiwan. The Japanese colonial authority imposed a system of registration that had the effect of fixing ethnic labels. But the colonial government, seeking to promote the cultural symbols of the metropole and the remaking of local cultural resources, paid little attention to the different ethnic identities within local society. Only after the Nationalist government recovered control of Taiwan did the rhetoric of Hakka identity, which had been developing alongside Nationalist ideas about the nation, become part of the incorporation of Liudui into national orthodoxy. The construction of ethnic identity and national identity were thus two sides of the same coin.

Journal of History and Anthropology