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Life Context, Collective Memory and Group Identification: The Immigrant Identity of Hepo-Hakkas in Taiwan

Ching-sui LAN (Sun Yat-sen University)

The predominant system of ethnic classification in Taiwan today consists of four main groups, Fulao, Hakka, mainlanders (waishengren) and indigenous peoples, and ignores internal differentiation within each group. Having immigrated from Jieyang county in Guangdong in the period 1945-1949, the Hepo possess a double identity as both Hakka and mainlanders. Those who settled in Hakka areas found a shortcut to integrate into local society because of their common language and customs. Residential concentration enabled them to preserve their language; their common diet and custom of thinking "pounded tea" (leicha) served as media for interaction. Clan and territorial associations promoted the internal cohesion of the migrant community. The construction of temples to the cult of the Kings of the Three Mountains and rituals of the Kingly Lord (wangye) encourage the Hepo who have dispersed elsewhere to maintain their traditional customs and strengthen their historical consciousness, further promoting the maintenance of a distinct identity. Other immigrants from the mainland who lived in villages for military dependents (juancun) or in housing for public employees found it more difficult to integrate into local society. The Hepo see themselves as Hakka rather than mainlanders, but also as mainlanders rather than as Taiwanese. Their self identity is thus profoundly different from other mainlanders, for whom migration from the mainland is constitutive of ethnic identity.

Journal of History and Anthropology