This year's annual World Hakka Convention commenced at the Taipei Arena yesterday with representatives from Hakka communities all over the world in attendance.
According to an event organizer, this year's group included more than seven hundred Chinese Hakka, the largest single Chinese contingent ever to be granted entrance to Taiwan.
More than 15,000 people in total will participate in the three-day convention, ranging from musical performances, seminars on Hakka-related topics and social events at the Taipei Arena, an event organizer said.
The festivities started yesterday with a series of performances by Hakka groups, including Taipei's award-winning Hakka orchestra.
The welcome banquet featured acts by Hakka drumming group U-Theatre and veteran folk singer Lai Pi-hsia (賴碧霞).
Although the precise circumstances of the ethnic group's origins are not well understood, the Hakka are thought to have first appeared in a series of mass migrations from northern China to the south more than 1,700 years ago.
According to a volunteer surnamed Chen at the convention yesterday, the "Hakka work ethic and spirit of perseverance" are what he considers most important about being Hakka.
Despite the recent resurgence in Taiwan of interest in Hakka identity and culture, Lin Yan-fang (林燕芳), an administrative official with the Chinese Worldwide Hakka Women's Association, said she regrets that the next generation of Hakkas are less likely to speak the dialect fluently.
"My son knows some Hakka, but he's not completely comfortable with it" she said. "The Hakka dialect has preserved many of the characteristics of ancient Chinese speech throughout the generations. It would be a shame if that continuity is broken."
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
Ma is a Hakka, although he didn't discover his roots until eight years ago, Lin said.
"The mayor speaks Hakka very well," she said, "in fact, I can tell he's improving every year."