Hundreds of people poured into Taipei County Hakka Museum in Sansia Township (三峽) yesterday morning as the annual Taiwan Hakka Exposition was officially opened.
“The exposition is a great opportunity for non-Hakka to get to know about the Hakka cultures and for Hakka to learn more about their own culture,” Council for Hakka Affairs Minister Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振) told the audience at the opening ceremony.
As visitors walked into the first exhibition area in the museum, they found presentations of the “12 grand Hakka festivities” — many of which are unique to certain communities.
“Bombing the dragon” — or throwing firecrackers at men dressed as a mock dragon during a night parade, for example, is a traditional way for Hakkas in Miaoli County to celebrate the Lantern Festival.
The people of Nantou County’s Guohsing Township (國姓) are the only Hakka in the country that worship the God of Sambhar and hold celebrations in the God’s name in March.
After being introduced to the 12 traditional Hakka festivities, visitors will enter an exhibition of photos showcasing the lives of ordinary Hakka in the city or in the countryside, with the oldest photo dating back to the 19th century and the newest one shot this year.
The photo exhibition reminded many elder visitors of their childhoods. Many of them stopped in front of certain photos and recounted to their grandchildren how they once looked after a cow or ducks after school as shown in the pictures.
Outside the museum, four exhibition rooms were set up to show Hakka life and culture in the north, center, south and east of Taiwan.
“Look, these are different types of temples for Bogong [伯公],” a father said to his young daughter. “Bogong,” meaning “granduncle” is the term that Hakka formerly used for Tudigong (土地公), or the God of Land.
The worship of Bogong is traditionally one of the most important and common parts of Hakka religious life. In a village, there is usually a “Village Bogong” who looks after the entire village, many “Field Bogongs” who take care of the farms and “Water Bogongs” who guard the water supply to the village.
However, in Chutian Township (竹田) in Pingtung, people have a unique belief of a “River Bogong” — the God of the River.
Believing that written words are sacred, Hakka residents in Chutian used to burn papers with written words in a brick oven on a chosen day after performing a ritual. They then would pray to the River Bogong and throw the ashes into the river, asking the River Bogong to take the sacred words back to Heaven.
Besides the exhibitions, there are also dozens of booths selling Hakka food, snacks, handicraft, artwork, and music.
“At the Exposition, you can always find something good to see, to play and to buy,” Huang said. “I assure you that you will leave the exposition with your hands full.”
Entry to the exposition is free.
For more information, visit www.hakkaexpo.com.tw.