Hakka in southern parts of the country are accusing the Council for Hakka Affairs of snubbing them as it prepares to celebrate the first National Hakka Day — on “Sky Mending Day,” the 20th day of the first lunar month — with a series of activities they claim have nothing to do with their culture or beliefs.
After perusing different suggestions and speaking with Hakka opinion leaders, Hakka Affairs Council Minister Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振) announced in September that the 20th day of the first lunar month — which falls tomorrow — would be National Hakka Day.
According to one ancient belief, when the god of water lost a battle with the god of fire, he smashed his head against one of the pillars holding up heaven, causing the pillar to collapse and heaven to crack open. This caused disasters on earth, including non-stop torrential rain and fire, while man-eating beasts began to roam the earth. According to legend, the goddess Nuwa (女媧) repaired the collapsed pillar and filled the cracks with five different colored rocks, thus ending the suffering of all creatures on earth.
Huang said that while the myth did not come from Hakka tradition, only Hakka celebrated it in Taiwan — a view that Hakka in the south contested.
“[Sky Mending Day] is simply not celebrated at all among Hakka in the south,” Fu Min-hsiung (傅民雄), a musician, researcher of local Hakka history and chief of Jhutian Village (竹田) in Jhutian Township (竹田), Pingtung County, told the Taipei Times by telephone. “The council just imposed this holiday on all of us.”
Fu acknowledged being consulted when the council was seeking to plan a National Hakka Day.
“The criteria were quite odd. When you pick a day to represent Hakka, it should of course be one that is, to some extent, uniquely important for Hakka,” Fu said. “If they care so much about not being ethnically exclusive, why not just abolish the council?”
Fu said most southern Hakka he had talked to were strongly opposed to choosing Sky Mending Day as National Hakka Day.
“Dec. 28 would be more appropriate, since that is the date when Hakka across the country and even different political backgrounds march side-by-side to protest the government’s repression of local languages in 1988,” he said.
Greater Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor and former council minister Lee Yung-te (李永得) said that as a Hakka born and raised in the Hakka town of Meinong (美濃) — now Meinong District in Greater Kaohsiung — he had not heard of Sky Mending Day until he met Hakka from the north.
“We were looking for a National Hakka Day when I was minister and some people suggested Sky Mending Day, but we rejected it because it was not a widely celebrated holiday among Hakka around the country,” he said.
“Hakka language and culture were seriously repressed [by the Chinese National Party (KMT) government] in the past, to the extent that it was on the verge of disappearing altogether,” Lee said. “Only after the demonstration did Hakka all over the country stand in unity and change public opinion — and then government policy.”