Hakka History — Talk from Oliver Lee

Hakka History Source Sunday Times, Feb 4, 1996


Hakka1bw hakka_2bw




Hakka villages pictures



Dr. Oliver Lee’s Talks

Hakka History 
Part 1 of Hakka Migrations
Presented at the quarterly meeting 6 May by member Dr. Oliver Lee

Part 2 of Hakka Migrations 
Presented at the quarterly meeting 8 July by member Dr. Oliver Lee

Summary of Oliver Lee’s talk about China’s geography

in connection with Hakka migrations in the past thousand years

After Carolyn Yap helped to distribute copies of a map of China, Oliver pointed out certain key features of China’s geography and history:

The location of the Yellow River and the Yangzi River, both having their sources in Qinghai Province, which is part of the Tibetan Plateau, “The roof of the world”.

The location of Henan Province (河南,pronounced “Ho Nam” in Hakka) near the Yellow River’s sharp turn to the east after having flowed due south for 400 miles.

The fact that Ho Nam Province is in a region, just south of the Yellow River, that was especially favourable for agriculture due to the special quality of its soil and easy access to water from the Yellow River and its numerous tributaries.

This favourable environment gave rise to Chinese agriculture in that region more than 6,000 years ago, making that region the heart of the northern branch of Chinese civilization. (Remains of a 6,000-year-old village are now a museum in Xi’an).

Being agriculturally productive, this region gave rise to China’s early dynasties (Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, and some short-lived ones), which came about through conquest of the agricultural lands by various nomadic warriors from the grasslands of Mongolia.

The early dynasties had their geographic base in that northern part of China, and had their capitals successively in Xi’an and Chang’an.


Oliver then spoke of the waves of migration that the ancestors of the Hakka people undertook, mainly at the end of the Tang Dynasty, of the Song Dynasty, and of the Ming Dynasty. His research into the origins of the Char clan, the Li clan, and the Lum clan caused him to conclude that the migrations involved not mainly ordinary peasants but mainly those members of the clans who happened to be high officials at the end of one or another of the defeated dynasties. Such members had good reason to fear for their lives and the lives of their sons and all the rest of their families. 


The high officials would then lead their families to travel several hundred miles southward (not northward, as that would have meant going to nomadic terrain in the grasslands or steppes), to settle in southern Hunan, southern Jiangxi, and southern Fujian (湖南,江西, 福建。In Hakka: Fu Nam, Gong See, Fuk Kian). In each destination, the family leader would become the founder of a new branch of the original clan, and the descendants would count their own generational rank from that time on, for dozens or scores of generations, until further migration would result in the founding of a new branch of the clan. 


Many of the migrants who settled in southern Fujian, after some 300 years there, moved further south across the border into Guangdong Province. They settled in that border region in the many river valleys next to the Mei River (梅 江). That region today is called the Meixian Prefecture (梅县地区), which contains six counties, totalling some 3,000,000 people. This Meixian Prefecture has been the core region of the Hakka people. 


It is from this region that further migrations took place to counties near Canton, such as Bao’an, Feizhou, Dongguan (宝安,惠州,东莞。In Hakka: Bao On, Fee Dsu, Dung Guan). Most Hakka people in Hawaii came from these counties. Being near Canton, the Hakka dialect in these counties has been influenced over the generations by Cantonese, and is somewhat different from the dialect spoken in Meixian. 


Oliver then mentioned the bloody battles that took place in China between Hakka and Punti people in the mid-19th century, and the bad relations between Hakka and Punti in Hawaii in that century. But Oliver closed on the note that over the generations in Hawaii these old hostilities, and the Punti people’s discrimination against the Hakka, have pretty much disappeared. 


More Hakka history from Dr. Oliver Lee at future meetings



Part 3
Dr. Oliver Lee’s short history talk November 18
Tsung Tsin Family Names 
(Listed in the “old” Membership Book)

Major Hakka Families in Honolulu and Their Counties of Origin in China

Data taken by Oliver Lee from Membership Registration of Tsung Tsin Association since the 1920s

                          Family  Name           Counties in Guangdong Province
Char Mainly from Zhongshan, 3 from Dongguan
Chang Mainly from Bao’an (Hakka pronunciation:  Bao On)
Chai Almost all from Dongguan
Chee Almost all from Zhongshan
Ching Mainly from Dongguan, some from Zhongshan
Chong Dongguan, Bao’an, Huiyang, Changle, Zhongshan, Wuhua
Chu From Bao’an and Zhongshan
Chu All from Meixian (Hakka pronunciation: Moy Yan)
Chung Mainly form Huiyang, some from Bao’an
Fo All from Zhongshan
Fung All from Bao’an
Goo All from Zhongshan
Hee Huiyang and Bao’an
Hiu Mainly Bao’an, some from Zhongshan
Ho Mainly from Zhongshan
How All from Meixian
Kam Mainly from Zhongshan, some from Huiyang
Kong Mainly Bao’an, some from Huiyang
From Huiyang, Dongguan, and Zhongshan

Mainly from Huiyang, Fanyu, Bao’an, and Zhongshan.


Leong Mainly from Bao’an, some from Huiyang
Lim/Lum Mainly from Huiyang and Zhongshan
Ling Mainly from Bao’an
Liu/Lau Mainly from Bao’an, some from Zhongshan and Dongguan
Lo Mainly from Bao’an, some from Huiyang
Lung All from Zhongshan
Lyau All from Zhongshan
Mark All from Huiyang
Mau All from Zhongshan
Ng/Ing All from Bao’an
Pang All from Bao’an
Poong All from Hua Xian (Hakka pronunciation:  Fa Yan)
Shim All from Bao’an
Soon/Sun From Huiyang and Longjiang
Soong From Huiyang and Huizhou
Ten All from Bao’an
Tong Bao’an
Tyau Small number, all from Xingning (Hakka pronunciation: Hsin Nen)
Wong Huiyang, Bao’an, and Zhongshan
Wong Huiyang, Zhongshan, Bao’an, Meixian, and Xingning
Wu All from Bao’an
Yee From Huiyang and Zhongshan
Young Bao’an, Zhongshan, and one from Meixian
Yap From Bao’an and Zhongshan
Zane All from Bao’an


Please view the map below of Guangdong Province, showing all the Hakka Counties mentioned above, plus Zhongshan County, which was populated by both Punti and Hakka people.



The map shows Huizhou Prefecture, in which Huiyang is a County.


Meixian Prefecture, has seven Counties, with Meixian County being one of them, encircled by the rest.


The Pearl River Delta consists of the triangular body of water (Pearl River) wedged between Macao and Hong Kong, plus the several Counties on either side of the Pear River.


Taishan County is where the ancestors of most of the early Chinese immigrants on the U.S. mainland came from.








Part 4
Dr. Oliver Lee’s short history talk November 18
The 3000-year history of the Lim/Lum clan


Three thousand years ago in North China there was a Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty (商朝) , which lasted about 200 years. It was coming to an end. Under it there were a dozen more or less independent kingdoms. One of them was the Zhou Kingdom (周国) .  Its ruler was Wen Wang, which means “Literary King”.

Wen Wang was overthrown by a rival, Zhou Xin(纣辛) , an evil and cruel tyrant. His uncle Bi Gan (比干)was an honest adviser but the king didn’t like his advice and had him executed — by means of tearing out his heart while he was still alive.

Bi Gan’s son, named Gian (坚),feared for his life and fled with his family to a forest called  Tsong Lim (长林), which means “Long Forest”.  So Gian, who had no surname, took the word Lim from the forest and made it his family name. So he became Lim Gian (林坚). I have good reason to believe that in North China at that time that’s how his name was pronounced.

Meanwhile, the evil tyrant Zhou Xin was overthrown. When he was losing out, he set fire to his own palace and perished in the flames. Good riddance.

The overthrowing was done by the Literary King’s son, Wu Wang (武王)which means “Military King”. This king, in honor of the honest adviser who had been executed, officially bestowed the surname “Lim” on Lim Gian and his family. Kings in those days, when not everybody had a surname, often bestowed surnames on deserving families. Over the centuries, Lim Gian’s descendants spread among the dozen kingdoms under the Zhou Dynasty.

One of the descendants was Prime Minister Lim Gao (林皋) of the Zhao kingdom (赵国),north of the Yellow River. He had nine sons, all smart and able and ambitious. The king was jealous and planned to kill all of them. So Lim Gao led his nine sons to hide in the Bai Yu Mountains (白于山), west of the Yellow River, near a small tributary called See Ho (西河). So the Lims in that branch set up an establishment called See Ho Lim Tong(西河林堂), and our President Keith Lim knows about a building with almost the same name, Lum Sai Ho Tong, on River Street, just beyond the Cultural Plaza.

About 300 A.D., during the Jin Dynasty (晋朝), branches of the Lim clan  in East China escaped from the warfare and turmoil in East China and migrated southward to what is today Fu Zhou City  (福州市). Other Lim descendants settled in other parts of Fujian Province, including the part near Guangdong Province, where later the Hakka people set up the core region of the Hakka people.

A thousand years later, in the Song Dynasty, a man named Lim Pin Szi (林评市) was an official in that core region, namely in Moy Yan(梅县). After retirement, he settled in a nearby county called Tai Poo(大埔), where our Vice President Ben Duong’s grandfather came from, as he told me. (Ben is from Vietnam, but his grandfather was from Tai Poo). Lim Pin Szi founded his branch of the Lims in Tai Poo; and when a branch of the clan is formed in a new area, the founder is counted as of the first generation, his children the second generation, and so forth. In my own case, I am of the 26th generation in my village, which was settled some 300 years ago. One of Lim Pin Szi’s descendants founded the Lim branch in Ziao Liang (蕉岭), which is also in the Hakka core region.

In recent centuries the Lims or Lums of Fujian became major settlers in Canton’s Red River Delta, and Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in the past 20 years were among the huge number of Fujian people immigrating illegally to the U.S. in rickety boats, settling mainly in New York’s Chinatown. New York’s Chinatown used to be controlled by people from Toi San and Zhung San, but now it is controlled by the recent immigrants from Fujian or Fukkien.

Coming to the end of my story: In 1881, a man named Bung Yun Lum migrated from Guangdong to Hawaii. Married a Chung girl, and they had 13 children. I brought this book, “Sailing for the Sun: The Chinese in Hawaii, 1789 to 1989″, published by Arlene Lum, who used to write for the Star-Bulletin. The great grandchildren of BugnYun Lum are now senior citizens. Arlene tells of a reunion of the Lum clan in 1996, attended by 500 Lums, and another reunion in 2012, attended by 200.

And that’s the end of my story.