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The humanity of Minnan

Crossing the Black Ditch, Minnan people explored Pingtung


In the course of history, there were two major tides of immigration to Taiwan (called Taiyuan in the past). The first appeared in the 17th century during Cheng Chenggong's era, during which many Minnan (Southern Fujian) officers and soldiers landed on Luermen, Taiwan following Cheng. These batches of immigrants settled down in areas around Fucheng, Tainan. Later, they prospered by conducting trade.

The second wave of immigration happened when the Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan from China bringing many officers, soldiers, and dependents with them. Since the Taiwan government's implementation of the open door policy to multi-ethnicity, many new immigrants from the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam migrated into Taiwan through marriages, constituting the third wave in immigration. In Taiwan, the third wave immigrants are called new residents.

In the early 18th century, the Qing Court implemented the "exploration license system" in governing Taiwan. Many powerful families occupied the land with the excuse of exploring the land. As a result, 7 major Minnan families occupied most of the lands in Pingtung plain. The lands they occupied covered the areas from the right bank of Gaoping River to Pingtung plain. The farthest border was located at the areas around Fangsuo clan along Dalin River (Note 1).

Before the Minnan people migrated to Pingtung from China, it was the terrain of Makatto clan of Siraya tribe. Paiwan and Rukai tribes inhabited Dawu Mountain.

Generally speaking, the villages located at the south of Jhuoshuei River, most of the inhabitants are Minnan people. It is the same with Pingtung, 20% to 30% of the population is Hakka, about 10% of them are indigenous peoples and the rest are Minnan people. Simply put, the lifestyle of Minnan people, including food, clothing, house, and transportation have merged into the Pingtung inhabitants' experiences of everyday life. In elections, government institutions and more, people have no inclination to manifest their ethnic origins of being Minnan people.

It is the same with the architectural system. As intermarriages between Hakka and Minnan happened frequently, their lifestyles and experiences of everyday life mixed with each other. It is rare to see traditional Hakka kitchens in Hakka communities now. Hakka houses are built in the style of Minnan architecture – 3 courtyard complexes. We can only distinguish their ethnic origins from their family titles.

Therefore, it is impossible to distinguish the ethnic origins of the snacks people eat elsewhere in everyday life. For example, walking into the Hakka communities of Changjhih Township or Wanluan Township, we can see food stalls selling different kinds of Hakka dishes and snacks, which are very different indeed.

Walking along the street, we can hardly find any food stall or restaurant selling Minnan dishes because they are everywhere. There is no need to highlight their origins. It is the same with clothing. When we see people wearing blue clothes, we know that they are traditional Hakka costumes at first sight. When we see the patterns of 100-pacer snakes and lilies on the clothes, we know that they are of indigenous design. However, it is rather difficult to see any ethnic marker of Minnan people because Minnan culture is integrated in everyday life.

When people in Hakka communities in Jiadung Township hang new baby boy lanterns in front of their houses, we know that it is a Hakka custom. When people are celebrating the 5-year rite and millet rite, we can tell that they are Paiwan people. However, we can hardly tell which ceremonies and which folklores specifically belong to Minnan people.

Regarding the ethnic experience and cultural flow of Minnan people, the majority in Taiwan, there is a very special phenomenon. Perhaps we can call it "the loss of the majority." In fact, Minnan people have their own traditional ceremonies, most of which, however, have blended into daily life, rendering them invisible.

During the lunar New Year, the temple fairs in Jiuru Township rock the night. In New Year's Eve, the Temple of the Lords of the Three Mountains celebrates the homecoming of the Ladies, the Lords' wives. The parade lingers from Jiuru Township to the border of Linluo Township. This ceremony regarding the joint of Hakka deities and Minnan deities has been celebrated in the local communities for the past 200 years, and 20 years particularly in Jiuru. Now, the Minnan people in Jiuru Township and Hakka people in Linluo Township still celebrate this folk event every year.

The Rite of Welcoming the Lords is held at Donggang every three years is a typical Minnan ritual. When the ritual begins, firecrackers and lights flash into the sky, illuminating the night sky at Donggang. In addition, Cihfong Mazu Temple in Pingtung City is always packed with worshippers. On the 1st day in the 1st lunar month, aka the New Year day, worshippers pack the temple, offering incenses to the deities. As to the Babao rite in Manjhou Township, it is also a ritual dedicated to Minnan people (Note 2).
 

Note 1: Please consult The Annals of Pingtung 2014.

Note 2: Please consult The Annals of Pingtung 2014.