The term "Hakka" was not originally a designation
for a certain ethnic group living in a particular area. When the term "Hakka"
first appeared in household registries during the Song Dynasty, it was used to indicate
"guests" who had left their homelands to settle down in other parts of the
country, in contrast to residents originally from the area. Although evidence is sketchy,
the Hakkas are thought to originate from the lands bordering the Huang River (Yellow
River) or Shanxi, Henan, and Hubei Provinces of the Northern China of today. To escape
calamity, they would later flee southward traveling through many lands. They eventually
settled down in the Jiangxi, Fujian, and Guangdong Provinces. Referred to by locals as
"Hakka" or "guests", the Hakkas appeared on the world stage for the
The Hakkas took to the road in five separate major migrations.
The nickname "Jews of Asia" intimates these mass migrations and their pioneering
The Hakka Migrations
According to research by Luo Xiang Lin, five mass movements of
Hakka took place as they trekked south from their original place of residence in the
Central Plains in the Huang (Yellow) River Basin.
The first Hakka displacement took place when China was in tumult
as it was under attack by five tribes during the time of Qin Shi Huang. The capital at
Luoyang was removed to Nanjing and large numbers of people, including aristocrats, the
general populace, and the ancestors of the Hakka, fled south to escape catastrophe.
The second Hakka migration occurred at the end of the Tang and
the beginning of the Song Dynasties. The major reason for the displacement was the , which drove the predecessors of the Hakkas
to southern Anhui, southwestern Jiangxi, southern and western Fujian, and the border area
The third Hakka migration came to pass around the end of the
Northern Song and the beginning of the Ming Dynasties. The Mongolians took control of the
Central Plains and the Royal Song Household fled south. The Hakkas that had previously
settled down in southern Jiangxi and southern Fujian escorted the Song royal household as
it fled to eastern and northern Guangdong Province. They fought bravely and many died
courageously in battles with the Mongolian armies.
The fourth Hakka migration took place around the end of the Ming
Dynasty up until the time of the Qianjia Reign at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty and
was a result of factors including the swelling population and the Manchurian armies
sweeping southward. They migrated from southern and northern Guangdong and southwestern
Jiangxi to the central and coastal regions of Guangdong, as well as Sichuan, Guangxi,
Hunan, and Taiwan. Smaller numbers headed to southern Guizhou and the .
The fifth mass exodus occurred after the Qianjia Reign of the
Qing Dynasty and was triggered by local skirmishes and the Taiping Rebellion. Hakkas left
Xinxing and Taishan in central Guangdong for the prefectures of Gao, Lei, Qin, and Lian in
Guangxi Province. Some fled as far away as Hainan Island.