Hakka Yimin Festival takes place in Hsinchu

To commemorate the sacrifice of Yimin, a collective term referring to Hakka people who defended their homeland at the cost of their lives during battles in the past, Hakka Affairs Council (HAC) Minister Lee Yung-de attended the Hakka Yimin Festival at Baozhong Yimin Temple (褒忠亭義民廟) in Hsinchu’s Xinpu Township on Aug. 20.

With Hsinchu County Magistrate Yang Wen-ke (
楊文科) and former Magistrate Lin Kuang-hua (林光華), Minister Lee officiated the worship ceremony by performing a religious ritual to pay the highest respect to Yimin martyrs while praying for Taiwanese people’s health and safety.

The Minister stated that President Tsai Ing-wen, who is of Hakka descent, places great emphasis on Hakka affairs and often praises the Yimin spirit of loyalty and bravery. She vows to continue promoting Hakka culture and boosting industrial development in Hakka settlements, added Lee.

Lee noted that Baozhong Yimin Temple is not only a religious center for local residents, but also a spiritual mecca for Taiwan’s Yimin devotees. Through the annual event that is launched by HAC and local governments, Lee hopes that the spirit of Yimin and the importance of protecting one’s homeland can be passed down to future generations.

A total of 15 Hakka villages in Hsinchu take turns in hosting the festival every year, specifically the villages of Liujia (六家), Xiashan (下山), Jiouqionglin (九芎林), Daai (大隘), Fangliao (枋寮), Xinpu (新埔), Wufenpu (五分埔), Shiguang (石光), Guanxi (關西), Damaopu (大茅埔), Hukou (湖口), Yangmei (楊梅), Xinwu (新屋), Guanyin (觀音), and Xinan (溪南).

This year, Jiouqionglin is in charge of organizing the event. Enthusiastic participants crowded this place as the festival kicked off, striving for blessings from Yimin. However, one of the festive traditions known as “the sacred pig competition” has recently aroused controversy.

Traditionally, villagers compete against each other to raise the heaviest and largest pig, and the chosen “sacred pig” is then killed and displayed in front of the temple on the final day of celebration. However, animal activists are critical of the fact that the competing pigs are force-fed in an inhumane way.

Magistrate Yang stated that the Hakka tradition can evolve with respect to environmentalism and animal rights. To avoid the controversy, sacred pigs will be gradually replaced by sacks of rice stacked together to emulate a swine shape, added Yang. He hopes that non-Hakka people can learn more about the Hakka community’s unique folk beliefs and practices through the Yimin Festival.