History of Liudui Games

Known as the "Mini-Olympics of the Dawu Mountain", the Liudui Games is the most unique Hakka tradition in southern Taiwan and the only Hakka sports event in the country. The event is usually jointly organized by the Pingtung County Government and the Hakka Affairs Council. The Games are held in response to the government's promotion of national sports, in commemoration of the spirit of loyalty of the Liudui martyrs, and in a bid to pass on the Hakka culture. They are also held to promote physical and mental health and social unity.

The so-called "Liudui (六堆)" is not a place name, but a collective appellation for the Hakka settlements in Kaohsiung and Pingtung, which are made up of 12 townships (districts), including Meinong District (美濃區), Shanlin District (杉林區), Jiaxian District (甲仙區), and Liugui District (六龜區) in Kaohsiung City; as well as Changzhi Township (長治鄉), Linluo Township (麟洛鄉), Zhutian Township (竹田鄉), Jiadong Township (佳冬鄉), Xinpi Township (新埤鄉), Neipu Township (內埔鄉), Gaoshu Township (高樹鄉), and Wanluan Township (萬巒鄉), all in Pingtung County.

The origin of the Liudui Games can be traced back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). At that time, due to the chaos sparked by Zhu Yigui, who was the leader of an anti-Qing rebellion, the Hakka ancestors decided to form militias to defend their homeland. After the insurgence was quelled, the Hakka ancestors believed that, as members of the ethnic minority, they must be united to be strong, so they temporarily organized the six combat teams which had defended the Hakka communities in wartimes into what they called "Liudui" --  literally meaning “six (fighting) groups.”

The people of Liudui in the Qing Dynasty had the habit of practicing martial arts in order to unite and protect their townships and residents. They even went to China to hire teachers to teach the villagers martial arts, so that they could respond quickly to major accidents and disturbances and gather able-bodied men to fight if needed. 

The militias underwent rigorous training. While its members farmed under normal circumstances, during wartime, they immediately formed a combat force. This military group was maintained for a long time, and it did not dissolve until Japan began ruling Taiwan. However, following its disbandment, the Japanese government attached importance to the physical fitness of the people and often organized various sports competitions. This led to the revival of the Liudui Games and as a result, Liudui martial arts gradually became a local sports program.

In 1946, two local students who had studied in Japan,  Liu Shao-xing (
劉紹興) and Dai A-lin (戴阿麟), established the "Liudui Patriotic Association." They decided to hold the Liudui Games to evoke the traditional spirit and in 1948, the first Liudui Games was staged. In 1949, when the political situation was unstable after the government declared martial law, the Games was suspended. After an 18-year hiatus, the Games was resumed in 1966, and since then it has been hosted by the township offices on a rotational basis. 

From referees to contestants, there is no restriction on who can register. The Games is open to not only Hakkas, but to all regardless of their ethnicity. The Games includes formal field and track races, as well as traditional competitions based on folk customs.