Hsu Teng-chih – A fantastic Hakka woman from the mountainous Dongshi region

Chinese Name
: 徐登志

Born: 1944

Birthplace: Taichung (Central Taiwan)

Born in 1944 in Dongshi Township, Taichung County (now the Dongshi District of Taichung City), Hsu Teng-chih is a classic Taiwanese Hakka woman with a strong and unpretentious temperament. After finishing her studies at the Taichung Normal School (today’s National Taichung University of Education), she returned to her hometown to serve as a teacher. She taught Hakka at the Zhongke Elementary School and Dongshi Elementary School for more than 30 years, and has won honors such as the Excellent Teacher Award.

After retiring from Dongshi Elementary School, Hsu devoted herself to Hakka affairs and cultural heritage promotion, introducing Hakka culture to younger generations and helping revitalize and extend the lifeline of Hakka culture. Hsu hopes that future generations can speak with the Hakka accent of the Dongshi region fluently, correctly, and with dignity. As a result of her devotion to promoting Hakka language and culture, she is known in the local area as a fantastic Hakka woman.

Hsu pointed out that the Hakka accent in the Dongshi area is different from Sixian (四縣), Hailu (海陸), Raoping (饒平), and Zhaoan (詔) the four major forms of Hakka in Taiwan. As part of the Guangdong Dapu (廣東大埔) linguistic group, which is quite special in tone, this version is only found in Taichung’s Dongshi, Shigang, Xinshe, and Heping regions, and parts of Zhuolan Township in Miaoli County.

For more than 20 years, Hsu has participated in many folk and literary programs supported by the Ministry of Culture and Taichung City Government, including those involving research, songs, stories, and field investigations related to the Hakka language, and has promoted Hakka affairs with great efforts and achievements.

Hsu is also very enthusiastic about local education. Since 1993, she has participated in the recording of folk literature in Taichung. She has also published “The Story of Dongshi’s Hakka Accent,” “Songs in Dongshi’s Hakka Accent,” “The Hakka Songs of Taichung,” “Teacher Hsu’s Ancient Poems,” “Dongshi’s Hakka Accent and Guangdong Dapu Pronunciation,” “Nursery Rhymes in Dongshi’s Hakka Accent,” and “Six Hakka Nursery Rhymes.”

Besides publishing these works, she has also promoted mother-tongue teaching in Dongshi Elementary School and helped with the school’s teaching of Hakka nursery rhymes to students. In addition to compiling dozens of folk tales, slang, riddles, Hakka-language dictionaries, Hakka-language textbooks, and recording materials, she has also established the Dajiahe Voice Choir (大甲河之聲合唱團) and the Liao Xia Ren Theatre Troupe (寮下人劇團), integrating Dapu’s cultural elements with music and drama. She also frequently gives public performances and endeavors to diversify Dapu’s Hakka culture.

In 1995, Hsu further promoted the work of spreading Hakka culture with several local residents who were also enthusiastic about Hakka culture. Together they founded the Taichung City Hakka Culture Association (台中市客家文化協會) and established the Liaoxia Studio (寮下工作室) using Dongshi’s old place name “Liaoxia (寮下).”

Hsu witnessed the changes in Dongshi after the Sept. 21 earthquake of 1999 and found that following the disaster, more and more people moved away while the remaining population aged rapidly. The loss of language and culture in Dongshi accelerated as a result, and this worried her. In addition to post-quake restoration work, Hsu has emphasized that it is her greatest wish to leave a record of Dongshi’s Hakka accent, which is spoken by approximately 120,000 people in the area, before it completely disappears. For her contributions to Hakka affairs and cultural research, Hsu was recognized by the inaugural Hakka Contribution Award in 2007.