Huang Jung-lo: Top Researcher of Taiwan’s Hakka History and Culture

Chinese Name

Born: May 3, 1926

Birthplace: Miaoli County (Northern Taiwan)

Huang Jung-lo was born in Miaoli’s Nanzhuang in 1926. In 1945, Huang graduated from Taoyuan Agricultural Vocational High School. He had served as a teacher of the school, in the Forestry Bureau, and as the executive director of a farmers' association, before finally returning to his hometown to inherit the rice mill left by his father. When he was young, Huang liked to collect ancient books. After the financial burden of raising the family was alleviated, he devoted more efforts to salvaging ancient books, hoping to save more culturally invaluable books.

Huang had received Japanese education in the early days, and not until at the age of 59 did he begin to learn Chinese writing. He devoted himself to the study of Hakka literature and history. With firm perseverance, he documented Hakka people’s culture and history by means of solid field investigation experience and rich literature research. His published works include “Taiwan Hakka Folklore Collection (台灣客家民俗文集)”, “Taiwan Hakka Traditional Mountain Song Lyrics (台灣客家傳統山歌詞),” and “Bitter Passage to Taiwan: The History of Taiwan's Reclamation and Conflicts (渡台悲歌:台灣的開拓與抗爭史話).”

In 1984, Huang obtained a replica of an official document written by Suzuki Seiichiro (鈴木清一郎), “Taiwan’s Traditional Four Ceremonial Occasions and Festivals (台灣舊冠婚葬祭和年中行事),” which records the customs and habits of Minnan people in the Japanese occupation era. Although this book is precious, one cannot see Hakka people’s culture reflected in it. This led Huang to invest in the study of Hakka customs.

In 1986, “Bitter Passage to Taiwan (渡台悲歌)” was discovered in Hsinchu. It’s a manuscript of lyrics written during Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) in Taiwan. It describes how Hakka people crossed the Taiwan Strait to reach the island and worked hard to develop the land. Consisting of 11 sheets, some of which were damaged, the manuscript only contained lyrics and there was no record of the music scores.

This work is a ballad written by an unknown writer based on Hakka folk songs. It accurately reflected the voices of the Hakka people at that time and describes the living conditions, customs, religious beliefs, traditional culture, ethics and morality of Hakka immigrants, and their relationship with “Hoklo” (the nickname Hakka people used to call Minnan immigrants — those who came from Fujian province and spoke Fujian dialects) — and indigenous tribal people.

The work may have been created to leave a record of the hardship of Hakka immigration. Because little was recorded of the Hakka history in Taiwan, and even in the folk songs most often sung by Hakka people, there is rarely description of such life matters, this manuscript had a profound historical and cultural value.

Later, by collecting materials and conducting field research, Huang wrote articles to interpret and shed light on the stories based on the ballad. He published them in the book “Bitter Passage to Taiwan: The History of Taiwan’s Reclamation and Conflicts,” which became an important publication for Chinese and Japanese researchers working on Hakka culture and history.

Huang was a self-taught literary historian and a pioneer of Taiwanese Hakka studies. He wrote extensively about Hakka customs and traveled all over Taiwan to collect information and do field investigations. He was very interested in history and spent a lot of time exploring the history of Hakka immigration, including the contradictory self-identity of the Hakka people in the anti-Qing and anti-Japanese revolutionary events. Huang delved into history and folk traditions and wrote to guard the Hakka people's essential spirit.

In 2008, Huang became the recipient of the Hakka Contribution Award because of his outstanding contributions to Hakka culture and history. In 2017, he died of illness in Taoyuan at the age of 92. Although Huang has passed away, his enthusiasm and hard work for Hakka culture are still deep in everyone’s heart.