The Belief of Yimin Ye

The belief of Yimin Ye (righteous people) is of importance to the Hakka people both religiously and culturally; it can even be regarded as the spiritual symbol of Hakka socio-cultural movements. Religiously, the belief of Yinmin Ye refers to a group of people historically who fought to protect their homelands, and also to those who gave their lives in battle.

(Photo: CNA)

The Yimin as noted in Qing dynasty records officially referred to those who defend social justice and those who help the government fight against rebel forces; therefore, Yimin are not limited to just the Hakka people. A precious Qing historical text documented how six groups of people were involved in the suppression of the Lin Shuang-wen rebellion (林爽文事件). Records showed how the Hakka people dealt with the conflict between the government and rebel forces then, and how the self-organized volunteer troops protected their homes against the rebels. At that time, the Hoklo people also collaborated to combat the rebellion; thus Yimin is not exclusive to the Hakka people. However, the Yimin Ye belief does not persist much outside of Hakka areas.

To honor the spirit of the Yimin Ye in protecting their people and their homeland, the Qing government rewarded them with ‘Bao Zhong’ (honor and loyalty) plaques. In order to commemorate these righteous warriors, the people suggested building Yimin Temples similar to Martyrs’ Shrine for later generations to pay their respects.     

From that point onwards, Yimin Temples would hold commemorative rituals each year. Since 1853, 20th July on the lunar calendar is designated as “the Yimin Festival”. There are currently more than thirty Yimin Temples in Taiwan, the largest of which is the Bao Zhong Yimin Temple located in Xinpu Township in Hsinchu County.

(Photo: CNA)

As the belief of Yimin is an integral facet of Hakka culture, and also an important spiritual symbol that unites the Hakka people in Taiwan, it is thoroughly reflective of the organization and historical development of the Hakka community in Taiwan. In 2015, Hsinchu County's Bao Zhong Pavilion Yimin Festival, which has been passed down for more than 180 years, was designated as an important national folk practice, and it became the first intangible cultural asset of the Taiwan Hakka people to receive this honor.

The annual Yimin Festival, a joint effort by both the government and the people, vitalizes the culture and belief of Yimin Ye in many ways. Participants devote themselves to the Yimin Festival ceremonies, fully demonstrating the respect of Hakka people for Yimin Ye, whilst also highlighting the cohesive unity and deep-rooted bonds of the people. This is also the most precious part of folk cultural assets to be cherished.

(Photo: CNA)

(Translators: Josh Huang, Scott Chen, Anita Chen, Tony Wei

In collaboration with Fu Jen Catholic University, Department of English)