Hakka Exchange Group from Southern Taiwan Visits Indonesia’s East Java

The Meinung People’s Association (美濃愛鄉協進會), which had long been invested in rural education and Hakka culture, have been for the past 20 years assisting new immigrants from Southeast Asia to integrate into life in Taiwan. To help these foreign spouses get used to local life, the association spared no effort in helping them in many aspects, be it in the areas of language, parenthood, professional skills, as well as knowledge about their rights as immigrants and relevant activities or regulations.

In the process of promoting Hakka culture, the association felt that the cultures that these new immigrants came from are an important issue. Efforts were made to let association members understand more about the cultures from the homeland of these new immigrants, who are now a part of the Meinung District, as well as the history of Indonesian Hakka immigrants. It is hoped that through expanding one’s understanding about Indonesian societal culture, new immigrant culture would as a result be recognized. Under the Hakka Community and New Southbound Policy Collaboration Program, in 2017 the association paid a visit to Indonesia with the aim of Hakka cultural exchange.

Indonesia is the world’s largest island country, consisting of over 10,000 islands, earning it the moniker “the country of 10,000 islands”. Of its population of 200 million people, the Javanese formed the largest ethnic group. There are roughly over a million Hakka immigrants, mainly dispersed over the areas of Aceh, Bangka Belitung, West Kalimantan, and Java.
Indonesia is the world’s largest island country

This visit was led by Su Ying (蘇英), who is the vice chairperson of the TransAsia Sisters Association Taiwan. Su is a Hakka who hailed from Indonesia’s West Kalimantan, and became part of Meinung more than 10 years ago due to her marriage. Along with members from the Meinung People’s Association, the Zhongli He Cultural and Educational Foundation (鍾理和文教基金會), the Meinung Cultural and Educational Foundation (美濃愛鄉文教基金會), and the National Chi-Mei Senior High School (旗美高中), the group was invited to visit the University of Muhammadiyah Malang (UMM) by Professor Tonny Dian Effendi (鄭運福). They also paid visits to several local Chinese settlements and Hakka groups all over East Java, including the Inti Malang Raya (印尼華裔總會瑪琅分會), Yong An Temple (永安宮), Malang Hakka Welfare Foundation (瑪琅客家福利基金會), and the Hwie Tiauw Ka Surabaya (泗水惠潮嘉會館).
This visit was led by Su Ying

The Chinese Indonesian Association (Perhimpunan Indonesia Tionghoa) consists mostly of Peranakans: descendants of marriages between ethnic Chinese and Javanese. Though of Chinese bloodlines, the Peranakans are in effect naturalized Indonesians. The Chinese Indonesian Association in particular emphasizes a spirit of unity unbounded by religion, ethnicity, or wealth.

The UMM is the third largest university in Indonesia, and Professor Tonny Dian Effendi, who teaches at the school, stated that “in Indonesia, all university students have to participate in community service projects. The aim is to let these students apply the knowledge they learn at school towards helping the society solve problems. UMM is one of the most active schools in this regard; each year UMM students would head to rural villages in Indonesia to learn about their cultures, and seek solutions to the local problems.”

The Yong An Temple located in Malang was established in 1825, while Indonesia was then under the control of the Dutch. It was the central religious hub for Chinese immigrants in the region, offering prayers to the Tudigong, to Guanyin, and to the Kṣitigarbha bodhisattva. Besides organizing traditional ceremonies regularly, the temple also offers classes teaching the erhu, Hakka blue shirt, the Chinese language, as well as lion dance performance. These days, the temple has become the go-to place for Javanese who wish to learn about traditional Chinese culture, and is also a symbol of how encompassing the local community is, pointing towards the unity brought forth by local faiths.  
The Yong An Temple

The Malang Hakka Welfare Foundation has been established for 11 years, and as a Hakka commerce organization, it aims to help cultivate civic-mindedness in local Hakka youths. Currently however, its biggest challenge is the fact that these days, the young do not participate much in activities related to Hakka organizations. The passing down of the Hakka language is also increasingly difficult.
The Malang Hakka Welfare Foundation

The Hwie Tiauw Ka Surabaya was set up in 1820, and initially it was a place where one can pay their respects to ancestors, as they assist Chinese peoples in the Surabaya region with funeral matters. It later expanded to include the promotion of exchange between Hakka associations, and to pass down the Hakka culture.

Su Ying, who led the Taiwan visiting group, added that “this visit was the first time I got to check out areas in East Java; Surabaya, Malang, Batu. The atmosphere was peaceful, and I felt safe.” As someone who experienced the 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia, Su Ying was discriminated against for being Chinese, and once had to live on tenterhooks in Indonesia. During her growing up years, Chinese parents would never let their own children interact with Muslim children. But in East Java, she discovered that the local Chinese peoples had already integrated with the Javanese; many of them took to Islam as well, and the exterior of local mosques clearly depicted elements of traditional Chinese architecture. These are all signs of how the cultures of two ethnic groups have an influence on each other, and of how they both developed together. Through this visit, as she reminisced about life back then as an Indonesian Hakka, Su Ying got to see her homeland in a new light, as she witnessed the new look of modern day Indonesia, where multicultural groups coexist.
The exterior of local mosques clearly depicted elements of traditional Chinese architecture

(Translator: James Loo
In collaboration with Fu Jen Catholic University, Department of English)