Surviving In The Brave, New And Exciting World

by Patrick Liew on September 22, 2019

Surviving In The Brave, New And Exciting World

On 13 September 2016, my family and I visited “Daianlou” (泰安楼) at Daian Road, Dabu, Meizhou, Guangdong.

The “Daianlou” (泰安楼) was a “sijiaolou” (四角楼), a unique Hakka architecture for housing many residential units in a three-storey structure.

You can say it’s the olden day’s version of the condominium.

The amazing thing about it was that it was constructed without any bolts, nails or nuts.

It was mainly built with rammed earth, wood, bricks and stones.

The square-shaped structure was built to house about 600 people in 1764 and has an area of about 6,684 square meters.

It was designed with only one entrance and no windows at the ground level to make it difficult for outsiders to get into it.

The “Daianlou” (泰安楼) like other similar structures were designed for communal and defensive purposes.

Throughout history, the Hakka have been known to move out of their comfort zones and break new grounds in their pursuit for a better life.

They have also done it to avoid wars, social unrest, and natural crises.

The Hakka migrated to the southern parts of China but they were sometimes not accepted by natives in their newly-settled land.

Many locals discriminated and persecuted these northerners, and called them “Hakka” which meant “guests.”

Instead of being negative, the Hakka adopted what was a discriminatory term as a description of their ethnic group,

The Hakka had to learn how to build bridges and bond with local communities while defending themselves against many different threats.

Along the way, they assimilated positive values from other communities and ethnic groups.

The Hakka sometimes had to settle down in less desirable lands and protect themselves against constant and aggressive prejudice and harassment.

They were compelled to develop unique multi-storey structures to defend themselves against attacks from enemies, bandits and invaders.

The walled village also served to enhance communal living and sharing of resources to promote collective interest.

In 2008, the UNESCO inscribed this and other remaining Hakka residential structures to be a World Heritage Site.

Perhaps because of undergoing years of hardship and suffering, the Hakka have developed a culture for wisdom, determination, discipline and grit.

They have made a major impact on many enterprises, communities and countries.

Their impact is generally disproportionate to their relatively small population.

Many Hakka have become prominent leaders in society.

They have risen to hold leadership positions in governments, armed forces, enterprises.

These Hakka include Sun Yat Sen, Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Teng Hui, Corazon Aquino, Deng Xiaoping, Lee Hsien Loong, Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai Ing-wen, Thaksin Shinawatra, and Yingluck Shinawatra.

I may not agree with the views and actions of some of the Hakka leaders but they have in their own ways made a mark on society.

Perhaps there are lessons that can be learned from the Hakka culture that can shed light on what it means to survive and succeed at work and in life.

The Hakka were considered to be one of the earliest ‘Han’ settlers in China and have therefore been linked with emperors, royal families, and warriors.

They were among the first group of people that migrated out of China to various countries, seeking a better life for their family and community.

You can say the Hakka were early pioneers of world travel and global citizenship.

There is a spirit for desiring and achieving breakthroughs among the Hakka.

For example, Hakka women’s feet were never bound even when the practice was commonplace in China. These women didn’t allow their potential to be limited by anything.

As a result of past challenges, the Hakka has developed a relatively higher level of what I call determination or desperation quotient (DQ) to survive and succeed in life.

They know that if they don’t work for their place under the sun, they may lose everything and be left behind.

The Hakka cultivated a culture for education, hard work, thriftiness, adaptability, and perseverance.

They seek to improve themselves and will persevere through adverse conditions so as to have a brighter future for themselves and for their future generations.

In the book, ‘The Origin of The Hakka Chinese,’ the author Mr Lee Siu-Leung likened the Hakkas to dandelions.

In his words, a dandelion is “a little flower, tough enough to survive the harshest environment, travels to all corners of the world, plants its roots in the poorest soils and blooms with yellow flowers.

“It has a lot of useful culinary and medicinal applications yet few people know about them.”

The positive qualities of the Hakka may be the same qualities that can help us thrive in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) future.



I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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