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Hakka (客家, Pinyin: Kčjiā, literal meaning: "Guest clans") people are migratory tribes of ethnic Han people originated from central China. Their ancestors exiled themselves from foreign rulers such as the Mongols in the Yuan Dynasty. They moved from Henan to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces in southern China around the 12th century.

Although they are frequently distinctive in culture and language from the surrounding population, they are not considered a separate ethnic group by Chinese and are seen as part of the majority Han Chinese. Traditionally, Hakka have often lived separately from the local population and in the past there have been conflicts, occasionally violent, between the Hakka and local groups. Hakka were active in the Taiping Rebellion.

Hakka women never practiced foot binding and were known for their high academic achievement. For example, some Taiwanese believe that the Mei-nung area in Kaohsiung (having a high concentration of Hakka) produced more doctorates than other areas in Taiwan.

Hakka in Fujian

The Hakka who settled in Fujian province in China developed unique architectural buildings called tu lou, literally meaning earthen structures. Because they were latecomers to the area, Hakka set up homes in often undesirable mountainous regions and were subject to attack from bandits and marauders.

The tu lou are either round or square, and were designed as a fortress and apartment building in one. The structures typically had only one entranceway and no windows at ground level. Each floor served a different function -- the first hosts a well and livestock, the second is for food storage and the third and higher floors contain living spaces.

Examples of Hakka tu lou buildings in Fujian
with terraced rice fields in back.

Prominent Hakka include:

See also: Hakka language, Hakka cuisine.

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