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Hakka–Punti Clan Wars, Guangdong, China, 1855-1867

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From Mark Anthony Chang (6/26/2011).

The Opium Wars had little to do with the migration of the Hakka Chinese population of the caribbean basin than the Punti–Hakka Clan Wars and according to our elders and the following Wiki excerpt, escape from persecution and an entrepreneurial ethic are the primary reasons for their migration. For this reason, the Hakkas are often refered to as the "Jews" of the Chinese people.


The Punti–Hakka Clan Wars or Hakka–Punti Clan Wars (Chinese: 土客械鬥/土客械斗) refer to the conflict between the Hakka and Punti in Guangdong, China between 1855 and 1867. The wars were particularly fierce in around the Pearl River Delta, especially in Taishan of the Sze Yup counties. The wars resulted in roughly a million dead with many more fleeing for their lives.

Hakka literally means guest family, and Punti literally means original land. The Punti are also referred to by the dialect they spoke, Cantonese. The origins of this bloody conflict lay in the resentment of the Punti towards the Hakka whose dramatic population growth threatened the Punti. The Hakka were marginalized and resentful in turn, and were forced to inhabit the hills and waterways rather than the fertile plains.

When the Ming Dynasty was overthrown by the Qing Dynasty, Ming loyalists, notably Zheng Chenggong or Koxinga(鄭成功/郑成功), fled to Taiwan to raise troops in the hope of eventually retaking China for the Ming. The Qing emperor, in order to stymie these efforts, twice commanded all residents of the coastal areas of Guangdong and Fujian Provinces to move inland by 50 li, approximately 30km, resulting in a large number of deaths amongst the Punti. After the rebels in Taiwan were pacified, the Qing emperor rescinded these edicts.

However far fewer Punti returned than expected, so the Qing emperor provided incentives to repopulate these areas. The most visible of those who responded were the Hakka. For some time the Punti and Hakka lived together peacefully. As the population of Guangdong Province soared, life became increasingly difficult and unrest broke out. In 1851, the Taiping Rebellion, led by a Hakka Chinese, Hong Xiuquan, erupted in Guangxi Province and quickly spread throughout Southern China. The rebellion was finally suppressed in 1867. In 1854, during the rebellion, a local anti-Qing Triad took the opportunity to rebel, attacking Heyuan and Foshan. This "Red Turban Rebellion" was finally suppressed in 1857.

During this rebellion, the Hakka had helped the imperial army to raid Punti villages to attack the rebels and their sympathisers. This precipitated open hostility between the Hakka and Punti, with the Punti attacking Hakka villages in revenge.

Bloody battles raged. Both sides fortifying their villages with walls, destroyed bridges and roads, and raised armies as best they could. Entire villages were involved in the fighting with all able-bodied men called to fight. The Punti were armed with the help of their relatives in Hong Kong and the Chinese Diaspora who lived abroad. Some captives were sold to Cuba and South America as coolies through Hong Kong and Macau, and others sold to the brothels of Macau.

Conflict reached a devastating scale. Over a million died and thousands of villages were destroyed. Because the Punti significantly outnumbered the Hakka, the Hakka losses were more extensive.