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The history of Teochiu people not only includes a long tradition of common culture and history with other Chinese, but also a unique history in its own right. Our language, customs and beliefs make us who we are. In the following passages you’ll learn about some of the lives and paths chosen by Teochiu people. Firstly a passage on the history of Teochiu in China, then a window into their modern diasporic experience. Though these stories have been organized by country, they echo an amazing shared history of hardship and triumph.

We would like to make available more information about Teochiu people from all over the world. If you would like to submit source information on the Teochiu experience in your country, or personal writings on your family’s story, feel free to contact us, and we will work something out:



The following is a very rough English translation from a Chinese source text written in Mandarin on the history and culture of Teochiu people. In taking from this source text, I hope to provide a basic skeleton of history that can hopefully be elaborated on with proper research and translation in the near future. My attempt to translate portions of the following book will no doubt have some minor errors. Despite this, I hope that this will provide readers with a simple understanding of Teochiu history.

Translations by Ty Eng Lim, GagiNang Content Researcher/Editor. See bottom of page for source text information. All proper names are in Teochiu Peng Im, unless a more commonly English version is available. Mandarin equivalents are in parenthesis.

Surrounded by mountains and ocean, the ancestral home of Teochiu people lies in eastern Guangdong province. Teochiu people were born from varying races of people, who upon encountering each other, mixed, and formed slowly into a way of life and a unique identity. Teochiu people can be distinguished from their neighbors: The Cantonese, Hakka, and Hokkien, not only by their rich cultural practices, but by their unique language. Today, Teochiu people are also known as “Dio Sua` Nang” (Chaoshan Ren), a term referring to Diojiu (Chaozhou) and Sua`tao (Shantou).

(1) Original Inhabitants of The Dio Sua` (Chaoshan) Region

Life in the Dio Sua` Region, 4000ya (years ago)

In recent years, evidence of the original inhabitants of The Chaoshan region were found off the coast of Guangdong Province, on Nam-O Island (Nan Ao Dao). From this discovery, archaeologists have dated the site to more than 8000ya. The artifacts found at this site, “Elephant Mountain”, consist of small stone tools and pointed edge implements used for cutting and other purposes. Life at this time was simple and was largely dependant on sustenance from the sea. Finds have also been excavated in Dio Ua` (Chao An), Teng Hai (Cheng Hai), and other areas of Dio Sua`. Dated around 6000-5500ya, these latter sites were found to have not only stone tools, but clay pottery and sharpening stones. It is thought that the people of Nam-O, other sites in Dio Sua’ and neighboring Fujian are all linguistically related to The Austronesian language family. Both archaeological evidence from Fujian province as well as modern day linguistic evidence from the aboriginal inhabitants of Taiwan connect all of these groups to the same language family. As of course it means that these groups have a high probability of being related by blood. It’s thought that the aboriginal inhabitants of Taiwan first traveled from mainland Asia to Taiwan as early as 6500ya, though some feel it to be even as late as 2500ya. It is known that these people were already practicing agriculture of taro, rice, various tubers, and fruits as well as producing tools made from wood, bamboo, clay and stone. So if all these groups of people are related, it begs to ask: what eventually happened to these people on the mainland (modern day mainland China)?

The controversy here is whether or not modern Teochiu and other southern Chinese are related to these Austronesian peoples who once populated Southern China. The source text is adamant that Teochiu are not related, but my own feeling is that we probably do share traces of a linguistic and cultural heritage, as well as a genetic heritage, passed down from them.

The Austronesian language family includes languages that cover half the globe: From Easter Island to Madagascar, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Hawai’i, Samoa, Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Guam, and everywhere in between. The significance of this is that the ancestors of people from all these places are thought to come from Taiwan, and before that, southern China.

Poo Bing Culture, 3400-2900ya

In 1974 and immediately afterwards, large amounts of archaeological material were found in the Dio Sua` region evidencing the existence of what came to be known as the “Poo Bing” culture. These finds are dated to 3400-2900ya (contemporaneous from the Shang Dynasty to the Western Zhou). Culturally, the Poo Bing were already producing bronze tools and weapons, had burial ceremonies, and a highly unique craft tradition of earthenware. Furthermore, their dependence on the sea, as with the Nam-O peoples, was evident from the type of tools found. Even more, the Poobing had already become familiar with sea travel as Poo Bing style tools were already found as far away as the Pearl River Delta (Modern day Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou). There is evidence that certain elements of tool development and pottery were shared with the central plains peoples (Han Chinese) of that time (modern interior China, Jiangxi, etc.), though these forms has been totally assimilated into Poo Bing culture.

The Poobing culture were one of the “Bai Yue”, a generalized term used by China to refer to barbarians of the south. The language spoken by the Poobing is thought to be a Sino-Tibetan language, but it still cannot be said with certainty how much the Poobing and modern Teochiu people share in blood and culture. By 2300 years ago, Poobing culture was being heavily influenced by the “Namyue” culture who came from the west of the Pearl River. It can be said that “Namyue” culture became the native culture of the Chaoshan region.

It is thought that Poo Bing culture and related neighbor groups had migrated down from areas north of the Yangtze (Chang Jiang). The source text doesn’t mention what happened to the Austronesian inhabitants living there prior. How did these two groups interact? Were there wars between these people? Did they intermix?

(2) Mixing it up in The Chaoshan Region

Han culture expands in the Qin and Han periods, c. 2000ya

At this time, people living in southern China were known to the Chinese as “Bai Yue”, of these people, the Nam Uak culture established itself at Leng Nam and had thoroughly influenced most of the pre-extant cultures of extreme southern China, including the Dio Sua` region. At the same time, Han influence was increasing, though it is thought that most of the Han-like characteristics of the material culture of the Dio Sua` region, were actually channeled through The Nam Uak culture.

Han Culture Makes a Foothold, 1800-1100ya

By the time of the Tang and Jin dynasties Han cultural influence had grown stronger. Han people began a great migration south of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang). Archaeological evidence of Han burial sites, differing from those of the Nam Uak, evidence that populations of Han had reached what are modern day Guangdong and Fujian provinces. At this time, Han culture began to dominate the region, though the Nam Uak and native cultures continued to survive along side the Han. Until the Song dynasty, the native cultures were still largely extant. Two of the more notable groups referred to in government texts at the time were the Li people and the Liao people. Their modern day ancestors are the Zhuang and the She, respectively. The Li were more easily sinocized, having many Han leaders appointed to be their governors. The Liao didn’t accept Han government as easily, with successive outbreaks of war and a long history of failed treaties.

How did the Chinese deal with these “barbarians”? Many had been forcibly taken over, others assimilated peacefully into Chinese culture. This process took hundreds of years. The Teochiu term “Dung Nang” means “People of the Tang”. The Tang dynasty was a time of cultural flowering and development in Chinese culture. It is at this time that Chinese culture had thoroughly entered Southern China.

(3) Formation and Development of Dio Sua` Culture

Song to Yuan, 1100-700ya

At this point in time, the Dio Sua` area had come to be categorized with the neighboring areas in the term “Min”. This term roughly includes all of modern day Fujian, Taiwan, and eastern Guangdong.

Prior to the early years of the Song dynasty, the Chaoshan region was, when compared to its modern population, still relatively sparsely populated. The population skyrocketed with the coming of many immigrants from Jang Jiu (Zhangzhou), Heng Hua (Putian), and other parts of Fujian. With them came influences of language and culture. The cult of Mazu came to Chaoshan at that time as well. Furthermore, the Min culture blossomed. The economy of the region developed at an unprecedented level. Many famous people from Fujian chose to settle in the Chaoshan region. Noted from court records of the time, the appointed officials of the Min region most often came from the Min people themselves. Their accomplishments include the following: popularizing the official court test which youths would study to become official officers, “Loi Lak”, traditional Bhuddist readings that became important to the court tests, establishing centers of education, etc.

With all this, the She people still had not become entirely Sinocized. Many still lived in the mountainous regions practicing swidden agriculture. Many of the conflicts between the remaining minority peoples were between the Chinese and the She. Slowly however, the She gradually merged into Han society.

According to the source text, before the large migration of people from Fujian, the lingua franca in Dio Sua` was still based on the language of the She people.

(4) Modern Dio Sua` Culture

Ming and Qing Dynasties, 635-92ya (1368-1911AD)

Though the Ming dynasty was another time of cultural blossoming, restrictive maritime trade policies restricted the Dio Sua` region’s commercial contacts abroad. On the other hand, continued immigration from Fujian increased population further, and along with it more cultural and linguistic influences. The percentage of people getting educated rose dramatically. Food and art products unique to the Dio Sua` region become known all over China. During this time Dio Sua` people developed a strong sense of their own regional culture.

Many of the elements of what is commonly associated with Teochiu culture today developed in this time. Teochiu opera, Gong Hoo Tea, Teochiu Cuisine, etc.

By the late 1700s, and within government restrictions, Teochiu merchants began the first in a wave of emigrations to Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. As a result of the depopulation of some rural regions of Chaoshan, there became a rapid commercialization of agriculture.

Blossoming of Teochiu Culture 200ya-Present (1800s-Present)

The port of Shantou was opened in 1860 as maritime trade was on the increase. As with the rest of China the Dio Sua` region was receiving heavy influence from the west, being ushered through a process of rapid change. Schools went through a revolution, as new canons of thought were being introduced. At this time, there were three major waves of Teochiu migrations abroad. These migrations occurred from: 1870-1910, 1926-1933, 1945-1949. Connections between these newly born overseas Teochiu communities and the home communities furthered the development of Teochiu culture. The importance of Teochiu associations at this time can not be understated. Not only did they become a network to support those Teochiu living overseas, but they also were a driving force in improving the homeland: funds went into establishing new schools, factories, etc. Much of the modernization of the Dio Sua` region can be attributed to the invested capital of overseas Teochiu Chinese. After the 1980s, many associations worldwide networked with each other to show their strength and pride as Teochiu people.

Even today, Teochiu people are continuing to enrich their culture in many ways. Worldwide, the population of Teochiu people is estimated to be around 20 million. Fore more information, questions, comments on this translated essay, please contact:

Source Text Information:

The Origin of Teochiu Culture
Author: Huang Ting
Guangdong Higher Education Publishing House
ISBN 7-5361-2076-1
Copyright 1997


Dio Sua` Bhoong Hue Nguang Lao
Jo Jia:Heng Teng
Gangdang Gao Deng Ga Iot Chook Bang Sia


From the late 19th century and before, and peaking in the 1930s and 40s, Teochiu people began a mass migration from their ancestral home in China's Guangdong Province to areas in Southeast Asia. The trigger for this unprecedented migration was the politcal and economic turmoil happening in China at the time. Since the turn of that century, a modernizing China was under heavy pressure from within and without to reform the entire nation in terms of government, economy, medicine, education, and more.

Reeling from so much change, regional warlords in all provinces were vying for power. By WWII, Japanese aggression had

reached its peak, as forces occupied Manchuria, and many coastal cities including Shantou. At the same time, Communist and Nationalist forces rose as the main factions to defend China during the war. At this time foreign (especially US and European) influence and involvement was high.
Admist all of this, hundreds of thousands Chinese from southern coastal provinces like Hainan, Guangdong and Fujian left China permanantly seeking better lives in Southeast Asia.

For More Resources:
This site has general information on the history and impact of Chinese living in Southeast Asia.


On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge stormed into Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. For the next four years, over 1.7 million people were killed/died from the brutal ultra-marxist Pol Pot regime which was bent on creating a new Cambodia. Among the people living in Cambodia at this time, a large minority were Teochiu Chinese. If your family is from Cambodia, they no doubt went through the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.

We must not forget what happened at this time. Our families have survived this in-human time to bring us to a place where we could succeed and not face the cruelity that our parents and grandparents faced.

For More Resources:

LINK! Yale University: Genocide Studies: Cambodia
Yale University's Genocide Studies Program's comprehensive website showcasing recent research on Cambodia. The site hosts extensive databases of information, photographs, and maps. Much of the material on this site can not be found elsewhere.

LINK! From Sideshow to Genocide: Stories of the Cambodian Holocaust by Andy Carvin
This site reminds of what happened during those four unforgettable years. Photos, Survivors' stories, etc.

LINK! The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project
This is is the website for The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, a non-profit organization whose goal is to educate people about the Cambodian Killing Fields. Dith Pran's life was reenacted in the highly acclaimed film "The Killing Fields".

LINK! Thai/Cambodia Border Refugee Camps
A rare find, this site attempts to maintain a history for the dozens of refugee camp sites around the Thai/Cambodia border that existed from 1975-1999. There is a large collection of photographs, maps, and lists of organizations. There are also extensive links to very interesting material including articles, accounts and documentation on the camps.

LINK! Children of the Killing Fields
This article by Edward Wong from The New York Times, tells of the experience of Southeast Asian Americans growing up in The Bronx. The lives of many Teochiu people run intimate parallels with those of other Southeast Asians

Vietnam: Dreams and War

After 1975, as a direct result of the outcome of the war, hundreds of thousands (some say to this date over 1 million) of people living in South Vietnam fled the country for fear of political persecution. A large percentage of these people were ethnic Chinese. The famous "Boat People" included a large percentage of Chinese. Much of the Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Teochiu that live in the United States and Canada today went through this ordeal. Many of them lived in extremely crowded (often times very small) conditions for months on end. Pirates often attacked these ships, raping and killing those who resisted. Luckier ones made it to neighboring countries: Thailand, Malaysia, The Phillipines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and some as far as South Korea and Japan. Many were either granted assylee status in that country or repatriated to western countries like the US and Canada.

In Vietnam, those Chinese who stayed behind suffered from extremely discriminatory policies as national relations between Vietnam and China were at a low point immediately after the war. Chinese schools were closed, Chinese people had no voting rights, properities were unjustly confiscated by the government. Today, improved relations have made life better for Chinese living in Vietnam.

For More Resources:

LINK! The Boat People
This is the only site of its kind providing a brief synopsis of the "boat people" situation, personal experiences, and pictures.

We would like to make available more information about Teochiu people from all over the world. If you would like to submit source information on the Teochiu experience in your country, or personal writings on your family’s story, feel free to contact us, and we will work something out: