The Teochew Store Blog

Teochew Song: "Dirty Faced Cat" 潮州流行歌曲《花面猫 》

The carefree days of childhood =)
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What Family Meant to the Teochew Forefathers

Red Head Junk
The Teochew migrants to Southeast Asia in the early 19th century were a rough lot. John Crawfurd, who led a British mission to Siam and was the second Resident of Singapore, described them as “the lowest in rank”, and “most noisy and unruly”. But the true character of these men can be discovered in two articles written by Teochew merchant Seah Eu Chin (Siah U Chin) in the late 1840s.
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Teochew Song: Tea Language 潮州流行歌曲:《茶语》

Tea Language《茶语》, a song of a Teochew working abroad reminiscing about family conversations at home. 

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Understanding The Teochew Family

The nuclear family – consisting a father, a mother, and their children, is considered the building block in most modern societies. For the Teochew people however the basic family unit is the one headed by the grandfather, and not the father, a structure that is underpinned by the belief that every person shoulders three core responsibilities in life: to honour the ancestors; to practice filial piety by caring for the parents; and to raise and nurture the next generation.
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我们要听您的故事: “My Teochew Family 潮州一家人”

The Teochew Store潮舖一岁啦!

为了庆祝我们的第一周年与答谢各位读者的支持,我们希望邀请您和大家分享您对主题 “My Teochew Family 潮州一家人”的故事.


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We want to hear your story: “My Teochew Family 潮州一家人”

The Teochew Store is turning ONE!

To celebrate this occasion and to thank all our readers, we would like to open the floor for you to share with all fellow Teochews your story on the theme “My Teochew Family 潮州一家人”.

Your story can be about your own family and relatives, any Teochew person(s) who has influenced your life, or a Teochew community that has helped you understand the meaning of “family”. Entries can be submitted in one of the following two ways...

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Recipe To Make Your Own Teochew-style Mooncake

As the mid-Autumn festival approaches, The Teochew Store has invited Tan Pia Hua 陈冰桦, a food lover and blogger from Teochew, to share her original recipe to make your own special taste Teochew-style mooncake.

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一年一度的中秋佳节又要来临,The Teochew Store 潮舖 特别邀请了潮汕资深美食达人陈冰桦,教大家如何自制潮式月饼。

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Hong Kong Chiu Chow Festival 香港潮州節

Hong Kong Chiu Chow (Teochew) Festival, 8 to 12 October 2015. Do visit to support if you are in town. For more information please visit the official event website
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Teochew Song: Ah Ma 潮州流行歌曲《阿嬷》

Ah Ma 阿嬷, a song for one of the most important persons in many of our lives. 

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Poll of the Month: Teochews started migrating in large numbers to Siam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia from the 1730s. Which generation overseas Teochew are you?

Share with the community, take part in our Poll of the Month.
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The Bridge We Must Have All Seen - Its Stories & Photos Through the Years

The Siang-ze kie 湘子橋 (Xiangzi Bridge, according to standard Mandarin), alternatively known as Guang-zi kie bridge廣濟橋 (Guangji Bridge), located outside the historical Teochew prefectural city’s eastern gate is arguably the Teochew region’s most recognisable landmark. It straddles the magnificent Hangkang韓江 (Han River), creating a picturesque postcard scene familiar to many of us, even overseas Teochews who have yet to visit.
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Watch video: Teochew Coming of Age Ritual: Tshuk-hue-hng 潮州出花園

Learn about Tshuk-hue-hng (出花園), the unique coming of age ritual for the Teochew people.

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Poll of the Month: Did you undergo the Teochew coming of age ritual tshuk-hue-hng 出花園 at 15?

Share with the community, take part in our Poll of the Month.

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Watch: Rare video footages of early 1990s Teochew 八千里路云和月 潮州

Taiwanese travel programme featuring rare footages of early 1990s Teochew 潮州. In Mandarin, with some interviews in Teochew and English subtitles.


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We have migrated our contents to a new online platform in order to serve our readers and customers better. Unfortunately due to technical reasons, we are unable to redirect the old URLs of our pages to the new ones. If you have previously bookmarked any of our pages, please note that the URL may have changed. Our contents remain available on our website

The Teochew Store would like to take this opportunity to thank all for your continued support.

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Top 100 Surnames in Teochew (updated 27 March 2016)

A list of the top 100 most common surnames in the Teochew region.

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Poll of the Month: The dragon boat festival is round the corner. This is a big event in Teochew. Do you celebrate it, where you are?

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Swatow: a City Born Out of Defiance

Swatow is today of three prefectural-level cities of the Teochew region, the other two being Teochew 潮州 (Chaozhou) and Gek-yor 揭陽 (Jieyang). Being the Teochew people’s gateway to the world in the early 20th century, it was the port where our families embarked on their migratory journeys. As such the name Swatow rings familiar even for us who have never visited, and it has a special place in the heart of every overseas Teochews.

Until the 1850s Swatow was...

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Teochew Song: Good Morning Swatow! 潮州流行歌曲:《汕頭個猛早》

Good Morning Swatow!.. more great music out of Swatow

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Poll of the Month: How fluent are you in speaking Teochew?

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List of Towns and Villages in Teochew in 1946 潮州各縣局鄉鎮名表

List of Towns and Villages in Teochew in 1946. Source: 《马来亚潮侨通鉴》, 新加坡 : 南岛出版社, 1950.

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10 Maps of Counties in Teochew, dated circa 1950

Many of us amongst the overseas Teochews are the children and grandchildren of men and women who left the Teochew region between the 1920s and the 1950s. Ever wondered what the land of our fathers was like back then, or where your ancestral village is/was located? Here are some maps to help:

To download maps in JPEG files, please click here

Source: 《马来亚潮侨通鉴》, 新加坡 : 南岛出版社, 1950.


Teo-an 潮安 (Chao'an)

Thenghai 澄海 (Chenghai) 

Jaopeng 饒平 (Raoping)

Gek-yor 揭陽 (Jieyang)

Teo-yor 潮陽 (Chaoyang)

Pholeng 普寧 (Puning)

Huilai 惠来 (Huilai)

Hongsun 豐順 (Fengshun)

Namoa 南澳 (Nan'ao)

Tuapou 大埔 (Dapu) - historically part of Teochew territory till 1733.


See also List of Towns and Villages in Teochew in 1946

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Poll of the Month: It is a Teochew tradition to make offerings at the graves of deceased ancestors on Qingming (清明) or Winter Solstice (冬至). Do you still adhere to this practice?

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Teochew Song: You gotta trust yourself 潮州流行歌曲 《相信自己》

The Teochew culture is not only about the past and old people. The language is vibrant and alive, and so are the dreams of our youths. Here's an example:

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Why Teochews were called Hoklo, the Fujian men

In this age of open information, Wikipedia is often the site where people visit to seek knowledge on a new subject or topic of interest. When conducting an online search on the keyword “Teochew”, Wikipedia’s pages on “Teochew people”, “Teochew dialect” and “Chaozhou” appear on top of Google’s results. Although largely informative, the Wikipedia page on “Teochew people” contains a curious introduction to our background, stating:

“Historically, these people were called Helao or Fulao, as they came mostly from Henan and Shanxi via Fujian, with well-maintained language and customs from north-central China.”

For certain readers can testify that Helao/Fulao does not exist in our daily vocabulary. Whether in China or Southeast Asia, Teochew people uniformly identify ourselves as “Teochew”, or more recently in mainland China “Teo-swa”.

Through further research on Wikipedia, one discovers “Fulao” is actually the Mandarin rendition of the Hokkien expression Hoklo 福佬/老 – meaning literally “Fujian men”. “Helao” 河老 on the other hand is linked to “Heluo” 河洛 (pronounced “Ho-lok” in Hokkien and Teochew), an inaccurate transliteration of Hoklo that has surfaced in literate stressing the purported origin of the Hokkien (and Teochew) people from Henan, in particular the Luo River basin. (Incidentally, the river itself is called Luohe 洛河, and not Heluo).

“Hoklo” is today widely used in Taiwan as a category for the section of its Chinese population whose forefathers migrated from Fujian’s coastal areas between the Qing dynasty and the Kuomintang’s retreat to the island in 1949. It is opposed to the Hakkas whose roots are traced to adjacent inland mountains or Chinese immigrants from other provinces. In a very similar way, the tags “Hoklo” and “Hakka” were adopted by late 19th and early 20th century Western Christian missionaries working in the Teochew region to different its inhabitants in the lowland plains from migrant settlers in the highland borders, whose distinctions in language, self-identity and customs were readily recognised In this context “Hoklo” clearly referred to the Teochew people (for more see The Bible and the gun: Christianity in South China, 1860-1900 by Joseph Tse-Hei Lee).

However there is evidence that at an earlier time “Hoklo” did not apply to the Teochew people. In 1843 Baptist preacher I. J. Roberts visited Hong Kong island, shortly after it was ceded to British possession, and made a family visiting tour. In his journal he recorded an encounter in a village with a family, “who speak the Hoklo dialect; which is nearly the same as Tiéchiú, which the assistant speaks” (cited in The Baptist Missionary Magazine, Volume 23).

This passage highlights pertinently that a close resemblance in speech between Teochews and Hokkiens from southern Fujian, which third parties are often unable to tell apart. At the same time, it gives an important clue to the etymology of the “Hoklo” expression.

In common usage, the reference to a person or a collective group of people in the Teochew is “nang” 人, and the Hokkien variation is “lang”. In both sets of vernaculars “lo” 佬 is rarely spoken. In contrast the Cantonese habitually use this word in their conversations, such as “dai-lo” 大佬 (“big brother”) or “gwai-lo” 鬼佬 (“devil-people”, meaning Westerners).  As such, it is all likely that Hok-lo was in fact a nomenclature coined by Cantonese-speakers to refer to Hokkien migrants into their territory. As Hong Kong was the primary transit point for Christian preachers entering China in the past, the likelihood those who worked in the Teochew region picked up the “Hoklo” expression from their interactions with the locals or fellow missionaries who spoke Cantonese, and later wrongly applied it to the Teochews.

Besides being consistent with the fact that Teochews never call ourselves Hoklo, this is supported by the observation and writing of James Dyer Ball, an Englishman whose credentials included being chief interpreter in the Hong Kong civil service. In Things Chinese published at the turn of the 20th century, he explained:

"Teo Chews is the term applied generally to them (i.e. the Teochew people) in Singapore, Penang, and the Malay States, while “Hok-lo” is the name by which they are generally known by the Cantonese speakers in China. The former name being derived from the departmental city of Ch'ao Chao Fu (in local dialect—Tiu Chiu Fu or Teo Chew Fu) to which the different districts, from which many of the Hok-lo, came, belong; while Hok-lo means “men from the Hok province i.e. Fukien province”.

Between the Teochews and the Hokkiens, many similarities in language and manners are shared. This is unsurprising since they occupy an adjoined territory in Southeast China. However there was definitely no confusion to the distinction of their collective identities in the 19th century, as attested by major violent clashes between migrants from the two groups in Shanghai in 1850 and in Singapore in 1854 – the latter lasted for more than ten days and resulted in the destruction of 300 houses and 500 deaths. The divide in identity may be traced during the Song dynasty (960-1279) when Teochew prefecture was joined with the Cantonese heartlands to form Guangdong province, whereas Hokkien-speaking Zhangzhou and Quanzhou prefectures were made part of Fujian. If the line of separation is so clear and ancient, how could a view persist amongst the Cantonese that the Teochews were “Fujian men”.

The answer appears to lie in the districts of Haifeng and Lufeng, where a Hokkien-speaking coastal enclave exists right between the realms of the Teochews and the Cantonese. Now administered under Shanwei (or Swabue) city, this area was governed shortly under Swatow from the 1950s to 1980s. However the non-Hakka/Cantonese section of its population vigorously rejects any suggestion that they are Teochew and instead insist in emphasising their descent from migrants out of Zhangzhou about 300 years ago. Their location and background strongly suggest that they are the original Hoklo, the “Fujian men”.  

The most famous son of the Hoklos in Guangdong is arguably Chen Jiongming, one-time governor of Guangdong in Sun Yat Sen’s government. An anecdote told that Chen was once asked to play judge and suss out the guilty party of a crime between two suspects, a Teochew and a fellow Hoklo. However Chen was more interested in rescuing his own than the execution of justice. The near identical speech and accent of the two presented him the challenge of telling who was Teochew or Hoklo, since he could not openly display his bias.

Cunningly Chen ordered both men to be beaten and in an instance his answer was derived.  Because the patrilineal character of the Teochew society, the man who was Teochew yelled in his moment of anguish “ua-pe-lu” 我父噜 (Oh my father)! At the same time, the Hoklo being brought up under stronger matrilineal influence, shouted out “ua-bhou-ui” 我母喂 (oh my mother)! Things happening exactly as he expected, Chen ordered the beating for the poor Teochew to be continued, while the Hoklo was released on the sly from the backdoor.

Whether this is a true story is unknown, but it tells an important point: Teochews are Teochews, and “Hoklo” means precisely what it states: “Fujian men”. 

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Poll of the Month: Have you ever been back to visit Teochew?

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元宵特別節目:潮州大鑼鼓 Celebrating the End of Chinese New Year with the Teochew Big Drum

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潮州人過年文化 Teochew Chinese New Year Customs

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Poll of the Month: Should all Teochews be called "Teoswa-nang" 潮汕人 as currently in mainland China, instead of "Teochew-nang" 潮州人?

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