Han Chinese, Cantonese in Cambodia

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People Name: Han Chinese, Cantonese
Country: Cambodia
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 23,000
World Population: 79,773,100
Primary Language: Chinese, Yue
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 1.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.40 %
Scripture: Complete Bible
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Chinese
Affinity Bloc: East Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Cantonese are a subgroup of the Han Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin are mutually unintelligible. They are separate languages not merely dialects of the same language. Cantonese contains up to nine tones compared to the national language, Mandarin, has only four. Although they speak different languages and dialects, all Chinese people in China use the same written script.

The large southern Cantonese majority city of Guangzhou has been continually inhabited for 2,200 years. The city has been the center of Cantonese civilization. In the 33rd year of the reign of Emperor Qin Shihuang (214 BC), the Nanhai Prefecture was established in today's Guangzhou. Large numbers of other Han Chinese came into the area. Guangzhou became home to large numbers of foreign merchants in the ninth century until the T'ang emperors lost control of it in AD 878.

Some Cantonese came to live in Cambodia to escape war and to engage in business. Before 1975 tens of thousands of Cantonese speakers lived in Cambodia. Some of them were able to escape the Khmer Rouge and others were killed as undesirable foreigners. The communist Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975 to 1979 and murdered up to a quarter of the population. Today Cambodia is officially a constitutional monarch but in actuality a one-party authoritarian state.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Many Cantonese in Cambodia own restaurants and feature a fusion of southern Chinese, French and Cambodian cuisine. Other Cantonese work in the growing tourist trade, finance or as managers in factories.

Cambodia is classified as a “least developed” nation by the UN, yet it has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The Chinese are investing billions of dollars through the Belt and Road Initiative. Some of the poorer Cambodians resent the relative wealth and status of the Cantonese Chinese in their country.

The Cantonese of Cambodia strive to maintain their language and distinct culture. They send their children to private Chinese schools. Cantonese parents want their children to obtain a university education and attend colleges in China, Europe or North America. The Cantonese tend to have smaller families than the Khmer majority in Cambodia.

The Cantonese speak their own language at home and Khmer, English or Mandarin at work.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Cantonese have continued to be one of the most openly religious of all Han Chinese peoples. Most homes in Guangdong Province have spirit altars. The Cantonese also observe Taoist and Buddhist festivals.

In September 1807 missionary Robert Morrison landed in Guangzhou. A new era of Protestant missions began in China. Seven years later he baptized his first convert, "At a stream of water issuing from the foot of a lofty hill, far away from human observation. May he be the first-fruits of a great harvest." Today there are at least 1.2 million Cantonese Christians in China but only a small number in Cambodia are believers. There are many Christian resources in Cantonese including a complete Bible and the JESUS Film.

What Are Their Needs?

The Cantonese in Cambodia tend to be materialistic in their lifestyle. Like many others, the Cantonese focus on gaining wealth believing that money will make them happy. The Cantonese must understand that they are sinners in need of a Savior. Only the Lord can forgive their sins and grant them eternal life.

Prayer Points

Pray the few believers among the Cantonese of Cambodia can find fellowship and grow in the faith.

Ask the Lord to send workers to the Cantonese of Cambodia.

Pray that the Cantonese would have a desire to read the Bible.

Pray that the Lord would establish a growing church among the Cantonese of Cambodia in this decade.

Text Source:   Joshua Project