Friday, August 11, 2006

"When Princess Hang Li Po of China was given in marriage to Sultan Mansur Shah, who reigned Malacca from 1459-1477, she was accompanied by 500 Chinese youths who later stayed on a hill called Bukit Cina. One might say that the Peranakan Cina of Malacca are descended from these youths. Others say that the Peranakan Cina are the result of inter-marriage between the Chinese and the local non-Muslim Malays including the Javanese, Balinese, Amboynese and Bataks who were brought by the Dutch in the 17th Century from Indonesia. Their descendents became known as the Peranakan Cina or the Straits Chinese and are always referred to as the Baba Nyonya. Such communities later flourished in the former British colonies along the Straits of Malacca or the Straits Settlements, namely Penang, Malacca and Singapore. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Straits Chinese concentrated in other urban areas of Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Johore.
In Malay language, the term Peranakan, which comes from the word anak or child, means those who are descendants of an inter-marriage between a Malay and any other ethnic groups. Such term can be applied to local-born Peranakan India, Peranakan Orang Putih or Peranakan Cina. For the Peranakan Cina; Malay food, costumes and language are assimilated into their culture so much so that they are also known as the Baba Melayu. However, most of them are either Buddhists or Christians. The Peranakan Cina in Penang speak a distinctive Hokkien dialect incorporating Malay words; so do their counterpart communities in Medan, Phuket and Rangoon. While the Peranakan Cina of Malacca and Singapore speak a Malay dialect with Hokkien words. Today, the Peranakan Cina mostly of the new generations speak a mixture of English, Hokkien and Malay.
During the Dutch and British colonisation, the Peranakan Cina began to embrace the European style and allied themselves with the foreigners. They came to be identified as an urban white-collar community with high social class, noble lifestyle and living in colonial bungalows or verandahed Anglo-Indian villas; and they also sent their children to English-speaking schools. Those who are into business live in highly decorated shophouses of the Straits Eclectic style. There has been little information on the architectural style of the Peranakan Cina even though there have been a number of accounts written on their social and cultural aspects. The Peranakan Cina are not only associated with their special Nyonya dishes, beaded slippers, embroidered Kebayas and antique collections but also their Straits Eclectic style of architecture. The Straits Eclectic style of architecture began to develop in the 19th and early 20th century. The style combines Eastern and Western elements which in the early 20th Century introduced ceramic artwork and elaborate plaster renderings. Such architecture include shophouses, temples, clan or association buildings and villas or colonial bungalows. In Penang, we may see examples of the Straits Eclectic style along a number of major roads including Magazine Road, Sultan Ahmad Shah Road (Northam Road), Burmah Road, Prangin Creek and Muntri Street. In Malacca, the buildings can be seen along Tun Tan Cheng Lock (Heeren Street) and Hang Jebat Road (Jonkers Street), some of which dated back in the Dutch period." to find out more...

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