Sunday, July 19, 2009


Baba & Nyonya Culture Campaign

Date: 6th,7th,8th August 2009
Time: 9am-2pm
Venue: Chung Ling High School

6th August 2009
9am- Open Ceremony
10am- Road Show
11am - Seminar

7th August 2009
9am- Photo Exhibition
10am- Quiz Competition

8th August 2009
9am- Sketch Performance, Photo Exhibition
11am - Closing Ceremony

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baba and Nyonya Cuisine

spicy pork roll
ayam kapitan

Nyonya food is also known as the Straits Chinese food which is an interesting amalgamation of Chinese and Malay dishes thought to have originated from the Peranakan (Straits Chinese) of Malacca. Besides Malacca, Nyonya food is also native to Penang and Singapore. However, over the years, distinct differences have evolved in the Nyonya recipes found in Penang than that in Malacca and Singapore due to the proximity of Malacca and Singapore to Indonesia and Penang to Thailand. Influences aside, Nyonya recipes are complicated affairs, often requiring many hours of preparation and is about the blending of spices, using pungent roots like galangal, turmeric and ginger; aromatic leaves like pandan leaf and fragrant lime leaf together with other ingredients like candlenuts, shallots, shrimps paste and chilies. Lemon, tamarind, carambola and green mangoes are used to add a tangy taste to many dishes. For dessert, fruits are seldom served but instead colorful cakes are served. Nyonya cakes are rich and varied, often made from ingredients like sweet potato, glutinous rice, palm sugar and coconut milk.

Marriage of Baba and Nyonya

It was not uncommon for early Chinese traders to take Malay women of Peninsular Malay or Sumatera as wives or concubines. Consequently the Baba Nyonya possessed a synergistic mix of Sino-Malay cultural traits.
Written records from the 19th and early 20th centuries show that Peranakan men usually took brides from within the local Peranakan community. Peranakan families occasionally imported brides from China and sent their daughters to China to find husbands.

Marriages within the community and of similar stature were the norm. Wealthy men prefigured to marry a chin choay: or matrilocal marriage where husband moved in with wife's family.

Proposals of marriage were made by a gift of a pinangan, a 2-tiered lacquered basket, to the intended bride's parents brought by a go-between who speaks on behalf of the suitor. Most Peranakans are not Muslim, and have retained the traditions of ancestor worship of the Chinese, though some converted to Christianity.

The wedding ceremony of the Peranakan is largely based on Chinese tradition, and is one of the most colorful wedding ceremonies in Malaysia and Singapore. At weddings, the Dondang Sayang, a form of extempore rhyming song in Malay sung and danced by guests at the wedding party, was a highlight. Someone would begin a romantic theme which was carried on by others, each taking the floor in turn, dancing in slow gyrations as they sang. It required quick wit and repartee and often gave rise to laughter and applause when a particularly clever phrase was sung. The melodic accents of the Baba-Nonya and their particular turns of phrase lend to the charm of this performance.

Religion of Baba and Nyonya

Lantern Festival

Baba Nyonya subscribed to Chinese beliefs: Taoism, Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism, celebrated the Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival, while adopting the customs of the land they settled in, as well as those of their colonial rulers. There are traces of Portuguese, Dutch, British, Malay and Indonesian influences in Baba culture.

Clothing of Baba and Nyonya

The Peranakan retained most of their ethnic and religious origins (such as ancestor worship), but assimilated the language and culture of the Malays. The Nyonya's clothing was identical to that of the native Malay's: baju panjang (long dress), batik sarung (batik wrap-around skirt) and kerongsang (brooch). Beaded slippers called Kasut Manek were a hand-made made with much skill and patience: strung, beaded and sewn onto canvas with tiny faceted glass beads from Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic). In modern times, glass beads from Japan are preferred. Traditional kasut manek design often have European floral subjects, with colors influenced by Peranakan porcelain and batik sarongs. They were made onto flats or bedroom slippers. But from the 1930s, modern shapes became popular and heels were added.

History of Baba and Nyonya

In the 15th century, some small city-states of the Malay Peninsula often paid tribute to various kingdoms such as those of China and Siam. Close relations with China were established in the early 15th century during the reign of Parameswara when Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho), a Muslim Chinese, visited Malacca and Java. According to a legend in 1459 CE, the Emperor of China sent a princess, Hang Li Po, to the Sultan of Malacca as a token of appreciation for his tribute. The royalty and servants who accompanied the princess initially settled in Bukit Cina and eventually grew into a class of Straits-born Chinese known as the Peranakans.

Due to economic hardships at mainland China, waves of immigrants from China settled in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Some of them embraced the local customs, while still retaining some degree of their ancestral culture; they are known as the Peranakans. Peranakans normally have a certain degree of indigenous blood, which can be attributed to the fact that during imperial China, most immigrants were men who married local women. Peranakans at Tangerang, Indonesia, held such a high degree of indigenous blood that they are almost physically indistinguishable from the local population. Peranakans at Indonesia can vary between very fair to copper tan in color.

Peranakans themselves later on migrated between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, which resulted in a high degree of cultural similarity between Peranakans in those countries. Economic / educational reasons normally propel the migration between of Peranakans between the Nusantara region (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore), their creole language is very close to the indigenous languages of those countries, which makes adaptations a lot easier.

For political reasons Peranakans and other Nusantara Chinese are grouped as a one racial group, Chinese, with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia becoming more adoptive of mainland Chinese culture, and Chinese in Indonesia becoming more diluted in their Chinese culture. Such things can be attributed to the policies of Bumiputera (Malaysia), mother tongue policy (Singapore) and the ban of Chinese culture during the Soeharto era in Indonesia.