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A very good morning to all of you here! It’s really encouraging that so many people are interested in this topic on Baba ; Nyonya, and I hope this would be an enlightenment and enrich your knowledge on Peranakan Culture. The culture of the Babas and Nyonyas is well known for its beautiful material culture and spectacular cuisine. However, not much is known of other aspects of the Baba Nyonya culture such as the belief that certain symbols have the amazing power to foster good luck and fortune for the Babas and Nyonyas. There are also astonishing scientific reasons why some of the Baba Nyonya lucky symbols can generate good fortune! This talk will touch on the fascinating symbolism found in Peranakan culture. Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country. It is a prime case of a multi-racial society. One of the extraordinary qualities of its multi-ethnic populace today is its exceptionally variegated ethnic blend. The ethnic gatherings of Malaysia comprise predominantly of the Malay people group, the Chinese people group and the Chinese people group. (Malaysian Year Book, 1980: 15). Malaysia also has other ethnic gatherings like the Eurasians and the locals of West Malaysia and East Malaysia. Due to the multi-racial character of the populace, it likewise has an assortment of culture, religion, social standards and qualities.
One of the minority ethnic group in Malaysia is the Peranakan which faced an identity dilemma relating to their ethnicity belonging in the process of assimilation, especially when the process happen being a Baba or Nyonya means to be Malay in Malaysian context. For example, an individual born in a Malay family living in Malaysia would accept herself/himself as Malay. An individual born in a Baba or Nyonya family living in Malaysia, contributing to the economic development of the country might want to be known as Malays to benefit from being a Bumiputera or would like to be known as Baba or Nyonya to conform to the family roots or would just like to be known as Chinese for what they are or labelled to be. Pressure from the society and the environment to be accepted by a common factor in a community could strongly trigger ethnic switching or identity dilemma. Nevertheless individual’s economic contribution to a country is elicited to the acceptance of the common factor in a community.
The evolution of the Peranakan ethnic group dates as far back as 500 to 600 years prior when Chinese dealers touched base in parts of the Malay Peninsula, the core of which was Malacca, the centre of the Malacca Sultanate. The first Chinese immigrants to settle in the Malay Archipelago arrived from Guangdong and Fujian province in the tenth century C.E. They were joined by substantially bigger quantities of the Chinese in the 15th through 17th hundreds of years, following on the heels of the Ming emperor’s reopening of Chinese-Malay trade relations in the 15th century.
In the 15th century, some little city-state of the Malay Peninsula regularly paid tribute to different kingdoms, for example, those of China and Siam. Close relations with China were set up in the mid-15th century amid the rule of Parameswara when Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho), a Muslim Chinese, went to Malacca and Java amid his endeavour (1405– 1433). As indicated by a legend in 1459 CE, the Emperor of China sent a princess, Hang Li Po, to the Sultan of Malacca as a token of thankfulness for his tribute. The nobles (500 children of pastors) and hirelings who went with the princess at first settled in Bukit Cina and in the long run developed into a class of Straits-conceived Chinese known as the Peranakans. Peranakans themselves later on relocated between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, which brought about a high level of social similitude between Peranakans in those nations. Economic and educational reasons regularly move the relocation between of Peranakans between the Nusantara locale (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore), their creole dialect is near the original dialects of those nations, which makes adjustments a considerable measure less demanding.
Baba means master, in accordance with their social status of the male folk who came to Malaya to conduct trade and business activities. The Baba is rather advanced and rich. The Baba, as a term of address of the wife of the husband in accordance with Chinese culture, that the wife regards her husband as a master. Nyonya or in short, “Nya? originated from the Hokkien and Teochew dialects when referring to an older Chinese woman. This term of address is interpreted from the Chinese language, meaning female teacher, mother or a young
girl. The term of ‘Baba’ has been widely used by many in Malaysia, Singapore and India. In Malaysia and Singapore, the Chinese community is influenced by the Malay culture, such as the Chinese community will refer to those wearing the “Sarung” as ‘Baba’. A Chinese proverb in Hokkien, “san tai seng ba”, meaning that after three generations in Malaysia or Singapore, a Chinese may be considered as a “Baba”. In fact, the Chinese community in Malaysia does not refer to themselves as “Baba and use the term of ‘Ba’ only when they want to emphasize that they have adapted to the Malaysian culture and are different from of their ancestors. It is also used to criticizing the local Chinese who no longer practice their Baba culture. (Sadaoh Nasution, 1989:147) The Baba and Malay community in Malacca also use the title Baba or Ba to refer to locally born Chinese and many more. The Malay community also used the term to refer to the locally born (a local-born person), referring to the non-Chinese but the Baba is Chinese. Baba community is the result of marriage between a male Chinese to female Malay. Although there is historical evidence, we should not refer to the biological factors of this intermarriage. Intermarriage between the migrant Chinese and Malay women was important towards the creation of the “Peranakan” (straits born) culture. The society in existence now is due to culture and its self-identity and due to intermarriage. (Joo Ee Khoo, 1996:87-93) Although in general, the cultural element displayed in the Baba community is Malay in nature, between the males and the females, it is more prominent in the females. The males are still donning the Chinese attire (shirts and pants), however the females (known as Nyonya) prefer donning the Malay attire, (Sarung, Kebaya and the brooches). The Peranakan held the vast majority of their ethnic and religious inceptions, (for example, precursor revere), yet acclimatized the dialect and culture of the Malays. The Nyonya’s garments, Baju Panjang (Long Dress) was adapted from the local Malay’s Baju Kurung. It is worn with a batik sarong (batik wrap-around skirt) and 3 kerosang (pins). Peranakan beaded shoes called Kasot Manek were hand-made with much aptitude and persistence: hung, beaded and sewn onto canvas with small faceted glass cut globules (known as Manek Potong) from Bohemia (show day Czech Republic). Conventional kasot manek configuration regularly have European floral subjects, with colours influenced by Peranakan porcelain and batik sarongs. They were made into flats or bedroom slippers. Be that as it may, from the 1930s, current shapes became popular and heels were gradually added. In Indonesia, the Peranakans developed their own kebaya, most prominently kebaya encim, got from the name encim or enci referred to a wedded Chinese woman. Kebaya encim was usually worn by Chinese women in Javan oastal cities with significant Chinese settlements, for example, Semarang, Lasem, Tuban, Surabaya, Pekalongan and Cirebon. It marked uniquely in contrast to Javanese kebaya with its smaller and finer weaving, lighter textures and more lively colours. They likewise developed up their own batik designs, which consolidate images from China. The kebaya encim fit well with vibrant coloured kain batik pesisiran (Javan coastal batik), incorporated symbols and motives from China; such as dragon, phoenix, peony and lotus. For the Baba they will wear baju lokchuan (which is the Chinese men full costume) but the younger generation they will wear just the top of it which is the long sleeved silk jacket with Chinese collar or the batik shirt.
From the Malay influence a unique “Nyonya” cuisine has developed using typical Malay spices. Examples are Chicken Kapitan, a dry chicken curry, and Inchi Kabin, a Nyonya version of fried chicken. Pindang bandeng is a common fish soup served in Indonesia during the Chinese New Year and so is a white round mooncake from Tangerang which is normally used during the Autumn Festival. Swikee Purwodadi is a Peranakan dish from Purwodadi, it is a frog soup dish.
Nyonya Laksa is a very popular dish in Malacca, Malaysia while another variant called Asam Laksa is famous in Penang, Malaysia. Pongteh is also another popular and savoury dish of the Malaccan Peranakan community. The main ingredient is onion, black mushroom (optional), chicken (at times pork is used instead of chicken, hence it’s called Babi Pongteh) and fermented bean sauce. The Malaccan Nyonyas are well known for this dish.
Other dishes from the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia Peranakans in Kelantan includes Telur Kesum, Ayam Kerabu and Khau Jam are influenced by Chinese, Malay and Thai cuisine. While in Terengganu, popular Peranakan foods are such as the local version of crab cake, Ayam Pachok which resembles satay with a stronger flavour, fish in spicy tamarind sauce and slow-cooked chicken with palm sugar.
Besides that, Peranakans of Malacca are also well known for a wide variety of traditional cakes (kueh or kue) such as Lepak Kacang, Ang Ku Kue (a black variant is called Kueh Ku Hitam), Kueh Tae / Nastar, Nyonya Bak Chang, Apom Balik (Peranakan’s version closely resembles Indonesian’s Serabi), Kueh Bakol, Tapae, Kueh Kochi, Kueh Bongkong, Rempah Udang, Pulot Enti, Kueh Gulong/Semprong (another variant is Kueh Kapit), Kueh Bolu, Galeng Galoh (also known as Seri Muka), Kueh Bangket and many more. Traditional kueh (or kue) are sometimes made in conjunction with festivals that the Peranakans celebrate. For example, Kueh Genggang (also commonly known as Kueh Lapis), is a type of multi layered cake, most often eaten during Chinese New Year to symbolise a ladder of continued prosperity. A small number of restaurants serving Nyonya food can be found in Penang and Malacca in Malaysia; and Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya in Indonesia. Whereas the Baba-Malay dialect of today differs as compared to the other Malay dialect and has several International Journal of Social Science Studies Vol. 3, No. 2; 2015 13 borrowings from the Indonesian and English languages. The Baba dialect has absorbed many Chinese words: “Lai” is not understood by the Malay community. Many Baba and Nyonya do not understand the Malay Language dialect: an example, I – “Goa”, You – “Lu”. The Baba is similar to the Chinese except for the use of several Malay terms in their daily routine. The Peranakan Malay spoken by the Malaccan Peranakans group is unequivocally in view of the Malay dialect as many of them can just talk little to none of the dialect of their Chinese forebears. Though in the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia, the Peranakans are known to not just speak their very own Hokkien but also Thai and Kelantanese Malay dialect in Kelantan, and Terengganu Malay dialect in Terengganu respectively. Unlike the rest of the Peranakans in Malaysia, Penang Peranakans in comparison are much vigorously impacted by a variation of Hokkien dialect referred to locally as Penang Hokkien. Today young Peranakans particularly have lost a lot of their conventional dialect. This has resulted in a difference in vocabulary between the older and younger generation particularly now that English and mandarin have supplanted Peranakan Malay as the fundamental dialects talked among the more youthful age.

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