BABA NYONYA

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BABA NYONYA

  1. 1. History  500 to 600 years ago when Chinese traders arrived in parts of the Malay Peninsula  The Chinese men did not bring their women folk along, and many intermarried with the local women.  There are traces of Portuguese, Dutch, British, Malay and Indonesian influences in Baba culture Religion  Baba Nyonya subscribed to Chinese beliefs: Taoism, Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism  A certain number of Baba Nyonya families were and still are, Catholic
  2. 2. BACKGROUND  According to a legend in 1459 CE, the Emperor of China sent a princess, to the Sultan of as a token of appreciation for his tribute. The nobles (500 sons of ministers) and servants who accompanied the princess initially settled in and eventually grew into a class of Straits-born Chinese known as the Peranakan.  Chinese men in fathered children with and slave women. Their descendants moved to Penang and Singapore during British rule.
  3. 3. To introduce the cultures of the Baba Nyonya in Malacca. To introduce the tradition and practices of Baba Nyonya in birth, wedding and death. To compare the Baba Nyonya culture with the Chinese culture.
  4. 4. PERANAKAN CULTURE  simply a random mixture, a pot-pourri of bits and pieces, it is a genuine synthesis – something which not only incorporates but also transcends the component parts out of which it springs. LANGUAGE  The Baba language or Baba Malay is a patois of the Malay language, with many words borrowed from Chinese (especially Hokkien), Portuguese, Dutch, Tamil and English.  It is a creole language for intra-group communication and was the lingua franca of the Straits Settlements. Here are some examples of Baba Nyonya language: Gua Nkong I Lu Grandfather Mpek (Pek) You Tachi (toa-chi) Elder Sister Father‟s elder brother Nchek (Chek) Father‟s younger brother
  5. 5. Custome  Male: Peranakans in the past wore the Kain pelekat as casual attire, which is a type of Indian cloth made of cotton about 2m long and 1.2m wide.  Women: Nyonyas wore sarongs with various styled blouses as a 2-piece ensemble known in Malay as the baju panjang which consists of a long tunic worn over a sarong. Fastened with kerongsang (brooches), the tunics are worn with colourful sarongs. . However, these ladies wore only an inner blouse with sarongs at home. This fashionable blouse is hip-length and called a "short dress" in Hokkien. The V–shaped neckline of the baju panjang would reveal the inner blouse and its high collar and complete with a large square hankerchief (saputangan/setangan). CUISINE  Peranakan food is a wonderful combination of Malay and Chinese cuisine with influences from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Holland, Portugal and England. Nyonya food is clearly unique and Malaysian/Singaporean in identity, according to Tan Chee Beng (1993).  Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine combines Chinese, Malay and other influences into a unique blend. Nyonya cooking is the result of blending Chinese ingredients and wok cooking techniques with spices used by the Malay/Indonesian community. The food is tangy, aromatic, spicy and herbal.  Example of peranakan dishes are: Masak belanda Nyonya desserts Ayam buah keluak Ayam pongteh
  6. 6. THE CELEBRATION OF BIRTH  At the full lunar month muar-guay ceremony, that is, thirty days after the birth of the child Nyonyas would hold a ceremony whereby nasi kunyit (steamed glutinous tumeric rice), chicken curry and red bean cakes in the shape of tortoises (ang-koo) together with either ang-t'oe or ang-ee and two red hard-boiled chicken eggs would be offered to the ancestors  The muar-guay ceremony also marks the end of the pantang (taboo or abstinence period for the baby's mother) as was also practised by the Malay women after child
  7. 7. CELEBRATION OF DEATH  A Taoist priest or priestess is invited to help clean and dress the deceased before placing the body in the coffin. The deceased would be dressed in the white pyjamas worn on his wedding eve.  The Peranakan believed that death is a continuation of living  Thus, goods such as money, televisions or motor cars, represented in paper crafts and made in miniature, are burnt as offerings.  The family of the deceased is to mourn for a total of one-and-a half-years. They are to wear twelve months of black, the next three months in black  At death, all mirrors and other reflecting surfaces were covered or concealed while all household deities were covered with red paper.
  8. 8. THE CELEBRATION OF WEDDINGS  Peranakan weddings of old combined Chinese and Malay elements in the wedding ceremonies.  The malay influence was apparent in the language used, the jewelry, the proceedings, the use of the mak andam and pak chindek, the use of the pak boyan in the wedding procession and other examples.  They begin with the presentation of the birth certificates “Sang Jee” & preparation of the bridal chamber “Ann Ching”, On this day at the chosen time, bananas, yams & citronella plants (serai) are placed under the bridal bed by a young boy “Koo Yah” who is privileged to roll thrice on the bridal bed for the first time.  On the eve of the Wedding besides mid-day luncheon or dinner being given “Chia Lang Khek” the gifts for the bride & groom-to-be are exchanged  The Cheo Thau ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies and marks the first occasion when the bride and bridegroom will wear their authentic wedding robes  The father then prays at the High Altar and offers wine to God, the Creator, by pouring wine four times on the floor. Following this he offers a sip of wine from the same cup to his beloved daughter who is now a woman  The finale of the wedding ceremony, would be the dua belas hari or Twelfth Day ceremony, where the marriage would be conformed and approved by proof of the bride‟s virginity.
  9. 9.  Peranakan women spoke only the Melayu Pasar or colloquial Malay that was widely used throughout the islands of the archipelago, as they had no access to Chinese education like some of their menfolk.  Peranakan identity is multi-faceted, evolving, slippery, and full of contradictions. Perhaps also, all cultural identities are equally indefinable  wearing the cheongsam: with loads of diamonds on her dress and hair, Penang, 1920s.Peranakan women emerged from the cosmopolitan, mixedrace environment of Dutch and British colonial towns several centuries ago, via unions between Chinese migrant males from Fujian, and enslaved females from Bali, Sumatra or Sulawesi among other islands.  Peranakan women have engaged with Chinese costume over the centuries, as pioneers of transcultural cross-dressing, reveals how nebulous the concept of „identity‟ can be.  Modern nyonyas in the 1930s abandoned their sarong kebayas for this, while older ladies chose to wear the qipao at formal events where members of other races were present.  Cantonese pronunciation of the term for a long gown, became widely current, perhaps as a result of the rise of Hong Kong as the centre of popular Chinese culture and film production.
  10. 10.  The Babas and Nyonyas are a unique sociological and cultural phenomenon that occurred in an era of momentous transition. They have significantly enriched the Malaysian and Singaporean cultural heritage, cuisine, fashion and the arts. I conclude with a quote from the late First Lady, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood:  I am only too aware that many aspects of Malaysia‟s collective culture are being eroded and may disappear altogether if steps are not being taken to preserve them or to record them for posterity. I feel it is important that we do not lose our own. Already there are signs that we have lost some big part of this heritage. If Peranakan culture cannot survive, we can only hope that the legacy of this extraordinary culture – a culture which brought out the beauty, grace, passion, joie de vivre, industry, resilience and resourcefulness of two major groups of people, the Chinese and the Malays in an amazing synthesis, will remain with us for a long time.

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