Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Peranakan": Marriage Practices of a Dying Race

The Peranakan community (or culture) are a dying race in the south east Asian region. Many people currently struggle at reviving the unique culture. This paper was written in honor of the Peranakan community and its people. It was originally presented by me for a course in Intercultural Communication in Malaysia. It is kinda long and I apologize for that. This paper outlines the customs involved in a Peranakan wedding, and some history behind it. Enjoy :)

Prior to the fifth century AD, Chinese records did not contain many references to the Nanyang, (Levanthes, 1994) which is the general term used to refer to the South Asian region. It is generally accepted however that before the inception of large sea going vessels, the ‘Persian trade’ occurred overland from West Asia to the northern parts of China. The availability of ship building technology increased use of sea routes to transport goods from the rest of the world through the Nanyang, and into China (Levanthes, 1994). This trend led to the rise of ports of call along strategic points of their voyage, namely in the Malay Archipelago. Thus, the exotic marine and jungle produce of the Malay Archipelago was drawn into the international trade of early Chinese (Lee & Tan, 2000).

The Malay Archipelago borders two monsoon wind systems. The channel of Malacca are geographically located at the ‘end’ of the monsoons, thus allowing ships to wait for a change of winds until they could continue further, or return homeward (Levanthes, 1994). Thus, by leaving China with the northeast monsoon at the end of the year, they sailed back home with the southwest monsoon in the middle of each year. Therefore about five months was spent at each port. The long periods of stay enabled them to set up a second home in Malacca (see Charney, Yeoh, & Kiong, 2003, for a description of the Chinese diaspora). During their extended visits at the port, the Chinese men took wives to look after their businesses when they returned annually to China (Levanthes, 1994). This essay is concerned about the unique culture that was created through the mixing of early Hindu Malay and Chinese visitors to Melaka.

Peranakan, Baba-Nyonya, Baba, Baba Chinese, Straits Chinese, or Straits-born Chinese are terms that are used to describe the descendants of the early Chinese immigrants to the straits settlements of Malacca, Penang, and Singapore. In both Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, 'Peranakan' means 'descendants' (Kuake, 2006), while Baba and Nyonya refer to male and female descendants respectively. The initial diaspora of Chinese from the early Ming era into the straits settlements created an interesting mix of Malay and Chinese traditions.

The religion of the local Malay population at that time was mainly Animistic or Hindu (Lee & Tan, 2000). Even though the current constitution of Malaysia defines ...........


I have removed the rest of this essay as i am told that students from HELP University College social sciences class have been plagiarizing it.

Common you guys, shame on you.

If any one of you would like to read the essay, please email me at astrorat@gmail.com and i will mail you a copy.

15 comments:

Steph said...

Learning something new:). Looks like this thorough research you've done is paid for! good job:)

astrorat said...

Dear Steph,

I didn’t expect many people to read this post, but somehow knew that you would!!! :D I certainly had fun researching and writing :)

Astrorat

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Wow! I like the tradition of taking the bride's last name if there are no more sons. Great paper.

-Debbie

astrorat said...

Dear dr. d.,

The Peranakan are truly a unique culture. Sadly i don’t have access to any original photographs or permission to reprint old photographs. There are plenty of sites that will give you a border perspective.

Search for Peranakan or baba-nyonya.

Anonymous said...

Hah.....I'm so certain I've read something like this before.

How odd.

Watta coincidence.

;p *k

astrorat said...

Dear *k,

Of course.. how could i forget my reviewer!!! :D Also, thanks to steph, and sheila for extremely useful comments :D

:)Astrorat

twinkle_iris said...

Wow... Seriously, I skipped here and there reading it. Actually, I am looking for "kebaya nyonya", terserempak with this blog. I am actually into kebaya itself since my mum wears and makes it. How I wish I can see the actual picture of kebaya nyonya with all the beautiful embroidery.

astrorat said...

Dear twinkle_iris,

the peranakan culture in all its glory is amazing! I had a chance to see some kebaya's while visiting the museums’ in Malaka and Kuala Lumpur. However, they did not allow me to photograph the items ;)

Thank you for visiting...

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Just stopping by to say hi.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I found your blog through a google search on Peranakan and matrilocality....
I'm a undergraduate anthropology student from a english university, and I've just begun my dissertation research into my chosen topic: the baba-nyonyas. I have always lived in england but my mother chinese-malay while my father is english. I'm going to be travelling to Malaysia in August and September this year to do fieldwork with my family over there. I just wanted to say how wonderful it has been to read your essay. You have given me so much excellent information and sources. I'm hoping to visit a couple in Malacca who tailor the traditional wedding costumes so it has been enlightening to learn more about wedding customs. Thankyou so much. I've tried to add you to MSN if you don't mind? My email address for hotmail is fairy_smoke(at)hotmail.com
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

erm... I've visited ur blog like dunno how many times, but skipped this post as I am not really into weddings. But after reading it today, what I can say is... "WOW~" and I wish i can participate in one of those...

Steph said...

I'm guessing that there are a number of readers out there who are like me, looking forward for updates in this blog.

:)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Where ARE you???????

astrorat said...

Dear steph and Dr. d,

:) i am back!

Anonymous said...

It's sound interesting when u post a post regarding the Peranakans. However, i'm still confuss about the terms of Peranakans. In Peninsular, the Peranakans are obviously can be seen through their language, culture $& customs. But different in Borneo. a marriage between chinese and local people in Borneo have their own different calling. In Sarawak, a mix between chinese and Sarawakian didn't regard as a Peranakans.In Sarawak, we only call a mix as "Penakan". Sound a bit same, but have a big different with Peranakan. While in Sabah a mix of chinese and Sabahan, they call it "Sino", For example, a mix between Chinese and Kadazan, they call it "Sino Kadazan" @ "Sino". And one more thing, they "Penakan" and "Sino" didn't practice the same belief and norm as the Peranakan in Peninsular. All i can say that Peranakans in Peninsular do faces the extinction. But in Borneo, the "Penakan" and "Sino" slowly increase.