Monday, December 20, 2004

Babas, Nyonya, Straits Born

Straits Chinese, Straits Born, Baba and Peranakan are terms used interchangeably by the people and by people describing them.

Straits Born, Straits Chinese - was the term used for the people born in the Straits Settlement comprising of Penang, Malacca and Singapore.

Baba - The word is of Indian origin and was brought to the Malay Peninsula when the East India company extended its influence from India to Malacca. In Northern India the term Baba is a general title of respect. In time the word came to refer primarily to the Straits Chinese male.

Nyonya - The term Nyonya for Straits Chinese woman is less exclusive as it its been use to apply to the woman of Sumatra and Java. The term actually is the Malay form of address for non-malay married ladies of standing in the community.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Who are the Peranakans?

The term Peranakan in Malay simply means born locally.

The origin of the community can be trace to the arrival of Ming princess Hang Li Poh to Malacca (a state in present day Malaysia) who married Sultan Mansur Shah (1446 -59) as recorded in The Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). The princess brought along with her 500 youths who settled in the city. This formed the first Chinese community whose graves can be still seen at Bukit Cheena (China Hill).

By the 15 Century, Chinese male migrants started arriving from Fukien province to Malacca which in those days was a thriving cosmopolitan trading centre. On arriving they found a small thriving community. The migrants set up trading posts. They would leave China following the Northeast monsoon winds at the end of the year and only sailed back in the middle of the year following the Southwest monsoon.
After a while some of them took to setting up second homes in Malacca, marrying the local woman. The male offsprings were sent back to China for education while the daughters remain in Malacca.

In trying to trace the ancestry records of prominent Peranakans families we find that the search end up cold in Malacca to the 17 to 18 Century. Records show that the first migrant patriach of the family married a local born Chinese woman. Can this be a link to the small thriving community?