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The Thy Tracker (continued)


May 15–23  Peranakan  24–25  27–29  Sireh  30a  30b  30c–31
Malaysia: Melaka June 1–2, Kuala Lumpur 3–4, Penang 6
Vietnam: Saigon 13–16  19-20  22  26  27 30
Nha Trang July 7a 7b, Hue 14a 14b, Hanoi 19–20
India: Pondicherry 31, Bangalore August 2–4, Kerala


Malay for "local born," Peranakan communities emerged when immigrants intermarried with locals. The Chinese Peranakans are descendents of Chinese traders, or babas, who married Malay women, known as nyonyas. Their unabashed blending of elements from European, Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture created an eclectic, extravagant style of architecture, dress, and cooking. In the U.S., they are often called Straits Chinese, but this term is considered outdated here since the Straits settlements are no longer a political entity. (In other words, this is a colonial term.) Nyonya cuisine blended Malay and Chinese ingredients with flair, creating famously labor-intensive dishes.

Learn more about Peranakan culture:

Baba Rumah - The Peranakan Home

You can see the highly decorative nature of Peranakan furniture and housewares. Of particular note is the elaborate silver work, usually commissioned from Indian craftsmen, on the sireh set. These heirlooms, often appearing in family portraits, held all the fixings for chewing betel nut, a very proper and popular ritual of the Nyonyas.


Peranakan Legacy

A permanent exhibit at the Asian Civilizations Museum recently opened here in Singapore with great fanfare.


Beaded Slippers

Here are modern versions of the traditional beaded shoes worn by the Nyonya. The original crystal beads were tiny, much smaller than the ones on the trendy shoes in all the stores, another ripple of the recent interest in Peranakan history. You would have to hold a Nyonya-made slipper within inches of your face to distinguish individual beads, and their facets lent a subtle sparkle to the brilliantly colored shoes. In previous days, a potential bride's embroidery and beadwork would be inspected, the notion being that the better her handiwork, the more time she spent at home as a proper girl should.


Peranakan Culture

A comprehensive site about the Peranakan community. It addresses the Malaysian community, but I'll include it here for now, until I arrive in Malacca next week.



The Peranakan were fond of melding European, Chinese, and Malay craftsmanship.


Peranakan Association of Singapore

They're still working on their website.


Suggested Books

Brown & Gold: Peranakan Furniture from the Late 19th Century to the Mid 20th Century

Reconstructing Identities: A Social History of the Babas in Singapore

A Rose on My Pillow, Recollections of a Nonya

Straits Chinese Silver: A Collector's Guide

The Straits Chinese, A Cultural History