Posted by: rbbadger | January 11, 2009

The Peranakan Museum

From the beginnings of its history as a British colony, Singapore has been a multi-ethnic society.  When the first Chinese immigrants came, they were mostly men.  Therefore, in seeking a wife, they met and married local Malay women.  Thus, they helped create an interesting culture within Singapore, a Chinese-Malay ethnic group which while retaining a lot of Chinese ways, also combined a lot of influences from the surrounding Malay culture.  They are known as Peranakans or Nyonya Babas.  The founder of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) is descended from these people on his mother’s side.  His father’s side of the family are Hakka people*, a sub-group of the Han people in southern China.

The museum, which is located near the Singapore Philatelic Museum and Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Cathedral, has many artifacts from these people.  Like the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Philatelic Museum, it is located in yet another stunning British colonial mansion.

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*The Hakka people maintain their own language (often called a dialect, but really Chinese dialects should be called languages in their own right), customs, and traditions.  They live in southern China and are known for their roundhouses, circular dwellings which contained the homes of several generations.  They have produced an impressive number of great Chinese leaders.  Among them are Lee Kuan Yew (founder of modern Singapore and Prime Minister from 1959-1990), Lee Hsien Loong (son of Lee Kuan Yew and current PM), Deng Xiaoping (father of the Chinese market reforms of the 1980s), Sun Yat Sen (founder of the Republic of China and its first president), Lee Teng-hui (former president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and first popularly elected president of the Republic of China), and Chen Shui-bian (first opposition party member to be elected president of the Republic of China).

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