This database contains a collection of Mandarin terms which have cultural, historical or sentimental value unique to Singapore. These terms may be used by Singaporeans in the past or at present. Some of the terms are read in print while others are used in our everyday conversations.
Communities / Organisations
Peranakan Chinese are the descendants of early Chinese immigrants who intermarried with the local indigenous people. They are mainly found in Malacca and Penang in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Peranakan Chinese culture is not only a blend of traditional Chinese customs and indigenous culture, but is also influenced by Western culture. Most Peranakans can speak several languages, and some can even switch effortlessly between different languages and cultures.
During the period of Zheng He's great voyages, Chinese immigrants from the provinces of Guangdong and Fujian moved to Southeast Asia, where they intermarried and established families with the local indigenous people. Their male descendants are known as “Baba”, while their female descendants are known as “Nyonya”.
When Singapore became a free port in 1819, it attracted a large number of Peranakan Chinese from Malacca who came to live in Singapore. Most Peranakan Chinese in Singapore have ancestors who came from Malacca.
In the mid-19th century, Peranakan Chinese gradually became Westernised. They started to speak English, accept Western culture, convert to Christianity, and developed close ties with the British.
From 1891, the number of new Chinese immigrants started to exceed that of Peranakan Chinese. In order to improve their social status, Peranakan Chinese began to focus more on Chinese culture and started learning Mandarin, Chinese literature and Confucianism. As a result, Peranakan Chinese became fluent in both Mandarin and English. Some Peranakan Chinese such as Tan Kim Seng and Lim Boon Kong become leaders in Singapore's Chinese community.
The Singapore Chinese Girls' School was established by Peranakan Chinese in 1899. Nyonyas began to receive their education here and became the first group of women to receive formal and English education.
The Straits Chinese or Peranakan Chinese are collectively known as Babas and Nyonyas. They are generally considered to be the descendants of early Chinese immigrants and indigenous peoples in Nanyang. Their traditional customs and costumes still reflect many beliefs and unique habits of the early Chinese settlers. (Lianhe Wanbao, 25/11/2019)
A legend on the origins of the Peranakan Chinese is recorded in the Sejarah Melayu, or Malay Annals: In the 15th century, Princess Hang Li Poh of the Ming Dynasty in China was sent to present-day Malacca to marry Sultan Mahsur Shah. She brought with her the sons of 500 ministers and 500 palace maids as dowry. The sons of these 500 ministers intermarried with local nobility, and their descendants became the Peranakan Chinese.
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gòng hé lián bāng
qián bì duì huàn shāng
ōu yà yì