Singaporean Mandarin Database

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.




Peranakan Chinese



Communities / Organisations

Share via

Peranakan Chinese

Share via
Photo courtesy of National Archives of Singapore


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.

  • 土生华人结合了华人的传统习俗和土著文化,也受到西方文化的熏陶,多数的土生华人会说几种语言,有些甚至可以在不同的语言和文化中自由切换。
  • 郑和下西洋时期,广东和福建的中国移民迁居到东南亚并和当地土著通婚,生下后代。男性后裔称“峇峇”(baba),女性后裔称“娘惹”(nyonya)。
  • 1819年,新加坡成为自由港口,吸引了大批马六甲土生华人迁移到新加坡生活。在新加坡,大部分的土生华人是来自马六甲土生华人的后代。
  • 19世纪中期,土生华人渐渐西化,开始讲英语、接受西方文化、信基督等),和英国人关系较亲密。
  • 从1891年开始,中国新移民人数超过土生华人。为了提高社会地位,土生华人开始注重中华文化,学习华文、华文文学、儒家思想等,因此他们拥有中英双语能力,一些土生华人也成为了华社的领袖,如陈若锦、林文庆等。
  • 1899年,土生华人建立新加坡华人女子学校,娘惹开始在此接受教育,成为首批受正规教育和英语教育的女性。
  • 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)


  • 《马来纪年》记载了有关土生华人起源的传说:15世纪,明朝公主汉丽宝远嫁满刺加(如今的马六甲)和苏丹满速沙成亲。五百大臣之子和五百宫娥作为陪嫁。这五百大臣之子和当地贵族通婚,其后代成为土生华人。


  • 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.