Overseas Chinese: The Peranakan

Figure 1.--Here we see a Peranakan boy in the early-20th century at a train station. We are not sure where the photograp was taken, possibly Singapore.

There are important overseas Chinese ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore) and North America, especially the United States, and many other countries. The overseas Chinese developed in two major waves. The first was the Peranakan who began settling the Nusantara region (Malay-Indonedaian area) (15-16th century). China at the time had extensive commercial relations in the area. It was the time of legendary Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho), a Muslim Chinese. A Chinese princes given as a token to the Sultan of Malacca was the legendary beginning of the Peranakan. Peranakan is a Malayan word. "Anak" means child. "Anak-anak", children. The Chinese are also called "chiong hoa". The Peranakan over time lost contact with China and to a varying degree adopted local cultural patterns such as language and clothing, but generally married within their community and did not adopt Islam. The Peranakan came to a major part of the merchant and artisan class in the region. Relatiins with the wider Malay and Indonesian community varied. Durung tge colonial era they were generally protected by British and Dutch authorities. There were at the time of independence about 3 million Peranakans in Indonesia. After independence they were more vulnerable to the Malay/Indonesian Muslim majorities. Chinese in Indonesia were targetted during the Communist uprising (1965) and during the anti government riots (1980s). The Chinese in Singapore decided to separate from Malsysia (1965). A reader writes, "I don't know how many Chinese there are now in Indonesia. The Indonesians killed many and they forced the Chinese to adopt Indonesian family names in order to make them "Indonesians". hey could use their original Chinese names only at their tombstones. All messages, advertising, etc. with Chinese characters was forbidden. Indonesian cities used to have large Chinatown areas. Chinese signs were everywhere. No more. But they still need them as shopkeepers and traders."


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Created: 6:28 AM 1/9/2011
Last updated: 1:39 AM 1/10/2011