Peranakan Porcelain a Colorful Tale of Chinese-Malaysian Culture

What does the term ‘Peranakan’ derive from?

Defining a blend of Chinese and Malay ethnicities, ‘Peranakan’ is a Malay term meaning “Person born here”. They are also known as the Baba Nyonya. The former refers to the male while the latter is female born in Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago. In Thailand, they settled in the south along the Andaman coast and the Gulf of Thailand.

This cultural mix originated in the early 15th-16th century when a group of Chinese Hokkien merchants traded in Strait of Malacca and settled in Malacca and Penang cities of Malaysia as well as in Singapore. The so-called ‘Straits Chinese’ married the local Malays and it had a vital influence in their ways of living such as dining. As a result, the art of porcelain, Nyonya ware or Straits Chinese porcelain with its unique characteristics found only in the South East Asia, became essentials of daily life.

The wealthy Peranakan Chinese commissioned Chinese traders to manufacture this kind of colorful porcelains in China. It was believed that the peranakan  was first created in Tongzhi Emperor of Qing Dynasty. Eventually, production was thought to have ceased after World War II (1939-1945) due to the decline in demand.

Esthetics and value

Peranakan porcelain is popular among antique connoisseurs and collectors. Only commissioned by a well-to-do Peranakan family, its value was dependent on its rarity of color and size. Chinese artisans had to import pigments from foreign countries to achieve its distinguished colorfulness among other kinds of porcelains manufactured in China.

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