Malacca Culture & Heritage

Malacca Attractions

While Malacca has a multi-racial population of Malays, Chinese and Indians reflecting the overall racial make-up of Malaysia, it is the Peranakan and Portuguese culture that is still practised by a few descendant communities that attracts visitors.

The Peranakan and Portuguese descendants in Malacca today are the result of the state's long history with trading and colonisation by Oriental and Western powers.


The Baba Nyonyas

Peranakans are descended from Chinese migrants who first came to Malacca many centuries ago. Adopting Malay customs and cultures, theirs is a unique heritage unlike any other. Peranakans are also referred to a 'Straits Chinese'.

It is still a subject of debate whether the Peranakans actually intermarried with the local Malay population or maintained a pure bloodline, but most are said to be of Hokkien ancestry. 'Babas' refer to male Peranakans while 'Nyonya' refer to females. Often Nyonya is used to substitute the term 'Peranakan' as well. Peranakans also settled in Penang, the only other state than Malacca.

In terms of dressing, the women wear traditional Malay costumes, notably the 'Baju Kebaya' a form of blouse woven with silk. Foot-binding, a practice carried over from China, used to be common among the affluent folk but over the centuries, it is no longer practised and for good reason. Perhaps the Peranakan's most famous legacy is Nyonya food, a fusion of Malay ingredients with Chinese cooking styles. Some of the most popular dishes include 'Belacan', 'Assam Laksa', 'Cendol' and 'Kuih Talam¡'.

Peranakans speak a dialect of the Malay language called 'Baba Malay' which has some elements of the Hokkien language. Their most notable musical entertainment form is the 'Dondang Sayang'; or 'Love Song' where Babas and Nyonyas exchanged poems in a humorous style, accompanied by a violin, accordion and traditional instruments; the Rebana and Gong. Many Malaccans, regarded less of their ethnicity, often indulge in Dondang Sayang; such is its popularity.

Opening Hours: 10am - 12.30pm, 2pm - 4.30pm
Address: Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock
Tel: (606) 283 1273‎

 

The Portuguese

When the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511 and ruled for 130 years, a few stayed behind and formed a fishing community that has lasted till today. As devout Catholics, they celebrate various festivals dedicated to their religion which can be witnessed throughout the year in their settlement the Portuguese Square.

Over the years, the Portuguese intermarried with the local population and are now collectively referred to as Portuguese-Eurasian or 'Kristang', but they still maintain their traditional surnames such as 'Sequiera' and 'Lopez'. Usually, they speak a distinct language which is a Creole (fusion of two languages) based on Portuguese and Malay.

The Portuguese community in Malacca are a merry bunch, often celebrating with loud dances, music and song. Their most famous tune is the 'Jinggling Nyonya', a happy dance-song routine. They've also brought their food; 'Curry Debel¡' is among the most famous of their dishes.

In June, the Portuguese Suare becomes abuzz with activity as the villagers celebrate a feast in honour of their patron saint. It is truly a sight for visitors to behold and a great chance to get to know this special 3,000-odd group of people in Malaysia.


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