Evolution and Identity of the Kelantan Peranakan Chinese: Issues and Challenges

The Kelantan Peranakan Chinese (KPC) has become the earliest evidence of China relationship with the Malay World. The fifty or so Peranakan settlements in Kelantan were believed to have been founded sometime before the 1800s starting from Tumpat to Gua Musang and along Sungai Kelantan. The descendants of those early Chinese settlers married local women and had close contacts with the Malays and Thais who formed the majority of the populace. This eventually led to the acculturation of the Chinese and gave rise to the formation of the Peranakan community. He is ethnically Chinese but his Kelantanese dialect is so homey that he could easily pass off as Malay. The Chinese perceived the local Malays as legitimately dominant and themselves as legitimately subordinate. This understanding and acceptance of the legitimacy of their relative positions is very crucial in the promotion of a successful inter-ethnic interaction. Today, the days of the Peranakan are numbered and the size of their community is rapidly declining. Modernisation, migration and marriage with non-Peranakans are among the main reasons for the decline. But perhaps the most significant factor is the need to re-orient their identities to suit the post-colonial racial landscape with its ethnic demarcations of Malay, Chinese, Indian and others categories. Peranakan children no longer mix with their Malay or Thai neighbours, preferring instead the society of their schoolmates or those of similar ethnicity. It is just a matter of time before the community disappears. The objectives of the research is to indicate present and future transformations of the Kelantan Peranakan Chinese in the rapidly changing and the future of a small group of Kelantanese Chinese, whose forefathers landed in this country more than 250 years ago - much longer than many current crop of so-called Malaysians. Through the process of assimilation, they have lost their identity. They are not Malays; and naturally would not be accepted as bumiputras. Since they don't speak Mandarin, Hakka or Cantonese, they feel out of place among the "real" or more "genuine" Chinese. Compounded by their tanned skin, they look every inch like the Malays. Though their Chinese surnames are maintained, many have taken the Malay names or are being called by the Malay names. But this unfortunate group of people will perish in history in 30 - 40 years to come. They may be a minority in Kelantan but the Peranakan are as colourful as they come. However, this community is in danger of losing its unique identity. After they are, the Kelantan Peranakan Chinese will go down in history. The whole wide gone world would not even know of their existence}.

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Keywords: Kelantan Peranakan Chinese; Peranakan Community; Social Reality; Acculturation; Inter-ethnic


EISSN: 2364-5369

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