Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Are Peranakans really of mixed blood?
A: Yes and No. Yes in that our Chinese ancestors did settle in this region hundreds of years ago and took local Indonesian women as their wives. The offspring of such intermarriages were called Peranakan in the malay and indonesian dialect which means of mixed blood. However these offspring married new immigrants from China and absorbed them into Peranakan culture. This further diluted the malay features and made the Peranakans more Chinese in features. This explains why Peranakans now look as Chinese as other Chinese. In the past if a person from China were to marry a nonya the children would have been thought Peranakan customs and culture and were automatically considered Peranakan. This shows that Peranakan culture absorbed and assimilated other Chinese communities into their fold through marriage. However in modern day Singapore this is not the case as children follow the identity and race of their fathers.
Q: What happens when a Malay person marries a Chinese person now? Will their children be considered Peranakan?
A: No such intermarriages do not make the children of such intermarriages Peranakan at all. When a Chinese person marries a Malay person, the person will be automatically be considered as a muslim and the children will identify themselves as chinese malay muslims. In the old days, Chinese men married Indonesian women who were not muslim, this led to a unique and seperate culture that we now know as Peranakan Culture. In Indonesia however, children of Indonesian women who marry Chinese men identify themselves as Cina Peranakan till this very day.
Q: Is Peranakan Culture dying?
A: This is very subjective. Some Peranakans say yes while others say no. Those that say yes believe that Peranakan culture is undergoing a revival. Those that say no believe that the Peranakan culture is in a state of deterioration and death. However the number of Peranakans in Singapore and Malaysia is decreasing at a rapid rate. This is due to rapid assimilation and intermarriages with other racial groups. The majority of Young Peranakans are not conversant in baba malay and are ignorant of their heritage. Inspite of the current interest in the culture, Peranakan culture now is already very diluted when compared to the Peranakan culture of yesteryear. Peranakan culture in Indonesia however has ceased to exist due to the numerous restrictions, hardship and persecutions faced by the Chinese in the past. Our Peranakan Kin in Indonesia do not have any living Peranakan Associations till this present day.
Q: How will Peranakan Society be like 100 years from now?
A: Most experts on Peranakan culture believe that Baba Malay will be extinct by then. This is so as most Peranakans conversant in baba malay are in the age group of 50 and above. Most Peranakans below this age group are not pure Peranakan as they only have one parent or a grandparent that is Peranakan. Baba Malay will only be found in oral records, archives and dictionaries. Most experts predict that pure Peranakans of Peranakan parentage from both sides will be extinct in 2053. The overwhelming majority of Peranakans then would be diluted Peranakans claiming a quarter or a fraction of Peranakan ancestry. Peranakan Wayangs and Plays that are popular now will also be a thing of the past as by 2053 as the number of diluted Peranakans conversant in the langauge by that time will be virtually nil. Peranakan Culture will then only be seen in musuems for eager tourists to see. Nonya food, and the popularity of kebayas might and may still be around as they are seen as profitable entities. Experts on the culture also predict that Peranakan material culture will be totally extinct by 2100.The museums will then play an important and vital role in maintaining and keeping the culture for porsterity. In any case, Peranakan Culture if it survives 100 years in the future will be very different from what it is today. It must also be noted that Peranakan culture started to decline in the 1940's right till the very present day. If so much has been lost in the last 50 years, what more will be lost in the next 50 years?
Q: What is Baba Jati and Baba Chelup?
A: In Singapore and Malaysia : Baba Jati or Pure Peranakans refers to those Peranakans that come from pure Peranakan families from both sides. Baba Chelup or mixed Peranakans refers to Peranakans that are half Peranakan or have diluted Peranakan parentage. The overwhelming majority of Peranakans are now Baba Chelup and the number of Baba Jati are in great decline. Only a few families are still pure and undiluted and a few thousand individuals are considered Baba Jati in this present day. In Indonesia such terms are not used as Peranakans are simply called Tionghua or Cina Peranakan.
Q: If my mother is Peranakan and my father isn't, am I still Peranakan?
A: Yes you are. You are still considered Peranakan even if only your mother is Peranakan. Peranakan culture and identity is both maternal and paternal, meaning that you are considered a Peranakan even if your mother or father is of Peranakan extraction. In Malaysia and Singapore you follow the race of your Father but are a considered a Peranakan if at least one of your parents is Peranakan. In Indonesia however Children of such marriages are called Peranakan Cina till this very day and they identify themselves as such.
Q: What if I am only three quarters or sixth quarters Peranakan?
A: You are still considered Peranakan as long as you have some Peranakan ancestry. Peranakan culture is a heritage that belongs to the Straits Born Chinese, it is a sub culture within the Chinese Community not a race. Essentially all Peranakans are identified and proud to call themselves Chinese but they are proud of their Peranakan ancestry as well.