Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Malaysian Chinese

The Chinese
1. People who reside in and hold citizenship of the People's Republic of China (mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau)中国人 or the Republic of China (Taiwan). This definition stems from a legal perspective. (Note: Whether citizenship in the Republic of China makes one "Chinese" is subject of some political debate as supporters of Taiwan independence do not consider Taiwan to be part of China)
2. The Zhonghua minzu 中华民族;(sometimes translated as "Chinese nation"), a supra-ethnic concept which includes all 56 ethnic groups live in China that are officially recognized by the government of the People's Republic of China, such as Han, Zhuang, Manchu, Tibetans, and other established ethnic groups who have lived within the borders of China since at least the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). It may also include overseas Chinese. This is a broad defination, included all races or ethnic groups of a Chinese nation, People's Republic of China/Republic of China
3.People of Han Chinese ancestry汉族/汉人 , who are often simply referred to as "Chinese" or "ethnic Chinese" in English. This is a narrow definition.

Apart from nationality (legal) reasons, place of residence (geographical factors), race (biological reasons), and ancestry (historical and genealogical factors) are involved in defining "Chineseness".

Overseas Chinese or Huárén(海外华人)

Huárén (simplified Chinese: 华人; traditional Chinese: 華人): an overall term to refer to any person of Chinese descent, including those in China and abroad. However, this term is more commonly used in referring to the overseas Chinese community and sometimes overseas Chinese minorities.

Overseas Chinese are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the territories administered by the rival governments of the People's Republic of China (PRC) (mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau) and the Republic of China (ROC) (Taiwan). People of partial Chinese ancestry may also consider themselves Overseas Chinese. There are about 7 million oversea Chinese in the world.

(i) Huáqíao (simplified Chinese: 华侨; traditional Chinese: 華僑): refers to a Chinese national or citizen living in a foreign country, who still holds Chinese citizenship. This term was more commonly used before 1949, when China provided citizenship for many overseas Chinese.
(ii) Huáyì (simplified Chinese: 华裔; traditional Chinese: 華裔): refers to a person of Chinese descent living in a foreign country, who does not hold a citizenship from People's Republic of China or the Republic of China.

Malaysian Chinese(馬來西亞華人)

Malaysian Chinese is a Malaysian of Chinese origin. Most are descendants of Chinese who arrived between the fifteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries. Within Malaysia, they are usually simply referred to as "Chinese" in all languages. The term Chinese Malaysian is also sometimes used to refer to this community.

Malaysian Chinese is defined as Malaysian who are of Chinese descent. They are Chinese born in Malaysia; who has obtained citizenship of Malaysia, Chinese from Strait Settlement who are citizen by operation of law.

The ancestral origins of the Malaysian Chinese are diverse in nature and they are identified by their linguistic differences and place of origin. The vast majority of ethnic Chinese came from the Fujian and Guangdong provinces in Southern China, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries various trade and professions became synomynous with individual dialect groups. As a result, distribution of the various dialect groups across Malaya and North Borneo varied from region to region, with each town or region being populated by ethnic Chinese of one specific dialect group.

Malaysian Chinese may be a Taoist(10.6%),Buddhist(75.9%), Christian(9.6%), or Muslim(0.7%). The lines between Taoist and Buddhist are blurred, most of Chinese followed the two religion with varying degree. Chinese religion incorporating elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism(which is strictly a teaching and not religion), and traditional ancestor-worship is practiced. Some may be free thinkers.

A governmental statistic in 2000 classifies the dialect affiliation of the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia:

Dialects of Chinese
Dialect Population
Hokkien 1,848,211
Hakka 1,679,027
Cantonese 1,355,541
Teochew 974,573
Mandarin 958,467
Hainanese 380,781
Min Bei 373,337
Foochow 249,413

A sizeable group of Malaysian Chinese speak English as a first language (something carried over from the British colonial days). They speak English at home, and make it a point to immerse and educate their children in the English language. Like their counterparts in Singapore, they are known as the "English-educated" although the term is something of an anachronism. Most of these "English-educated" Chinese, especially Peranakans, are unable to read and write in Chinese. But majority of Chinese are Chinese educated, which means they are educated at least 6 years of Chinese primary education. Many continued their education in an independent schools until completion of secondary education. Most of Chinese educated are trilingual(Chinese, English & Malay).

Baba-Nyonya Chinese
Peranakan and Baba-Nyonya (Chinese: 峇峇娘惹; Hokkien: Bā-bā Niû-liá) are terms used for the descendants of late 15th and 16th century Chinese immigrants to the Nusantara region during the Colonial era. It applies especially to the ethnic Chinese populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted partially or in full Nusantara customs to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities.

While the term Peranakan is most commonly used among the ethnic Chinese for those of Chinese descent also known as Straits Chinese (土生華人; named after the Straits Settlements.

Muslim Chinese
There are few in number and no much literature are available. But recently there are some interest shown in academic world about this group of Chinese. Most of them have assimilated well with the local Malay community, and some are considered Malay(especially those with one of the parents is Malay). There are 3 types of Muslim Chinese:-

1. Original Chinese Muslim, which include Hui Hui - early Muslim Chinese who were mainly from Yunan, and settled in Kelantan and Trengganu. Assimilated completely with local Malay community, and considered themselves as Malay.
2. Conversion by marriage - previously culturally isolated from their Chinese families/community,and limited social interaction. They changed their names after marriage/conversion. Their children will be assimilated easily to Malay community. But recently there is a trend of openness, acceptance and understanding, and there are more interaction with their Chinese family members.
3. Self conversion - few in number, mostly retained their Chinese surname for identification of their Chinese root.

Chinese migration
Chinese settlers from the southern parts of Fujian constitute the largest group, and generally identified as Hokkien. The bulk of Chinese settlers in Malaya before the 18th century came from Amoy and Zhangzhou and settled primarily in Penang and Malacca, where they formed the bulk of the local Chinese populace. More Hokkiens settled in Malaya from the 19th century onwards, and dominated the rubber plantation and financial sectors of the Malayan economy. The bulk of Hokkien-speaking Chinese settled in the Malay Peninsula and formed the largest dialect group in many states, specifically in Penang, Malacca, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis. In North Borneo, the Hokkiens make up a sizeable proportion within the Chinese community, and are primarily found in larger towns, notably Kuching and Sibu.

Settlers from Fuzhou (also known as Hokchew or Foochow among the Hokkiens and Cantonese respectively) also came in sizeable numbers during the 19th centuries and dominated the corporate industry in the 20th century. They speak a distinct dialect and are classified separately from the Hokkiens and a large number are Christians. The Foochow formed the largest dialect group in Sarawak–specifically in areas around the Rajang River, namely in the towns of Sibu, Sarikei and Bintangor. The Foochow also settled in large numbers in a few towns in Peninsular Malaya, notably Sitiawan in Perak and Yong Peng in Johor.

Large numbers of Hakka settled in the western parts of Malaya and North Borneo and worked as miners in the 19th century as valuable metals such as gold and tin were discovered. Descendants of these miners formed the largest community among the Chinese in Selangor and very large communities in Perak (specifically Taiping and Ipoh), Sarawak and Negeri Sembilan. As the gold and tin mining industries declined in economic importance in the 20th century, many turned to the rubber industry, and large numbers of Hakka settled in Kedah and Johor (principally in Kulai and Kluang). The Cantonese were also engaged in the gold and metal mining trade with the Hakkas, and frequently engaged in civil wars over mining rights. From the late 19th century onwards, many Cantonese shifted their focus to developing banks in Malaya as the metal mining industry declined in economic importance. The Cantonese settled down in towns, and formed the largest community within the Chinese populace in Kuala Lumpur, the Kinta Valley in Perak, Pahang as well as very large communities in Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and principal towns in Sabah, notably Sandakan.

Immigrants from the Chaoshan region began to settle in Malaya in large numbers from the 18th century onwards, mainly in Province Wellesley and Kedah (mainly around Kuala Muda). These immigrants established were chiefly responsible for setting up gambier and pepper plantation industries in Malaya. More Teochews immigrated to Johor at the encouragement of Temenggong Ibrahim in the 19th century, and many new towns were established and populated by plantation workers from the Chaoshan region. The Teochews constitute a substantial percentage within the Chinese communities in Johor Bahru and principal towns along the coasts of Western Johor (notably Pontian, Muar and to a smaller extent, Batu Pahat) as well as selected hinterland towns in the central regions of the state. Many rural communes in Sarawak and Sabah were also populated by the Teochews, many of them being descendants of plantation workers which came to set up gambier and pepper plantations, following the administrative pattern of their countrymen in Johor. Smaller communities of Teochews can also be found in other states, notably in Sabak Bernam in Selangor, where many Teochews settled down as rice agriculturalists, as well as in the hinterlands of Malacca.

Chinese immigrants from Hainan began to migrate to Malaya and North Borneo from the 19th century onwards, albeit in much smaller numbers than the aforementioned speech groups. The Hainanese were employed as cooks by wealthy Straits Chinese families, while others were engaged in food catering business or the fishery business and formed the largest dialect group in Kemaman district of Terengganu and Pulau Ketam (Selangor) as well as sizeable communities in Penang and Johor Bahru. Smaller communities of Hainanese are also found in Sarawak and Sabah, where they work as coffeeshop owners and are mainly found in large towns and cities.

Related articles:

1.谁是华人?华人是谁?Who are the Chinese people? (Chinese),by 张从兴, http://www.huayuqiao.org/articles/shcheong/shcheong02.htm
2.Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, by Rosey Wang Ma, http://www.islam.org.hk/eng/malaysia/ChineseMuslim_in_Malaysia.asp#The%20Yunnani%20Family%20of%20Terengganu

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