Malaysian Culture: Malaysian Chinese
In my family, I am of the fourth generation residing in Malaysia. Most of my Malaysian Chinese friends are in the fourth or fifth generation.
As you may have noticed, my name is made up of three words (characters), just like the Chinese from China.
This is because I am a Malaysian Chinese. Walking down the path of time, my ancestors were originally from China Hokkien/Fujian Province (福建), which is the southern part of China.
This began when thousands of Chinese immigrants came to British-ruled Malaya, in the early 19th century and continued to the 1930s. In 1963, independence from the British Empire was granted. As the leaders of the three main ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese, and Indian) were from the same political party, they have successfully proven to the British that the three races can live in peace and harmony. Chinese, Indians and all other races have been granted a citizenship. As such, Malaysian Chinese form the second largest community of Overseas Chinese in the world after Thailand.
Today, the Chinese only occupy only 22.6% of Malaysia’s population. Fortunately, our roots remain within our hearts, and Chinese vernacular schools for the six-years of primary education teach all subjects in Chinese (中国語 ちゅうごくご). The syllabus also includes Malay, our national language, and also English. Yes, we learn three languages from childhood! There are three types of vernacular schools for all the three ethnic groups and Malaysians have the freedom to attend any of them. The rise of China’s economy also urged many parents of the other ethnic groups to provide their children education in Chinese.
Every year, the biggest day for Malaysian Chinese is the celebration of Chinese New Year. We retain the culture, beliefs and traditions of China. Chinese New Year is on the 1st day of the year according to the lunar calendar, which usually falls in February.
What’s so special about that day? Most Chinese wear new or traditional clothing (which is the same as in China!) and flood Instagram with #cny #ootd #chor1 hashtags! The female traditional clothing is known as cheongsam (旗袍), while guys wear samfu (唐装).
The other ethnic groups in Malaysia also adopted this Chinese culture and they have even made green and purple envelopes!
"Ang pao", red envelop with cash inside!
Besides that, there are many Malaysian Chinese who have prospered in their respective professions abroad and made names for themselves internatioanlly.
Uncle Roger, the recent internet hit, shook many Asians around the world in reaction to the BBC's video on how to cook egg fried rice. His signature phrase "Haiya" is a result of the mix of languages in an informal way used in Malaysia. The word usually means one is disappointed. He is a Malaysian Chinese by the name of Nigel Ng. He was born in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and later moved to England to pursue his career,
Go ahead ans search on YouTube if you are interested!
Another is Tan Sri Robert Kuok, Malaysia’s wealthiest man, whose net worth is USD$11.1 billion as of 23 October 2020. Besides being a successful businessman, he is also known as the "Sugar King of Asia” (糖王). During the 1960s, his company had 80% of the market share for Malaysian sugar with production of 1.5 million tons, which is equivalent to 10% of world production. Kuok is now age 97 and he was born in Johor, Malaysia.
Datuk Pua Khein-Seng is the inventor of the world first single chip USB flash drive. He is regarded as the "Father of Pen drive" in Malaysia. His journey began when he was working as a technician and then became an entrepreneur by force of circumstances, and started his own company in Taiwan. In 2000, his company Phison developed the world’s first “pen drive”! That is when his company started to grow and was listed in the Taiwan Stock Exchange in 2014. Although he has been living in Taiwan ever since, he was originally raised in Selangor, Malaysia.
Besides the above mentioned individuals, there are many Malaysians who developed their careers in Japan. One of my closest friends is Lim Boon Cheng who founded Alula Studio back in 2018. Alula Studio is located in Yodogawa (淀川区), in Osaka, providing world class photography services from Casual Photoshoots to Wedding sessions. He was born in Penang, Malaysia and later moved to Japan to pursue his career.