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PERANAKAN FAMILY HEIRLOOMS
Almost every Peranakan family has a remnant of the old culture. It could be in teh form of your grandma's old kebaya or a few sarungs, a pair of beaded slippers, a few nonya porcelain or furniture lying around here and there or if youre lucky some silverware, jewelery and Victorian decorative antiques as well.
Learn to appreciate those items, they arent just objects collecting dust, they are part of your heritage nad culture. Treasure it as thats the only thing thats left of your culture, dont take it for granted, it might not always be there. If youre really developed interest in the object you could even go on a collecting spree and collect cheap old Peranakan antiques and artefacts. For example you could buy an old hairpin for less than $100, a pair of pearl intan earrings for $200+ and an old silver plated Peranakan Tea pot for around $100+ (if you know where to look and are ready to become a bargian hunter that is) Peranakan antiques arent just old items at all, they are part of your culture and they make you aware of your identity and heritage. By appreciating them, you appreciate your culture. So if you really want to know more about your culture antique finding is one of the best ways to do it !! The below photos show you what Peranakan heirlooms look like:
Silverware, victorian antiques, furniture and nonya porcelain are also aspects of Peranakan Heirlooms. But its best to start small and collect the cheap items first and work your way up as you mature in knowwledge and in financial aspects as well You dont even need to collect anything if you so wish, though its good to start if youre really into Peranakan stuff The Photos above were taken from the Asian Civilisations Museum at the Peranakan legacy Exhibition.. Do pay a visit to the museum when youre free, its really an eye opener. This museum has been recently been gazetted as a Peranakan Museum that focuses on preserving & exhibiting Peranakan culture. The Museum exhibits Peranakan Antiques from Singapore, Malaysia, & Indonesia. Guided tours are provided enquire at the counter for more details. This topic will be divided into 4 parts namely: Jewelery, Porcelain, Furniture and Silverware.
Peranakan Jwelery was used for decorative purposes and also to act as a gauge of wealth of the person wearing it. Nonyas of old were absoulutely fond of any sort of jewelery and only the more expensive and exquisite types of jewelery was used. The most common of all types of jewelery the nonyas favoured was either the ones with intan (pearls) or berlian (diamonds)The picture below shows us a old kerosang or Brooch that consists of the kerosang ibu or large Brooch and the kerosanganak or small brooches. Sucj kerosangs always came in threes and they were used as buttons for the baju panjang and sarung kebaya
Such Brooches now are extremely expensive and old kerosangs of superb quality and craftsmanship can fetch prices of $10,000 or more. The picture below shows a similar kerosang recently made by RISIS of Singapore to commemorate the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Peranakan Association of Singapore
The picture above shows us a pair of bracelets and a pair of solid gold earrings with diamonds. Such jewelery was used for everyday wear by wealthy and cultured nonyas of the day. More ornate nad expensive jewelery was used for outings, special occasions and social functions. The picture below shows us the different kerosangs manufactured by RISIS of Singapore. These brooches can still available and can be purchased at their stores. These kerosangs are called kerosang rantay tiga and are used as buttons for modern day kebayas. They are not pricey and can be bought for more than $100 Singapore Dollars The item on the right is called a tali pinggang or waist belt.
The Silver brooches Brooches on the right are used individually and can be used in pairs of 3 or as a stand alone. Such brooches were used as decorative ornaments for wedding attires, caps and even for special occasions such as brithdaysand weddings. They are still made until this very day and can be bought for less than S$100 each from RISIS Singapore.
PERANAKAN NONYA PORCELAIN
Peranakan porcelian is more commonly known as nonya porcelain. This is so as nonya feminine emblems such as the phoenix were prevalent on the porcelain. It is said that nonyas themselves designed the porcelain wares for their households and had them sent to China to be made. Thsi explains why the porcelian reflect the varied styles and taste of colors so prevalent in nonya kebayas, beadwork and embroidery.
Nonya Porcelain is divided into 3 categories:
Blue & White Porcelain - This type of porcelian was used for the ancestral altar and for periods of mourning. They were not to be used or eaten on by the living as it was considered tabboo.
Religious Wares & Porcelain - Being staunch Taoists, the Babas of yore had seperate articles and porcelian for religious purposes. These religious porcelian would take the form of incense burners, candle stands, offering dishes, altar servers, the various tea cups for prayer, joss stick burners, a sam kai or 3 tiered altar and the other neccesary objects required for pious worship.
Normal Every Day Wares - Such wares were used for everyday meals and on special occasions. They consist of silver European table ware, nonya porcelian such as dishes, plates, kamchengs, pots, serving platters, teapots, chupus or closed containers, vanity containers, powder boxes, soap boxes, trays, teacups, dining plates, containers for small objects, spoons, etc. Typical emblems of nonya porcelian would be the ever popular and prevalent phoenix, the 8 emblems of Taoism, flowers, the chinese peony, leaves, small birds, etc. Such wares come in every color imagineable!
Peranakan Furniture like eevrything else in Peranakan culture is ornate and beautiful. There were 3 styles of furniturefound in old Peranakan Homes of yesteryear. They include Chinese Ming, Victorian and the unique Peranakan style. The below picture shows you the interior of a traditional Peranakan Home.
Chinese Ming - Such furniture were found in all Peranakan Homes. This type of furniture is actually Chinese in design and nature and was produced locally in China and exported to the Straits for the Peranakan Chinese themselves. Such examples of this type of furniture will be teak wood, rose wood, black wood, namwood and mother of pearl furniture. The Peranakans of old would furnish their reception rooms with a set of 8 chairs, a side table placed between each of pair of chairs, a pair of semi circular tables, high flower stands and opium beds. These ornately carved wood were made in china from blackwwod and mother of pearl inlay. Often marble backs and seats were set into the wood as the marble stone provided a cool surface to rest on. The appeal of these individual natural marble slabs shows and symbolises mountain scenes and the sea.
Victorian - This type of furniture was actually founded in Victorian Britain during and after the reign of Queen Victoria of England. As the Peraankans loved the British dearly and were keen to serve their colonial masters well, they took on to English fashions, culture and furniture most readily. Such examples of English Victorian furniture could be in the form of mahogony tables, huge marble tables, baroque chairs and large Victorian side boards with mirrors, four posterbeds, cupboards, lounges, cosy chairs, buffet tables, bookcases, writing tables, hallway cupboards, etc.
Red & Gold - The old Chinese furniture which was common in Peranakan homes came from south China in the last 150 years. Usually the furniture was made from a greenish variety of cedarwood called namwood. The furniture was used as part of the wedding ceremony and part of the wedding chamber which contained a two tiered cupboard, an elaborately carved wedding bed, a carved washstand, dessing table and two chairs with footstools. The relief work is usually gilded in contrst to the red lacquered background. Crushed mother of pearl flakes were also sometimes added to the furniture as an additional decoration.
Brown & Gold - The family altar table would also be embelished with gold dust. It consisted of a long high table with a lower table that partially fitted underneath the high table. Some of these items contained decorative panels that were assembled to taste. The distingusihing feature of this type of furniture is that it is very elaborate in decoartion and is exquisitely carved. The wood is intricately carved with scenes from Chinese traditional dramas and romances. Flowers, plants, birds and small inscets appear in these pieces.
Peranakan or Straits Chinese Furniture - This type of Furniture blended both Chinese and Victorian influences to form a unique Peranakan style favoured by both Babas and Nonyas alike. Such furniture was made locally by Chinese craftsman and combined the best of both western and eastern elements of design and style.
Like every other item for the Perananakan Household, old Peranakan silver is ornate, functional and decorative. Silverware and goldware were symbols of status and wealth and any family of much monetary standing would have acquired or comminisoned such silver pieces for use in the form of sireh holders, key chains, hair pins, belts, teapots. teasets, trays, spoons, silver plates, canisters, wine ewers, jugs and many other examples.
Its distinguishinf feature is the combination of Chinese and old Malay (hindhu - islamic) tradition and motifs. On one hand, the complex decorative designs are derived from chinese symbolism and religious iconography. The shapes and functions of the item is malay in design and inspiration. Such silver was made by either malay of chinese silversmiths for the wealthy Peranakan Chinese. The Chinese symbols represent a study in themselves, as in addition to being ornamental they had their own meanings. For example butterfiles symbolised a happy marriage while the dragon symbolised anything that was great and powerful. Mythical and other auspicious animals included phoenixes, dragons, chilings, bats and insects common in Chinese folklore and symbolism.
The chewing of daun sireh or betel -leaf was an integral
part of Malay culture. With typical Malay overtones as reflected in words
like pinang, kacip, sireh, tempat sireh, kotak sireh often appeared in
Nyonya conversation or during tete-a-tete. Malay words like cheerut (cigar)
and gunting (cutter or scissors) were often used by the Babas and Nyonyas
who were cigar lovers.
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