The East-West Center Arts Program presents


The Peranakan Chinese are descendents of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca and coastal areas of Java and Sumatra as early as the 15th century. They married into local Southeast Asian communities, as Chinese women were not legally allowed to leave China. In the 19th century, the Peranakan immigrated into the bustling ports of Penang and Singapore during the British colonial expansion. The Peranakan community was successful as merchants and, later, as professionals. These communities are often referred to as Straits Chinese or baba nyonya (baba refers to the males and nyonya to the females).

Betel Leaf Box Early 20th century The Intan

Betel Leaf Box
Early 20th century
The Intan
Click on the image to view selected exhibition pieces.

Peranakan became extremely cosmopolitan and displayed their wealth and artistic sensibilities using items acquired from China, Southeast Asia, and Europe. The EWC exhibition reflects this unique aesthetic and highlights many of the distinctive arts and customs of this community. Photographs and videos focus on wedding and marriage rituals, hospitality customs, funeral customs, and birthing traditions. A wide variety of textiles, clothing, beaded slippers, cooking utensils, and ceramics are included.

Presented in cooperation with:
The Intan (Singapore),
Honolulu Museum of Art
Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art
Peranakan Museum/Asian Civilisations Museum (Singapore)
Dr. Lawrence K.W. Tseu

Click here to download the exhibit handout.

Click here to view a selected gallery of items from the exhibition.