Traditionally, Babas and Nyonyas or “Peranakan” Chinese subscribed to Chinese beliefs, such as Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. This is because of them are Buddhists. So, they celebrated Lunar New Year which is known as Chinese New Year, Lantern festivals and other Chinese festivals. Their culture also has some elements of Malay culture. Not only that, they also embraced the customs of the place they settled in, besides those of their colonial rulers.
Likewise in any cultures, Baba-Nyonya also believe in superstition or more commonly known as “pantang larang” to Malaysians. Superstitions are especially applied by the older generations in their household or anything that involves their culture. One of the superstitions is, one cannot simply dispose water wherever as it will bring a calamity to themselves. During festivals, the Baba community is not allowed to sweep fragments of firecrackers because they are considered lucky and would lead them towards a pathway to heaven. In addition, Baba-Nyonya also believe in “fengshui”. However, these superstitions are no longer practised among the Baba-Nyonya community to keep pace with the modernisation of the country.
1. Traces of Portuguese, Dutch, British, Malay and Indonesian influences are visible. This is partly due to the colonisation of Malacca and Malaysia as a whole in general. The colonisation led to a sizable number of Baba families accepting Christianity until today. Some families also became Protestants, with Methodists and Presbyterians numbering among them, from the mid to late 19th Century. This does not only happen in Malaysia, but also some other neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Singapore. In Singapore, the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church is considered as one of the first “Peranakan” churches founded in 1894. Sunday services was conducted in Baba Malay language during its formation, and is still being used in their services today. Despite living in Muslim majority countries, Baba-Nyonya community is always ready to humbly embrace Christianity as their religion.
Kampong Kapor Methodist Church
2. Islam was embraced by Baba-Nyonya in a different way than Christianity. Descendants from China, mainly from Fujian, a dominant province that was in charge of many vital seaport has adopted Islam in Java as well as Malaysia, having experiences beforehand. Whereas in Cirebon, a port city of Indonesia, Islamic conversion process occurred over several centuries. Many of Babas and Nyonyas in Indonesia who converted to Islam would marry into aristocratic dynasties. So basically, Islam was discovered by Baba-Nyonya through propagation and circulation by the people living in those countries. Some outstanding “Peranakan” Muslims include Junus Jahja, Abdul Karim Oei Tjeng Hien, Tjio Wie Tay and Datu Seri Nara. In Indonesia, Baba Nyonya were referred as Indonesian Chinese who had converted to Islam until the 19th century. Later on, Baba Nyonya are classified as all Indonesian Chinese born in the country, including those of descendants of mixed race unions. All in all, the acceptance of Islam from Baba-Nyonya is also portrayed.
Confucianism Lanturn Festival
In conclusion, Babas and Nyonyas actually have many beliefs and religions. Their modest nature to accept and respect a number of religions is what the current generations are lacking. Therefore, we should emulate this noble value to create a better community among Malaysia