Chinese in Malaysia

The Chinese first arrived in Malaysia in the 15th century, when the Ming Princess Hang Li Po and her entourage arrived in Malacca, to establish a thriving community which gave rise to the Babas and Nyonyas of today. But it was not until the 19th century that the Chinese had the biggest impact on the social and religious landscape of this nation, as migrants from southern China came in droves to seek their fortune in the tin mines of Perak and Selangor.

Initially, the Chinese immigrants made their livelihood as labourers, but soon many ventured into trade and industry, thriving in the former Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, showing an almost natural head for business. But the settlement of the Chinese migrants wasn't all smooth sailing. In 1948 a Communist insurrection, known as the Emergency period, began. The Communist guerrillas largely recruited from among the Chinese population, employing terrorist tactics, which prompted the resettlement of nearly half a million Chinese by the British. The insurgency eventually failed, and the Emergency was declared over in 1960.

Ironically, the Emergency spurred the movement for Independence which, through the efforts of leaders from all the major ethnic communities in Malaysia, was realised in 1957. The first government was a loose coalition of Malay, Chinese and Indian parties called the Alliance party. This successful multiethnic political collaboration continues till today.

Today, the Chinese form about 35% of the total population. Many still retain ties with their ancestral homeland, but ask any one of them, and they will tell you that they are Malaysians first. Festivals and special occasions that the community celebrates include the Lantern Festival, Cheng Beng and of course, Chinese New Year, the time when the streets come alive with spectacular sights like the lion dance.

 

C-Right 2014 by Langkawi Gazette