T'ganu Chinese Peranakan Association aims to revive Peranakan's way of life

ADRIAN DAVID

KUALA TERENGGANU: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the popular proverb.

There is definitely no better way to foster camaraderie and forge closer ties, than to gather one and all for a sumptuous meal.

Tapping into that very idea is Terengganu Peranakan’s prime mover, Toh Puan Rozita Abdullah, or better known as Lau Yau Hong.

Rozita hosted her inaugural ‘Pupok Semangat’ (enriching lives) at her home here in Batu Burok recently.

The occasion was also held to kick-start the formation of the Terengganu Chinese Peranakan Association.

There were traditional Peranakan dishes and delicacies, including nasi kuning, all prepared by Rozita, wife of Tengku Paduka Ibrahim Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah, who is the uncle to the Sultan of Terengganu Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin.

The event was timely in conjunction with ‘Visit Beautiful Terengganu Year 2017’ and as a run-up to the Merdeka celebration in August.

Association vice-president Dr Wee Tiong Wah welcomed the committee members, including president Soh Yew Beng.

Dr Wee said they had registered about 100 members from the state, all working to keep the Peranakan’s customs, traditions and cuisine alive.

“The oldest member is Wee Kwee Siew, a 96-year-old woman, who till today continues to play a crucial role in retaining the Peranakan tradition and customs.

“Kwee Siew is known for her traditional cakes and a good advisor for our initiatives,” said Dr Wee, a dentist.

He explained that the Terengganu Peranakan community were similar to the Straits-born Chinese communities in Malacca and Singapore.

“We were all born in Terengganu and are descendants of the first Fujian seafarers from mainland China, nearly six centuries ago,” he said clarifying the only difference between them and the Peranakan community there.

“Our mek and mok (young and old) women still don sarong with batik motives and kebaya tops.

“The awang (men) also wear batik,” said Dr Wee.

According to Dr Wee, legend has it that Admiral Cheng Ho had first stopped at a river in Kuala Nerus for replenishments before making his way to Malacca.

In fact, there still lay a huge rock which is said to resemble Cheng Ho’s ship at the site of his landing, Dr Wee said.

He added that a majority of the Terengganu Peranakan were of the Hokkien clan, with the Lim family being the largest.

“We are a closely knit bunch, with many of us intermarrying among our relatives from as far as Malacca and Singapore,” he stated.

The association aims to revive the Peranakan’s way of life from its traditions to language and attire, and in order to do so they believe that foster fellowship among those in the community can help.