Posted 23 September 2006 - 08:34 AM
A Malaysian Chinese is an overseas Chinese who is a citizen or long-term resident of Malaysia. Most are descendants of Chinese who arrived between the 15th and the mid-20th centuries. Within Malaysia, they are usually simply referred to as "Chinese" in all languages. The term Chinese Malaysian is rarely used in Malaysia.
Early Chinese settlers (from the 15th century in Malacca; 18th century in Penang) form to a sub-group called Peranakan or Straits Chinese, who adopted many Malay customs and to varying extents (limited in Penang, almost complete in Malacca) the Malay language, but retained Chinese religious practices. In contrast, the newer arrivals (19th century and later) who retained Chinese customs were known as sinkheh (新客 - literally "new guests").
The Chinese in Malaysia maintain a distinct communal identity and rarely intermarry with native Malays for religious and cultural reasons. This is because most Malays are Muslim. Such a marriage in Malaysia requires the non-Muslim party to convert in order for the marriage to be legal. Most Malaysian Chinese consider their being "Chinese" at once an ethnic, cultural and political identity.
The Malaysian Chinese have traditionally dominated the Malaysian economy, but with the advent of affirmative action policies by the Malaysian government to protect the interests of its native people, their share has eroded somewhat. On most counts however, they still make up the majority of the middle and upper income classes of Malaysia. As of 2004, the Chinese population in Malaysia is nearly 7 million people.
Most Chinese immigrants to Malaya came from southern China, mostly of Hokkien and Cantonese provinces. In the 19th century , many came as indentured labour, known as coolies. Others came freely to work, and were supported by Clan Associations.
By 1911, the Chinese population in Malaya had reached 269,854, and around a million in 1949.
Dialect groups (Census 2000)
According to The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Languages & Literature p52, p53, the number of Chinese speakers has increased from 2,667,452 in 1957 to 5,365,846 in year 2000, comprising 26% of total population in Malaysia. Source coming from the Population & housing Census 2000, and the numbers of dialect groups are:
o Hokkien 2,020,868
o Hakka 1,092,754
o Cantonese 1,067,994
o Teochew 497,280
o Hokchiu 251,554
o Hainanese 141,045
o Kwongsai 51,674
o others 243,046
The Chinese in Malaysia belong to several Chinese dialect groups. The six major dialect groups include the Hakka, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese and Hokchiu. People belonging to different dialect groups are concentrated in different parts of Malaysia.
The Hakka form the most populous dialect group in East Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, parts of Johor, notably Kulai, Selangor-Kuala Lumpur and Pahang. Hakkas are also found in large numbers in Johor Bahru and Perak, of which they possibly constitute the largest dialect group.
Cantonese constitutes the most populous Chinese dialect group in the state of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Perak where the Cantonese forms a large percentage of the population. The Cantonese also forms the largest dialect group in eastern Johor and Sandakan, Sabah. Sandakan used to be called "Little Hong Kong" since it was the second homeland for many settlers from Guangdong, where the sceneries resembles Hong Kong in the 70s and the 80s. Local Cantonese media is frequently broadcasted by Malaysian television channels, notably TV2, TV3 and 8TV.
On the other hand, the Hokkien form the largest dialect group in Penang, Kedah, Terengganu, Kelantan, Klang and western Johor. The Hokkien dialect is also commonly spoken in Sarawak's capital city, Kuching.
The Teochews are concentrated in parts of Penang, many islands of Sabah and Southern Johor, principally Johor Bahru and Pontian.
There are, in general, three sub-linguistic groups of Malaysian Chinese with three metropolitan centers. The Penang group is predominantly Hokkien-speaking and the Kuala Lumpur group is predominantly Cantonese and Hakka-speaking. To the south of Peninsular Malaysia, in Johor, Mandarin is predominantly spoken among the Chinese communities there, which is a result of the Mandarin media influence from Singapore, and the use of Mandarin in formal education. This has resulted in many people, especially the younger generation, to discard and neglect the usage of Chinese dialects, especially Teochew and Cantonese. Whereas in East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo), Hakka and Mandarin is widely spoken, except in Sibu, Foochow and in Sandakan, Cantonese.
Modern movements to unify and organize Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian Chinese communities introduced standard Mandarin as the language of diaspora ethnic nationalism.
Education and Language
Traditionally, the Chinese have placed great importance and value on education because of their view of education as being a means to improve their standard of living. This is also due in part to the traditional Confucian esteem of education and the educated. Today, the Chinese are one of the most academically competitive groups in the country and in the region (including Australia, a popular destination for many Malaysian Chinese students pursuing their tertiary education).
A large segment of the Malaysian Chinese population is predominantly Chinese-speaking. They are commonly known as the "Chinese-educated". Malaysia is also the only country outside China (including Hong Kong and Macau) and Taiwan, to have a completely Chinese-medium education system. There are roughly 1,300 Chinese public primary schools (national-type schools) in Malaysia that are all partially government funded (the salary of the teachers is paid by the government while the upkeep of school buildings is paid by the communities through donations). The Chinese national-type school received less than 3% of total funding for all primary schools. Mandarin is the language of instruction in all subjects except in the language classes of Bahasa Melayu and English. In the 1960s, all but 16 of the Chinese secondary schools had received government funding and had been converted into National Secondary Schools (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan), but the term "National-type Secondary Schools" is used internally until today to show that they were once Chinese Schools. They first used English but later on used Bahasa Malaysia as the language of instruction. Today there are 60 Chinese secondary schools that are supported financially mostly by the public. These are called "Independent Chinese Schools". Mandarin is the main language of instruction in these private schools except Bahasa Malaysia and English, but some schools use either Malay or English in selected subjects. In 2004, according to statistical data, 90% of all Malaysian Chinese attend Chinese primary schools (The figure was around 70% in 1970). Among the 600,000 Chinese primary school students, roughly 10% are of non-Chinese descent. On the other hand, 90% of Chinese primary school graduates continue their secondary studies in public secondary schools (both national and national-type), while the remaining 10% go to Chinese private secondary schools. There are also three privately-owned post-secondary institutes in Malaysia where the language of instruction is Mandarin.
A sizeable group of Malaysian Chinese speak English as a first language (something carried over from the British colonial days). They speak English at home, and make it a point to immerse and educate their children in the English language. Like their counterparts in Singapore, they are known as the "English-educated" although the term is something of an anachronism. Most of these "English-educated" Chinese are unable to read and write in Chinese. These people are jocularly called "banana" (Chinese: 香蕉人, white on the inside, yellow on the outside) though some consider this term as derogatory.
Unlike in Singapore, English has not been used as a language of instruction in Malaysia (except in private institutions and urban schools) since it was phased out the 1970s and 1980s in favor of Malay. Although there are English medium schools in Malaysia that provide an education based on a British or US-based curriculum, these cater to expatriate children.
However, as of 2002, the Malaysian government has reintroduced English as the language of instruction for Science and Mathematics in national secondary schools and universities.
While "proper" English is generally spoken and understood among Malaysian Chinese, a common form used is a patois called Manglish (Malaysian English). Manglish is very similar to Singlish (Singaporean English). Manglish speakers typically understand 80-90% of Singlish and vice versa. See British and Malaysian English differences. Unless specifically Manglish or Singlish terms are used in a conversation, it can be difficult even for native speakers to differentiate the two as the intonation and most terms (especially the infamous lah) are common. Singaporean television sitcoms such as Phua Chu Kang and Under One Roof that make use of Singlish are popular in Malaysia. The Singapore government has tried to reduce the use of Singlish in these serials, with visible success.
The Malaysian Chinese community is intricately linked to the Singaporean Chinese community because of a shared history and culture. Singapore was a part of the Federation of Malaysia before it became independent in 1965. Many Singaporean Chinese have relatives in Malaysia and vice-versa. There are also a significant number of Malaysian Chinese residing and working in Singapore. Some families in nearby Johor send their children (around 5000 of them) to school in Singapore, commuting back and forth between the two countries every day.
On that same note, the Malaysian Chinese are culturally much more distant from the Indonesian Chinese, Filipino Chinese and Thai Chinese. This is attributable to the fact that these countries did not have a shared history with Malaysia like Singapore did.
The entire Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora is characterized by their considerable economic fortunes and their susceptibility to discrimination or political exploitation by politicians. This diaspora is commonly referred to as the Nanyang Chinese, 'Nanyang' (南洋) being the Mandarin term for Southeast Asia.
A majority of the Chinese in Malaysia claim to be Buddhist or Taoist, though the lines between them are often blurred and, typically, a syncretic Chinese religion incorporating elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and traditional ancestor-worship is practised, with the fact that each individual follows it in varying degrees. About 19% are Christian (Mainstream Protestants, Catholics and other Protestant denominations) and an extremely small number profess Islam as their faith. There is quite a significant number of Christians among the Chinese population in East Malaysia.
Famous Malaysian Chinese
* Michael Wong Guang Liang, singer
* Ah Niu, singer
* Chin Peng - Communist militant leader during 60's.
* Fung Poh Poh - actress, Hong Kong movie star.
* Jenny Chung Shuk Hui - actress, Hong Kong movie star.
* Michelle Yeoh - International actress, starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Tomorrow Never Dies.
* Tsai Ming-liang - Taiwan based award winning director.
* Robert Kuok - One of the richest men in the Asian Pacific Rim.
* Zang Toi - 5th Avenue New York fashion designer.
* Alex Yoong - F1 racer.
* Mr Jimmy Choo - London-based shoe designer.
* Lim Goh Tong - Malaysian businessman who owns the Genting Group.
* Vincent Tan - Malaysian businessman, owner of the Berjaya Group.
* Lee Sin Je - An award winning actress.
* Fish Leong - A famous singer based in Taiwan.
* Francis Yeoh - Billionaire and owner of YTL Group.
* Daniel Lee Chee Hun - singer who won the second season of Malaysian Idol
* Lillian Too - Feng Shui master.
* Tash Aw - author of The Harmony Silk Factory, which made the Man Booker Prize 2005 longlist and won the 2005 Whitbread First Novel award.
* Hang Li Poh - The wife of Malacca Sultan of 15th century.
* Yap Ah Loy - Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur.