The Baba-Nyonya ( 峇 峇 娘惹 ), Peranakan or Chinese Straits , are the descendants of the first Chinese immigrants settled in the British colonies of the Straits in Malacca , Penang and Singapore .

Baba ( 峇 峇 ) is a Chinese word that means “father” and refers to men. Nyonya comes from Portuguese donha , “lady”, and refers to women.


The first Peranakan come from, from the xv th century, marriages between Chinese merchants and women Malay , Burmese or Indonesian .

The Baba-Nyonya have partly adopted Malay customs to integrate with local communities. During British rule, they gained a strong influence in the Straits colonies and were even nicknamed the Chinese of the King.

Today, their particularity of identity tends to fade slowly, the younger generation adopting a more standardized Chinese culture.

In Java , Indonesia, the term Peranakan refers to the communities of mixed-race Chinese living in the Pasisir towns (north coast of the island). In the Indonesian context, their particularism fades as the Indonesians categorized as ” Chinese ” properly so called were forced during the Soeharto regime (1966-98) to erase all traces of particularism.

The Chinese Baba and Peranakan speak Malay Creole , the “Baba Malay”, a mixture of English, Malay and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect).

See also

Related Articles

  • Peranakan Museum
  • Chinese from Indonesia
  • Chinese diaspora
  • Nyonya cuisine


  • Peranakan Culture , AZ Guide, Singapore, Asian Civilizations Museum, 2010. (Catalog of the Quai Branly exhibition).
  • Claudine Salmon, Gilbert Hamonic, “The literary and artistic life of the Perakakan Chinese of Makassar (1930-1950)”, Archipel , 1983, Volume 26, Number 26, p. 143-178. [ read online ] [ archive ]