Sunday, October 1, 2017

Nyonya Wedding Costume 2

I am pleased and proud to own this complete set of Nyonya wedding tunic top and dress. An example of the same pink tunic like this (But just the top) was exhibited in Peranakan Museum in Singapore months back.

It is from Jakarta, Indonesia, around early to mid 20th century, and features various motifs embroidered in gold thread. Indonesian Peranakan wedding costumes tended to be more extravagant than the ones used in Malacca, Penang and Singapore. The costumes were often sewed with pure silver or gold threads with some complemented with unique sequins onto their designs.


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Friday, September 15, 2017

Nyonya Wedding Costume 1

The traditional Peranakan wedding lasted twelve days and consisted of various rituals and rites which reflect their values and rich culture. Some of the wedding rituals included:-
1. The "Lap Chai" ceremony which involved exchanging of gifts between the families of the bride and the groom.
2. The "Chiu Thau" ceremony, a hair-combing ceremony to initiate the bride and groom into adulthood.
3. The "Chim Pang" ceremony which marks the first meeting between the couple where the bride would lead the groom into the bridal chamber where he would unveil her. Together they would be served tea and a bowl of "Kueh Ee" (small white and red dumplings) in a sweet broth.
4. The "Sah Jit" held on the third day of the wedding where the couple would pay respects to their elders and ancestors.
5. The "Chia Sia" ceremony, where the groom’s friends and younger relatives were invited to a celebration in the bridal chamber.
6. The "Dua Belas Hari" or twelfth day ceremony, where the marriage would be confirmed and approved by proof of the bride's virginity. Firstly, the bride's parents would invite the groom's mother to inspect a handkerchief (known as a "Bim Poh") collected from the wedding bed. The handkerchief will be placed on a tray and presented to the groom's mother for inspection, where she would be invited to perform a test by squeezing lime juice on the handkerchief in hope of ascertaining the authenticity of the stain. The groom's mother would normally refrain from performing the test as it would also demean the bride.

However, such elaborate weddings are no longer held today.

The traditional twelve-day Peranakan wedding required different outfits to be worn on different days for the various ceremonies and rituals. Even for a modest wedding, a minimum of two ceremonial dresses would be required; at least one for the first day of the wedding and the other for the final day.

Pictures below is a very unusual turquoise satin top wedding costume which is intricately embroidered with flower motifs. This top is to be worn during the "Dua Belas Hari" ceremony. I was told that it was sewn by a married lady with many children and when taken off after the wedding ceremony, are not to be washed but have to be kept until the owner dies.


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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Peranakan Tiffin Carrier

The origin of tiffin carrier has sparked many debates. Tiffin has been used for centuries in India. The first and earliest enamel Peranakan tiffins found in Malaysia were from Czechoslovakia in the 1950s-60s.

Tiffin carrier was popular as “lunch box” in the olden days. Today, there are still countries producing tiffins but the demands are slowly diminishing with the use of plastic and polystyrene boxes.

The European manufacturers such as Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Germany, Hungary and Austria mostly produce enamel tiffins while the stainless steel or aluminum tiffins are produced by Thailand, China and India.

The Peranakan community love the tiffins which were manufactured in Europe as they tend to have an affinity with the British. Hence, Peranakan tiffins have bright and colourful floral motif on one side while the other side was painted with Peranakan greetings like Slamat Bukka (Happy Opening), Slamat Angkat (Happy Carrying), Slamat Makan (Happy Eating) and Slamat Untong (Happy Profiting), as shown in the pictures below.

Do check on my previous post about the tiffin carriers.


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Miniature Brass Cannons / Lantaka

These fine miniature bronze lantaka or cannons are in fine condition with obvious age and excellent patina.

Lantaka were a type of bronze swivel gun mounted on merchant vessels travelling the waterways of Malay Archipelago. Its use was greatest in precolonial South East Asia especially in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The earliest cannons of this form came from foundries in the Netherlands and Portugal. Initially, the Dutch and Portuguese traded cannons not only for spices and porcelain, but also for safe passage through otherwise potentially hostile waters. They came to be copied and localized by foundries in the Dutch East Indies and most particularly on Borneo, in what is now the Malaysian state of Sarawak and the sultanate of Brunei. These brass and bronze cannons were usually cast with stylized crocodile, lotus and bamboo shoot motifs.

Cannons were used to transmit messages. They were fired to mark births and weddings, to warn villages of impending attack or to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

All worked copper, brass and bronze had value and were used as trade items in early Borneo. Cannon were frequently part of the bride price demanded by the family of an exceptionally desirable bride or the dowry paid to the groom.

Many of the small cannon, often called personal cannon or hand cannon, had been received as honors and were kept and passed down in families, but in hard times they also served as a form of currency that could keep the family fed. As a recognized form of currency, cannon could be traded for rice, drums, canoes, tools, weapons, livestock, debts of honor, and even settlement of penalties for crimes ranging from the accidental death of a fellow villager to headhunting against another tribe.

Possession of such canons also became a store and show of wealth. They were used to decorate boats to demonstrate the importance of the boat owner. Also, they were given positions of prominent in long houses, again as a display of importance and wealth.

Many of the finest cannon were given out by the Sultans of Brunei as part of ceremonies (such as birthdays or weddings) of the many princes and princesses of the extended Royal family. Cannons were frequently presented to guests along with awards and titles, and were meant to guarantee the recipients allegiance to the Sultan.

Today, these guns can be found on virtually all of the islands of the Pacific Rim, but they are most commonly found in the Muslim areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. The largest collection is in Brunei, where it is now illegal to export them. Even in other countries, a museum export permit is usually required.

These cannon are now highly sought after by collectors, with some of the realized prices exceeding USD50,000 for a single gun. The more common guns can be bought for under $1,000.


Cannon 1 Length : 39cm

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Cannon 2 Length : 32cm

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Cannon 3 Length : 25cm

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Cannon 4 Length : 22.5cm

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Cannon 5 Length : 30cm

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Peranakan Silver Gilt Curtain Hooks

The curtain hooks are used to draw the front drapes of the Peranakan wedding bed. The phoenix represents good luck and abundance while flowers symbolize fertility, fortune and peace. Both are auspicious and recurrent motifs found on objects commissioned for a Peranakan Chinese wedding.

Length : 31cm each

Do check on my previous post of another pair of silver gilt curtain hooks.


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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Malay Wooden Sirih Box

Pictures below showing a Malay wooden sirih box, decorated with a solid silver plaques engraved and punched with Islamic-inspired scrolling floral and vegetal motifs - a motif that is highly characteristic of Malay silver work.

The sides are also decorated with scrolling floral and vine motifs and include the Malay-type stylized clove head motif that is often seen on Malay silver work.

The box contains four silver cembul and an iron kacip (nut cutter / nutcracker) in the form of a stylized bird. The handles are sheathed in silver.

Do check out my other blogs about the betel nut paraphernalia.


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Clove heads.
The engraving work on the box includes motifs based on cloves.