The Peranakan Chinese (The Babas and Nonyas) are an Indigenous community evolved over the centuries in Melaka, Penang and Singapore. They were an affluent community and Contributed substantially to the social and economic development Of Singapore.

The Peranakan Chinese (the Babas and Nonyas) are an indigenous people of Singapore. Their ancestors evolved in Melaka, Penang and Singapore, in the Indian language 'peranakan' means 'speakers of a foreign tongue'. In the Melaka Sultanate (1402-1511) Malay was the lingua franca and people who spoke foreign languages were known as Peranakans; so we have Peranakan Chinese, Peranakan India. Peranakan Arab, Peranakan Java, Peranakan Java.

The Peranakan Chinese are also known as Babas and Nonyas. Their Chinese ancestors married or made union with local women; speak little or no Chinese. They speak Baba Malay. They are 'Chinese in spirit and traditions but Malay in form' (Felix Chia in 'The Babas' published by Times Books International. Singapore 1984). The Singapore Babas are an offshoot of the Melaka Babas who speak a Malay patois with Chinese words and phrases of the Hokkien dialect. The Spelling and pronunciation of Malay words are different from those of Malay words.

The Nonya lady wears a dress which is of Malay origin; it s a 'sarong'-a long tunic stretching down to the ankles. The tunic is won with a set of 3 'kerosangs' or brooches. She carries on the head the 'sanggol siput', a snail-shaped hairdo with 3 large pins in the shape of snails ('siput'). They wear beaded slippers called 'kasut manik manik'.

The religion of the Peranakan Chinese is a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism and they celebrate and observe the major Chinese festivals which include Chinese New Year's Day, Cheng Beng and All Soul's Day. They also have their own traditions, ceremonies and customs for weddings, birthdays and other auspicious occasions.

A unique feature of the Peranakan Chinese is that after a wedding they usually sing the 'Dondang Sayang', composing and reciting 'pantun' (4 line verses) to express their emotions.

The Babas and Nonyas eat with their fingers like the Malays and Indians. Nonya food is very spicy including the 'sambal blachan' (Chilli and shrimp paste). Their variety of cakes is very tasty. They chew betel leaf ('seray' in Malay) which they keep in a small metal box called 'tumpat seray'.

They have their own distinct porcelain, Nonya ware, which include tea pots, cups and bowls and their own distinctive Baba furniture. Nonya jewellery is also unique; all these reflect the affluence of the Peranakan Chinese community.

Peranakan Chinese architecture is distinct; it is Chinese Baroque or Neo-Classical European design that originated in Melaka. Their houses are located generally in Cairnhill, Joo Chiat, Petain Road, Tanjong Pagar, Serangoon, Geylang, Katong, Tanglin and Blair Road.

In the early years the Peranakan Chinese also had their special games; these included the 'cherki' card game played with a pack of 60; there was also the 'chongkak' game played with a wooden board and 98 cowrie shells.

Today the Peranakan Chinese are marrying among the mainstream Chinese and the community is getting smaller; many of them are Christians.

The Babas were very pro British. They sent their children to English Schools and they served in the Straits Settlements Volunteer Corps. Many of the Babas were also eminent persons who contributed immensely to the social, educational and economic growth of Singapore from the very early times. Well-known among the Peranakan Chinese before the outbreak of the Pacific War were Sir Ong Song Siang, the author of 'One Hundred Years of the Chinese in Singapore' first published in 1902 and is still an invaluable source book and Dr Lim Boon Keng, a leader of the Chinese community, a member of the Straits Settlements Legislative Council and Chairman, Chinese Overseas Association during the Japanese Occupation.