Chinese is the second largest race in Malaysia. Malaysia and China have had political and trade relations since centuries ago. At the time of the Melaka Sultanate, China has played the role of a protector for Melaka from Siam’s threat.
The Chinese from China came to Malaya in mid 19th century as they were not happy under the rule of the Manchu Dynasty (1644-1911). Many came as indentured labourers and craftsmen seeking for better life. Most of them came alone, leaving their families behind in China. They hoped to get higher wages to send back to China or, if possible bring their families to Malaya later. The arrival of the Chinese in Malaya also indirectly brought in the Chinese culture, religion and customs.
Many Chinese are Buddhists, but the teachings of Confucious and Tao are also important in the Chinese community.
Visits to Chinese Families
When visiting Chinese families, guests should sit on the left side of the host as a sign of respect to the host. Drinks are usually served as soon as possible, but it is courteous for the guests to start drinking only after the host has invited to do so.
Visits to Chinese families during dinner time should be avoided unless extremely urgent.
Chinese observe certain taboos during pregnancy., for example, in the pregnant woman’s bedroom, furniture should not be moved, especially the bed. It is also forbidden to nail anything on the wall. The pregnant woman must be extremely cautious to avoid getting any shock from some undesirable encounters.
Chinese do not like their new born babies to be praised for being ‘heavy’ (weight). Instead, words like “fat” or “fat like a pig” are accepted.
The birth of a baby is usually celebrated after one month. Relatives and friends will bring presents suitable for the baby. These presents are wrapped with red-colour wrappers. Some families will have the second celebration when the child is one year old.
Marriage is very important in the Chinese community. It is the legal process for a man to get a wife. The newly married man has to learn to shoulder new responsibilities as a husband, and later, as a father.
In the olden days, marriages were arranged by the parents. But the situation has changed. Nevertheless, some parents still have their say in their children’s wedding. Choosing the correct date and time for the wedding is extremely important.
Usually there are 3 ceremonies to be held in a Chinese marriage :
- Civil marriage whereby the couple register their marriage legally.
- Tea ceremony whereby the couple serve tea to their parents and other older relatives as a sign of respect and an opportunity to know each other.
- Dinner reception whereby relatives and friends are invited.
Normally, the civil marriage and tea ceremony are only attended by close relatives.
Guests who are invited to a Chinese wedding should wear clothes in bright colours, preferably red, while black colour must be avoided. . Guests must congratulate and wish the newly-wed couple with good words that imply joy and happiness.
Guests should not wear colourful clothes when visiting the bereaved family or attending the funeral. Colours like black and grey are more suitable.
Guests will usually bring wreaths or give some donation (money) to the bereaved family and in return, they will receive some sweets tied with red strings. These sweets can be eaten. Some organizations will bring banners filled with words that mourn the loss of a friend.