02 May 2013: The Peranakan Chinese Home

Like Peranakan themselves, Peranakan housing developed with many variations that reflect place, time and economic circumstances. (excerpt from The Peranakan Chinese Home)

Peranakan Chinese Home-1In The Peranakan Chinese Home, award-winning author Ronald G. Knapp and photographer Andrew Chester Ong have captured the Peranakans in a unique and deservedly charming light. Although Peranakan influences are found throughout the former Straits Settlements, Phuket and West Java, they have a special place in the heart of every Penangite. Female Peranakan couture is still in vogue across all age groups, and Peranakan-style architecture and décor continues to appear in homes all around the island. The grand design of Peranakan buildings and the objects found within, collectively referred to as ‘Peranakan aesthetics’, epitomize the fusion of Chinese, European and Southeast Asian influences. With an ever-evolving style that suffuses itself with the best each culture has to offer, the Peranakan tradition is assuredly far from its ‘last hurrah’.

Peranakan Chinese Home-2From humble pots to ostentatious slippers, The Peranakan Chinese Home focuses on a variety of different areas of the Peranakan house and its contents. Topics discussed within the book’s eight chapters include ‘House Forms and Facades’, ‘Symbols and Iconography’, ‘Ancestral Hall’ and ‘Living Areas’. The writing is fascinating and painstakingly detailed, corresponding seamlessly with the book’s sublime photography. While reminiscing on the past, the author keeps the present well within reach, balancing the two as symbiotic and inseparable halves. As he aptly puts it, ‘while the emphasis on this book is celebrating old homes, as well as their furnishings and ornamentation, they are not presented as ossified phenomena salvaged from a dead and/or dying culture. Rather, these inherited forms found in old Peranakan Chinese homes continue to serve as inspiration for life in the 21st century’.