Selamat datang or welcome to the ornately beautiful world of the Nyonya, a graceful, decorous hybrid of two very old traditions. Today she treads softly, lightly between a sepia-toned past and the modern present. Her Chinese forefathers had arrived in Southeast Asia around the ﬁfteenth century Sailing in search of a better life from imperial China to the balmy shores of the Malayan peninsula, these early settlers had congregated in Singapore, Penang and Malacca. in those early days of the Nyonya’s ancestors, these colonial towns were rich commercial centres, and the industrious new arrivals could begin new lives, mostly as traders, on these Straits Settlements.
Here, her gentle Nyonya forebears flourished as a community of expatriates, ﬁnding the tropical climate salubrious and the gentle culture of the native Malay people admirable. So much so that, over time, the new arrivals began to assimilate the culture, cuisine and language of the native people into their own. In the early days, intermarriages between the immigrant Chinese men and the women of Java, Malaya and the surrounding areas were probably the biggest catalyst for this assimilation. Tradition dictated that these women integrated into the families of their husbands, and so this practice would no doubt have had the biggest inﬂuence on the birth of a new culture.
This pictorial journal represents the author’s loving expression of the Nyonya world from which she continuously derives much inspiration for her work. It is Koh Tze Yin’s third publication, having completed the Penang Passion Cookbook which was released in year 2007 and Nostalgic Penang in year 2008. The Pearl of the Orient, with its nostalgic charm, tantalising tastes and fascinating sights has provided much food for the author’s thoughts and creativity.