We have heard about Baba and Nyonya, and even Peranakan of Melaka, Penang and Singapore. But Cina Peranakan of Kelantan and Terengganu? A sub-minority of a minority in a Malay State? Recently my friends and i visited Kuala Terengganu with the objective of getting to know more about our counterparts in Kuala Terengganu. A pandora box opened right before us through our various dialogue sessions with the local people. In Malaysia, we are preoccupied with inter-ethnic differences, and we forgot or neglect the intra-ethnic varieties. Just along a 800 meter road that is Kampung Cina (Chinatown) or Jalan Bandar, the local Chinese categorised themselves as 'poh thau' (pekan hilir / upriver town folk) and 'poh thei' (pekan hulu / downriver town folk). Both subcategories are divided by a bridge along this 800 meter stretch. Among this poh thau and poh thei folks, the people are further sub-divided as 'pun they' (orang tempatan / local born) and 'sinkheh (tetamu baru / new guests/arrivals). Not to mention the diverse clan groups, dialect groups with their respective specialised occupations.
Then we have another over-arching category that includes all local born as 'cheng mua lang' (pakai sarong punya orang / wear sarong people) vis-a-vis the 'boh cheng mua lang' (tak pakai sarong punya orang / do not wear sarong people). The former is the definitive term for Chinese who are born here in Terengganu and who have acculturated their lifestyle, mannerisms, language, attire, food, customs with the local Malay scenario.
A visit to Kuala Terengganu would be incomplete without a visit to Kampung Cina. Ask the locals where is the one and only auntie who still bakes the 'roti paun' using charcoal. As the locals for the family who, once upon a time, made durian cake. The stoves and kuali are still kept with care, unfortunately, the absence of young manpower hinders the continuity of the production of this traditional snack.
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