2 long been a self-sustaining empire, seeing themselves as the center of the world (zhong guo) and were not prone to long sea voyages. So, although China grew in power, much of the culture was contained within her borders. Meanwhile, until the 16th century, Malaysia was ruled by a series of kingdoms and empires. Control of the land and surrounding seas changed hands depending on who had the strongest army at the time. By the mid-16th century the strongest forces yet seen, the colonial powers, had arrived.1 First came the Portuguese and then the Dutch, and finally the British at the end of the 18th century. Prior to, and then concurrently with, the advent of the Colonial powers, Chinese people and their culture began to trickle into other countries, eventually coming to Malaysia.2 Chinese trading communities began forming in Malaysian port cities. As long as trading prospered, the cities remained, though none grew large. Hundreds of years passed with little permanent Chinese influence on the indigenous Malay people. The tide began to turn when the British founded Singapore and the Penang region of what was to become Malaysia in the early 1800s. Industrial centers formed and the Chinese began immigrating in large numbers.3 The largest draw for Chinese immigration came with the opening of tin mines around 1850. The exploding popularity of canned food in Europe drove the demand for tin high. More permanent Chinese communities began to be formed as workers flooded in. At this time, unlike during previous eras, Chinese customs, religion, and language began to take root in Malaysia.4 Jaime Koh and Stephanie Ho, Culture and Customs of Singapore and Malaysia (Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2009), 9. N.J. Ryan, The Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore: A History from Earliest Times to 1966 (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 4. 3 4 2 1
Ibid., 121. Ibid., 124.
3 Just before the dawn of World War Two the Chinese found themselves flourishing on the Malay peninsula. Life was not to proceed smoothly for long however. The Chinese population of Malaysia suffered extensively during the Japanese occupation from 1942-45. The Japanese performed the Sook Ching (purification through purge) where all Chinese males aged 18-50 were systematically rounded up. Each person was interrogated and all anti-Japanese elements were executed. Many thousands of Chinese men were killed, most...