[A-Z April Blogging] [O] Orang-Tionghoa

Orang-Tionghoa is the name given to ethnic Chinese in the Malay Archipelago. Tionghoa is the Malay pronunciation of Zhōnghuá (中華: 'Chinese').

Trade and military expeditions have put China and the Malay Archipelago in contact since under the Yuán. However, the first mass emigration of Chinese to the Malay Archipelago takes place under the Míng. The settlers emigrate from South China and mostly speak Cantonese, Hakka, Mǐn, and Wú (p22 of The Celestial Empire). This emigration is not sanctioned by the Míng who, on the contrary, try to restrict maritime trade as much as possible. As a result, although some of these overseas Chinese are traders and merchants, most of them actually practise agriculture or mining.

The life of the Orang-Tionghoa is based upon the importance of Clan Associations and gōngsuǒ (p101-2 of TCE), and also upon the existence of secret societies (p102 of TCE). As a result, they do not really intermingle, which explains that, many centuries after having left their homeland, they are still divided along regional lines and have kept their original dialect as their vernacular language. One exception is the overseas Chinese who settled in the area of the Strait of Malacca; some of them did intermingle with Malay women, and they speak a Mǐn-Malay creole dialect. In terms of religion, overseas Chinese have the same religious beliefs as their continental brethren, with some local peculiarities, especially in terms of folk religion, with different local deities and apotheosised heroes than on the Mainland.

The regional divisions amongst overseas Chinese lead to a complete lack of ethnic solidarity. On the contrary, there is much evidence of inter-clanic clashes, culminating in the Larut War of 1861-1874 in the centre of the Malay Peninsula. The Larut War (actually a series of four wars) is fought between two secret societies, a Hakka one and a Cantonese/Mǐn one, over the control of mining areas. The wars are only stopped by the intervention of the British.

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