The Peranakan culture is well known for its bond between heritage and tradition as it speaks highly of a savoir-faire that made a mark in the realms of delicacy, fashion and architecture. The term ‘Peranakan’ is a Malay word which derives from the word anak or child, also known as descendants of an inter-marriage between a Malay and any other ethnic groups, hence the significant origins in regards to the forefathers or perhaps, leaning towards the more-distant ancestors.
Today, the Peranakan Chinese, also known as the Baba-Nyonya have gained prominence and being recognised in various parts of Peninsular from the former Straits Settlement: Malacca, Penang all the way to the northern east coast; Terengganu. This goes to show that it is becoming a pathway to reconnect the Peranakan heritage from the old to the young and at the same time, to cherish the characteristic, authenticity and the grandeur of the Peranakan culture.
Setting foot on the street of Kampung Cina (Chinatown), Kuala Terengganu boasts a vast display of the Peranakan architecture from one end to the other. The people exhibits a close-knitted community which portrays a harmonious ambient, with a touch of tradition and modern living. One can easily recognise a structure with elements of the Peranakan style architecture; known as the Straits Eclectic style which is a combination of European and Asian elements. These buildings are also known as shophouses.
It is common for a shophouse with two or more storeys to be utilised as a commercial and private building. The tenants use the ground floor for commercial purposes such as a sundry shop, a vehicle workshop, restaurants or boutiques; and the upper floors will be for residential purposes.
The shophouses have a symmetrical design with an entrance located in the centre accompanied by windows on each side and have a narrow facade between 12′ to 18′ which features a five-foot walkway hence, a “kaki-lima”. Many of these buildings are originally built with brick, plaster, and timber. Some of these shophouses have architectural trends based on different periods on the front facade while others have undergone renovation and refurbishments (due to the old age of these structures) by using modern materials in an effort to increase the value of each property.
At this day and age, the property sector in Terengganu thrives on a progressive approach in terms of the value and the rate of the shophouses. Back in the year 2000, a four-storey shophouse costs about RM600,000 and today, it has come up to RM1.8 million. Comparatively, for terrace homes from single (900 – 1,000 sq ft) to double storeys (2,000 sq ft), it went from RM200,000 to the enormous RM500,000.
Currently, Terengganu’s property scene remains stable and will eventually bloom with mixed development projects in the future, all planned with strategic access for the locals and at the same time, being able to retain the charm of the Peranakan culture in the capital of Terengganu.
With the street filled with Straits Eclectic architecture, the locals conjured interesting displays of art and culture at the pathways in between the shophouses, generating interest amidst tourists and visitors as they whip out their cameras (and mobile phones) capturing every shot of admiration and pure delight.
As Kampung Cina in Kuala Terengganu preserves its thriving essence of the Peranakan Chinese culture, it is a gentle reminder that nothing could ever replace tradition as it serves a greater good in cultivating oneself to embrace and identify their cultural roots with pride and honour, just like how their lineage did. ◆