MALACCA: Walking through the pre-war architectural design of a Strait Chinese Jewellery Museum in Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock will leave you in awe at how how the community thrived culturally during the early days.
The museum occupies the former home of prominent Peranakan Chinese family and now showcases some 200 types of jewellery in the heritage mansion.
The feel of a real Baba and Nyonya life and their culture could still be felt while in the museum and the surroundings of the building still maintains the legacy of the unique and rich Peranakan culture.
Visitors will be pleased to see the antique Straits Chinese furniture from the mother-of-pearl Blackwood furniture to the wooden doors with cursive floral carvings.
It is said that the Straits Chinese furniture is essential for the functional beauty and ambience of the home and serves as display of status for budding homeowners.
The Straits Chinese jewellery is fashioned around gold as a foundation, providing a pedestal for other precious stones to be mounted on.
Museum director, Lilian Tong said each crafted piece holds the mystery of the individual who owns it and embraces the era in Peranakan history that is unrivalled.
Peranakan jewellery has many influences from the Malay Archipelago, Asia, China, Europe, Anglo-Indian, and Victorian England, she said.
She said The Straits Chinese acquired their jewellery from the many Chinese goldsmith shops, jewellers, catalogues and specially commissioned Chinese or Sinhalese goldsmiths.
Some of the most famous jewelleries are keronsang, Straits Chinese Belt, beaded necklaces, embroided boat-shaped slippers or kasut tongkang, multi-chained necklace and many others.
The Straits Chinese wedding is enacted amidst much glitter and gold.
Weddings are grand affairs
which were celebrated with much pomp, pageantry and jewellery, she said.
Lilian added that jewellery lends a regal dignity, with gild, gold and diamonds enthroned throughout the spectacle of formal rituals and gracious ceremonies.
On the first, third, 12th and 30th day of the wedding, a bevy of gold and diamonds coordinate, complement and complete the different wedding costumes of the bride, she said.
She noted that this sprinkle of glitter also appeared elsewhere as dowry, gifts, and on the guests.
The Malaccan bride in Chinese ceremonial robe wears an abundance of silver, copper, gold and diamond hairpins on their tresses, she said.
Lilian said the bunga sunting, which is an aureate flower and birds, animate the glittering hair decorations.
“These ornament the entire sanggul (hair bun), creating a jewelled crown at the top of the bride’s head,” she said.
“We even use jewellery for mourning our dearest ones”, she said.
A visit to the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum provides a better understanding to the culture of Peranakan Chinese and their jewellery.
The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm on weekdays and until 6pm in weekends.
Entrance fee is RM15 (adult), RM10 (students) and for free for children below six years old.