Taman Sri Nibong RA Log

September 26, 2011

(8) Traditional Malaysian Architecture

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 6:28 am

Malaysia is a multi-racial multi-cultural country that has always been exposed to both Eastern and Western influences. Its architectural heritage is thus a showcase of its tapestry of cultures, from the traditional kampung attap houses on stilts to the ornate, magnificent heritage buildings. Each race has its own unique architectural styles, and when blended into its rich colonial past, traditional Malaysian buildings are truly a mosaic of of architectural wonders.  

Traditional Malay architecture employs sophisticated architectural processes ideally suited to tropical conditions such as structures built on stilts, which allow cross-ventilating breeze beneath the dwelling to cool the house whilst mitigating the effects of the occasional flood. High-pitched roofs and large windows not only allow cross-ventilation but are also carved with intricate organic designs.

Traditional houses in Negeri Sembilan were built of hardwood and entirely free of nails. They are built using beams, which are held together by wedges. A beautiful example of this type of architecture can be seen in the Old Palace of Seri Menanti in Negeri Sembilan, which was built around 1905.

Istana Sri Menanti

Another truly magnificent example of Malay architectural creativity is the Istana Kenangan in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar. Built in 1926, it is the only Malay palace made of bamboo walls.

Istana Kenangan

Today, many Malay or Islamic buildings incorporate Moorish design elements as can be seen in the Islamic Arts Museum and a number of buildings in Putrajaya – the new administrative capital, and many mosques throughout the country.

In Malaysia, Chinese architecture is of two broad types: traditional and Baba-Nyonya. Examples of traditional architecture include Chinese temples found throughout the country such as the Cheng Hoon Teng that dates back to 1646.

Many old houses especially those in Melaka and Penang are of Baba-Nyonya heritage, built with indoor courtyards and beautiful, colourful tiles.

Cheong Fatt Tze mansion

A rare architectural combination of Chinese and Western elements is displayed by Melaka’s Tranquera mosque. Its pagoda-like appearance is a fine example of Chinese-influenced roof form, combined with Western detailing in its balustrades and railings.

With most of Malaysian Hindus originally from Southern India, local Hindu temples exhibit the colourful architecture of that region.

Built in the late nineteenth century, the Sri Mahamariaman Temple in Kuala Lumpur is one of the most ornate and elaborate Hindu temples in the country. The detailed decorative scheme for the temple incorporates intricate carvings, gold embellishments, hand-painted motifs and exquisite tiles from Italy and Spain.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

 The Sikhs, although a small minority, also have their temples of more staid design in many parts of the country.

Indigenous Peoples of Sabah & Sarawak
Two unique architectural highlights of the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak are longhouses and water villages.

Homes to interior riverine tribes, longhouses are traditional community homes. These elongated and stilted structures, often built of axe-hewn timber, tied with creeper fibre and roofed with woven atap or thatched leaves, can house between 20 to 100 families.

Rustic water villages built on stilts are also commonly found along riverbanks and seafronts. Houses are linked by plank walkways with boats anchored on the sides. Transport around the village is usually by sampan or canoe.

Traditional longhouse in East Malaysia

Water village in Kg. Ayer


The architectural styles of the different colonial powers are used in many buildings built between 1511 and 1957.

The most notable example of Portuguese architecture in Malaysia is the A’Famosa fort in Melaka, which was built by Alfonso d’Albuquerque in 1511. Nearly annihilated by the Dutch, only a small part of the fortification is still on the hill overlooking the Melaka town, old port and the Straits of Melaka.

A Famosa

Located in Melaka Town, the Stadthuys with its heavy wooden doors, thick red walls and wrought-iron hinges is the most imposing relic of the Dutch period in Melaka. It is a fine example of Dutch masonry and woodworking skills. Built between 1641 and 1660 it is believed to be the oldest building in the East.


Among the most significant landmarks built by the British is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which grandly overlooks the Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur. This Moorish beauty, completed in 1897, served as the Colonial Secretariat offices during the British administration.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Pre-Merdeka or pre-independence shophouses still emanate the characteristic charm of their earlier days. A display of English ingenuity is the ‘five-foot-way’ or covered sidewalk designed to shield pedestrians from the heat and rain.

Colourful pre-war heritage building in Penang


Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

September 20, 2011

(7) Malaysian Handicrafts

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 1:25 pm


Malaysia boasts a delightful variety of traditional handicrafts. Choices range from priceless authentic antiques to exquisite modern hand-made crafts.

As most artisans are Muslims, Malaysian handicraft designs are heavily influenced by Islam. The religion prohibits the depiction of the human form in art. Hence, most designs are based on natural elements such as the interlacing of leaves or vines, flowers and animals.


Popular items of traditional design include Perak’s labu sayong, geluk, belanga, Chinese dragon kiln ceramics and Sarawakian tribal motif pottery. Contemporary items include vases, flower pots, decorative pottery, sculpture and kitchenware.

Labu sayong
Labu Sayong is a black-coloured gourd-shaped clay jar typically used to store and cool water. The state of Perak is renowned for this type of pottery.

Found in many rural Malaysian homes, The belanga is often characterised by a round base and wide rim. It is often used to cook curries, as it is believed that its round base allows heat to be distributed more evenly.

Found in many rural Malaysian homes, The belanga is often characterized by a round base and wide rim. It is often used to cook curries, as it is believed that its round base allows heat to be distributed more evenly.

This angular-shaped jar is popularly used for storing water in the states of Pahang and Terengganu. It has a concave neck and a convex body.


Blessed with an abundance of timber in boundless tropical forests, Malaysia is renowned for an assortment of distinctive wood crafts. Traditionally, whole houses were built from elaborate hand-carved timber. Today, antique Malay-styled engraved panels, keris dagger handles, Chinese containers, unique Orang Asli spirit sculptures, intricate walking sticks, kitchen utensils and carved scented woods are among the wide range of exotic decorative items found in Malaysia.


Popular since the early days, traditional brass casting and bronze working are still used to make an array of utensils. More recently in the 19th century, with the discovery of tin in Malaysia, pewter has become increasingly popular. Metal craft products include modern decorative items, kitchen ware and traditional artifacts like tepak sireh sets, rose-water instruments and keris blades.


Marvel at the creative hand-woven crafts of Malaysia. Local plant fibres and parts from bamboo, rattan, pandan and mengkuang leaves are coiled, plaited, twined and woven to produce items such as bags, baskets, mats, hats, tudung saji and sepak raga balls.

September 16, 2011

(6) Traditional Costumes of Malaysians

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 6:39 am


From magnificent tribal head-feathers with bark body-covers to antique gold-woven royal songket fabric, the array of Malaysia’s traditional costumes and textiles are stunningly diverse and colourful.

In the early days, the aboriginal tribes wore native bark costumes and beads. With the advent of the ancient kingdoms, hand-loomed fine textiles and intricate Malay batik were used by the Malay royalty. As foreign trade flourished, costumes and textiles such as Chinese silk, the Indian pulicat or plaid sarong and the Arabian jubbah a robe with wide sleeves were introduced to the country.

Today, traditional attire such as the Malay baju kebaya, Indian saree and Chinese cheongsam are still widely worn.

Before the 20th century, Malay women still wore kemban, just sarongs tied above the chest, in public. As Islam became more widely embraced, they started wearing the more modest yet elegant baju kurung. The baju kurung is a knee-length loose-fitting blouse that is usually worn over a long skirt with pleats at the side. It can also be matched with traditional fabrics such as songket or batik. Typically, these traditional outfits are completed with a selendang or shawl or tudung or headscarf.

The traditional attire for Malay men is the baju melayu. The baju melayu is a loose tunic worn over trousers. It is usually complemented with a sampin – a short sarong wrapped around the hips.

Comfortable and elegant, the traditional cheongsam or ‘long dress’ is also a popular contemporary fashion choice for ladies. Usually, it has a high collar, buttons or frog closures near the shoulder, a snug fit at the waist and slits on either one or both sides. It is often made of shimmering silk, embroidered satin or other sensual fabrics.

The saree is the world-renowned traditional Indian garment. A length of cloth usually 5-6 yards in width, the saree is worn with a petticoat of similar shade and a matching or contrasting choli or blouse. Typically, it is wrapped around the body such that the pallau – its extensively embroidered or printed end – is draped over the left shoulder. The petticoat is worn just above or below the bellybutton and functions as a support garment to hold the saree. Made from a myriad of materials, textures and designs, the saree is truly exquisite.

Popular with northern Indian ladies is the salwar kameez or Punjabi suit; a long tunic worn over trousers with a matching shawl.

The kurta is the traditional attire for men on formal occasions. It is a long knee-length shirt that is typically made from cotton or linen cloth.

Baba Nyonya
Chinese immigrants who married Malay partners wore the elegant kebaya that can be described as traditional haute couture.

Hand-made with great skill using sheer material, its intricate embroidery is equivalent to the best Venetian lacework. The pièce de résistance is a delicate needlework technique called tebuk lubang – literally to punch holes. This involves sewing the outlines of a floral motif on the fabric and cutting away the insides. When done correctly, the end result is fine lace-like embroidery on the collar, lapels, cuffs, hem and the two triangular front panels, which drape over the hips, known as the lapik.

Descended from Portuguese settlers of the 16th century, Melakan Portuguese-Eurasian’s traditional attire reflect their heritage. Dominated by the colours black and red, men wear jackets and trousers with waist sashes whilst ladies wear broad front-layered skirts.

With its diverse ethnic groups, Malaysia’s largest state, Sarawak, has a plethora of unique tribal costumes. Using a variety of designs and native motifs, common materials for the Orang Ulu or upriver tribes are hand-loomed cloths, tree bark fabrics, feathers and beads. Sarawak is known for the woven pua kumbu of the Iban tribe, songket of the Sarawak Malay, colourful beaded accessories, traditional jewellery and head adornments.

Like Sarawak, Sabah is also blessed with a rich mix of ethnic groups. Each group adorns attire, headgears and personal ornaments with distinctive forms, motifs and colour schemes characteristic of their respective tribe and district. However, culturally different groups who live in close proximity may have similarities in their traditional attire. Notable hats and headdresses include the Kadazan Dusun ladies’ straw hats, the Bajau woven dastar and the headdress of the Lotud man, which indicate the number of wives he has by the number of fold points.

Orang Asli
Traditionally living in the deep jungles of Malaysia, the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia wore clothing made from natural materials such as tree barks like the terap, and grass skirts. Ornaments include skillfully woven headbands with intricate patterns that are made from leaf fronds.

Visit the link below for beautiful photos of the resplendent, traditional costumes

of Malaysia fashioned from delicately woven fabrics unique to each ethnic group.

(5) Malaysian Traditional Games

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 4:57 am

One of the pleasures of visiting villages in the rural areas of Malaysia is to watch the playing of traditional games. It is even better to participate in one of the games. Some of the simpler games played by children come from nature, such as using red saga seeds as marbles, catching a wild spider to pit it against another spider, walking on “stilts” made of coconut shells, and using rubber seeds as conkers. However, there are many games that are also zealously played by adults that often hold spectators in awe.


Top spinning draws excited yells and shouts from both spectators and players. Strength, skill and physical dexterity are needed to launch a top, which is as big as a Frisbees and weighing as much as five kilogrames. Tops are normally of two popular designs. The gasing jantung is heart-shaped while the gasing uri is flattened in shape. There are two types of competitions: endurance and knockout. In the endurance competition, the gasing uri is launched and, once spinning, it is scooped up with a small wooden paddle. It is then transferred onto a small post and allowed to spin. The winner is the top which spins the longest – sometimes it can spin for two hours. In a knockout competition, a player tries to knock another player’s spinning top outside a circle using his own top. The ropes used for launching a top are different for each of its function. To maximize its spin, the rope is usually long and thin; while a top used for striking is usually spun using a thick and short rope. The execution of a launch by a master top spinner is done in fluid but powerful movements. Tops are usually made of the merbau and afzella trees, and top-making requires great skill. Top-spinning competitions are often organised on a state, national and international level. Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan are among the keen participants in top-spinning competitions.


Kite flying can be seen throughout the country though it is more popular in the East Coast, where farmers fly them on the levelled paddy fields after a harvest. A kite usually measure 1.7 metres in height and 1.5 metres from tip to tip of its wing. The most popular shape of the kite is the crescent moon (wau bulan) though other shapes are also found, which are abstract versions of animals such as cat, peacock, hawk, fish, eagle and quail. The tail of a kite is decorated with tassels while a bow is often attached across its neck. When the kite is flown, the bow produces a high-pitched humming noise. The bow is simply a strip of ribbon stretched over a strip of bamboo. A kite, is made of bamboo strips and foil paper, and its artwork is usually formalised by tradition. For instance, a required element in traditional design is to have a large central flower or “ibu” in the centre of the kite; furthermore, vines must emanate from the base of the kite and connect logically.

Two types of kite flying competitions are in vogue: cutting and performance. In a cutting competition, the string of a kite is glazed with glass powder so that it can cut the string of an opponenet’s kite, causing it to lose flight. In a performance competition, judges select a winner based on the flight characteristics of the kite such as a vertical launch and maximum height achieved.


In the state of Kelantan, after the harvesting of paddy, the playing of rebana ubi by villagers is a popular pastime. A rebana ubi is a giant drum measuring one metre in diametre and weighing 100 kg. It is made from a hollowed-out log and is painted in bright colours. Bamboo sticks decorated with tinsel and flowers fan out from its centre like the spokes of a bicycle. The drum produces a thunderous roll when beaten with a stick. In a competition, players in traditional costumes compete in teams of six who play different sized drums. They are often dressed in traditional tunic and headgear, which enhances the gaiety and excitement of the event. They beat the drums continuously for 30 minutes, producing complex rhythms in harmony. Judging is based on the complexity and consistency of the beat and synchronized movements of the players.


Played by two persons, congkak has existed since the time of the Melaka Sultanate in the 15th century.The equipment used is a boat-shaped wooden board with two rows of holes (usually 12) and one large hole (rumah) at each end. Each player’s rumah is the large hole at the left. The holes are filled with rubber seeds (or marbles). Each player’s aim is to move the seeds in a clockwise direction through the holes to his rumah while observing several rules of the game. The player who gets the most of the seeds in the rumah wins.


This game does not require any equipment. It is played by two teams of not less than 4 players in each team. A playing area consisting of a grid of six rectangles is required. A badminton court is an ideal place as the lines are already drawn. One team is the attacker while the other is the defender. The object of the game is for the attacking team to progressively enter the defending team’s area without being tagged by any member of the defending team. The “attack” can be done either individually or in groups.


The flower-sheath of the betel nut or nibong palm is used in this game of speed. A team consists of a person seated on the upih and another person who pulls it. Whichever team that crosses the designated finishing line first is the winner.


Literally meaning “kicking chicken feather”, this game requires only a simple and cost-economical equipment. A nail is inserted through a few circular piece of rubber of 2 inches in diametre. Usually, the rubber pieces are cut from the inner tube of a bicycle tyre. Five of six chicken feathers are tied to the nail with tape or rubber band. The game can now begin! The object of the game is to kick the bulu ayam for as many times as possible using only the instep of the feet. Therefore players can compete individually or as a team.


This game requires only the metal rim of a bicycle wheel and a stick. Individuals or teams use the stick to roll the bicycle rim over a predetermined distance. The winner is the player or team who completes the distance first.This game was innovated by children in the late 50s in Malaya. With much energy to spare and no computer games to keep them occupied, children in that era were very innovative and find many ways to amuse themselves. This is one of many games innovated during that era.

5 or 7 Stones

Of ancient origin, the game of Five Stones (also known as Knucklebones) is played with five small triangular cloth bags filled with seeds, rice or sand. Two or more players can play. The aim is to score as many points as possible. A point is scored when a player completes the eight steps in throwing and catching ‘five’ stones. This game can also be played with 7 stones.

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(4) Cultural Dances & Traditional Musical Instruments of Malaysia

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 3:10 am

Dance is a popular cultural form in Malaysia too. Each ethnic group has its own dance forms which characterizes its culture. Malaysian dances can be identified with certain regions or religious practices which are often performed in festive celebrations, wedding parties, cultural shows, religious ceremonies or other public events.  Below are the dances of the 3 major racial groups in our country :


Tarian Melayu or Malay dance portrays the customs or adat resam and culture or budaya of the Malays. It depicts the true nature of the Malay people and their way of life.

Generally, Malay dances are divided into two main categories which are the “original” Malay dances and “adopted” Malay dances. The “original” Malay dances are indigenous to the Malay region, encompassing Sumatra, the Malay Peninsular, Singapore, the Riau Archipelago and Borneo, and its origins can be traced back to the early Malay civilizations. The “adopted” Malay dances are influenced by foreign cultures due to political and historical events. The various forms or styles of Malay dance are further categorized by its beats (rentak) and rhythm (irama).

The four basic genres of Malay dance are Asli, Inang, Joget and Zapin. Asli and Inang dances are categorised as the “original” Malay dances whereas Joget and Zapin are categorized as “adopted” Malay dances. The diagram below further illustrates:


The term Asli, meaning “original”, is the forerunner of the four basic genres of Malay dance. The dance movements and its songs can be traced back to the early Malay Kingdoms in the 14th century. Its beat and rhythm is slow-paced yet intricate and well defined. Its dance style is graceful and elegant as it depicts the charming nature of Malay ladies. There are numerous hand movements and poses, each with a different significance. Every movement of the Asli dance starts and ends with the gong beat in the count of eights.

Asli songs are still popular across the regions of Malay culture in Sumatra, the Malay Peninsular, Singapore, the Riau Archipelago and Borneo. In Sumatra, they are known as senandung and are derived from local soulful poetic verses projecting deep emotions such as love or sorrow. Examples of Asli songs include Sembawa Balik, Pasir Roboh, Timang Banjar and Sri Siantan.

Before the introduction of Western musical instruments, indigenous musical instruments such as the rebab (a string instrument), gong, rebana or gendang bebano (a framed hand drum) are used. Foreign influence, particularly from the West, in the mid-16th century led to the introduction of Western musical instruments such as the violin and accordion. With further changes over time and the advancement of technology, various traditional musical instruments have been replaced by electronic and modern ones. Modes of performing Asli songs have also developed tremendously.


Another form of the “original” Malay dance is the Inang. Historical accounts state that the word Inang is derived from the word “Mak Inang”, a nanny or chief lady-in-waiting who is responsible in looking after the royal children. The Inang song and dance is said to have been composed during the era of the Malaccan Sultanate, particularly during the rule of Sultan Mahmud Shah (1488-1511). At the time, the Inang dance was performed in various palace celebrations such as weddings.

The Inang beats and dance movements are faster paced compared to the Asli dance. It portrays the grace and swaying movement of royal maids and has all the qualities of a palace performance. In olden times, the Inang dance was performed only by ladies, with very modest movements adhering to the strict palace customs and protocols. Eventually, the Inang dance evolved from strictly a court dance into a folk dance enjoyed and performed by all individuals. Nevertheless, its graceful and modest movements have always remained. Nowadays, it is performed at all social functions and usually by couples of men and women. Examples of songs with the Inang beat are Seri Langkat, Lenggang Mak Limah and Mak Inang Pulau Kampai.


The Joget dance (also called the Ronggeng) was introduced to the Malays in Malacca during the early 16th century. Its origins may be traced back to two popular Portuguese folk dances, the Branjo and Farapeirra. Throughout Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and the Riau Archipelago, the Joget has been known as a fast-paced popular dance and is performed at cultural festivals, wedding celebrations and many other social functions. Its catchy beat and cheerful combination of fast hand and leg movements appeal to both young and old alike.

In some regions of the Malay Archipelago, the Joget is also known as the Rentak Lagu Dua which describes the interaction between couples in portraying a song with liveliness and cheerfulness. In Indonesia, particularly in the Northern Sumatra region such as Medan, Deli and Serdang, the Joget has been elevated in rank to be one of Indonesia’s national dances when in 1934, a well-known choreographer by the name of Sayuti choreographed a unique form of the Joget dance called Serampang 12. It has 12 stages of dance steps depicting the love story of a couple from courtship till their wedding.

Joget music and dance has an obviously hybrid character. The accordion, violin and tambur (a double-headed drum and Portuguese in origin; its name is derived from the Portuguese tambour) are European whereas the framed drums may be Middle Eastern or indigenous to the region and the harmonium is Indian. Other elements such as the gong, the use of pantun (this refers to Malay poetry or can mean quatrain) and the basic performance context are all indigenous. Examples of Joget music include Joget Asam Kana, Joget Istana Lukut and Joget Songkok Mereng.

Usually at the end of a Joget performance, the drumming speeds up to a rapid dance section, in which two dancers face each other and, standing on their right legs, extend their left legs forward until their feet touch; then they switch legs. Two names are given for this dance move: Perancis bol and seken kaki. However, neither of these phrases makes much sense in Malay, but they could be adapted from foreign words. The first seems to combine Perancis, the Malay word for “France” or “French”, with the English “ball” or French bal; the second joins the Malay word kaki for “foot” with what could be English for “shaking”.


The influence of the Zapin dance on Malay culture and arts started alongside the spread of the Islamic religion, beginning in the early 15th Century. The Zapin dance and music were brought and introduced by the Arab traders and missionaries from Southern Yemen particularly from the Hadramaut region. From its original form of Arabic Zapin (Zapin Arab), the dance assimilated itself into the Malay culture and thus gave birth to a localised version known as Zapin Melayu. Originally, Zapin performances were popular among the royalty. It is believed that every palace had its own Zapin troupe which performed at various palace functions and every rehearsal was done under the watchful eye of the Sultan.

The music for Zapin comes from an ensemble of traditional instruments, which includes the lute gambus), gypsy type bongos (marwas), small single-frame hand drums (rafa’i), accordion and violin. A typical Zapin performance and song can be categorised into three parts. The first part is called the taqsim or introduction. This is where the gambus is played in a solo manner as an opening of the performance. Simultaneously, the dancers enter the stage and perform the sembah or act of respect to the audience. As the performance progress, the dancers perform various steps and legwork movements. The second part is at the end of every quatrain or pantun, where the music and beating of the drums is played in a rapid beat manner known as tingkah or kopak while the dancers move in a jumping manner called the minta tahto. The third part is the end of the performance, which is known as the tahtim, whereby the dancers will perform the wainab movements to close the performance.

There are numerous types of Zapin and they are categorised by regions. Some examples are Zapin Tenglu, Zapin Pekajang, Zapin Parit Mastar from Johor, Zapin Sindang from Sarawak, Zapin Ghalit from Kedah, Jipin Tar and Jipin Laila Sembah from Brunei and Zapin Kampung Manggis from Jambi.

Contributed by Mohd Hisham Salim, Executive Officer, Majlis Pusat

(Top right picture courtesy of NAC Community Arts Series July 2006. Other pictures courtesy of Majlis Pusat)


The term “Chinese dance”, which tends to be broadly used to refer to dance forms that have traditional Chinese origins, actually encompasses two main forms, Chinese classical dance and Chinese ethnic dance.

Chinese Classical Dance

The origins of Chinese classical dance date back to the Zhou dynasty. During this period, only members of the royal family and nobility had the privilege of being trained in dance. Depending on the student’s age, he/she would be taught different dances for various occasions and purposes. Every dance had its own set of performance standards and training was often rigorous. These dances would often be performed at major ceremonies, diplomatic events and even during religious ceremonies.

Subsequently, the art of dance made considerable progress during the prosperous time of the Tang dynasty. While preserving traditions passed down from the previous dynasty, Tang dynasty dances also incorporated new elements and thus during this time, Chinese classical dance was considered to be at its peak. However, with the rise and fall of the Tang dynasty, the art of dance went the same way – from an art form for the privileged to something more accessible to common folk. In fact, during the Song and Ming dynasties, folk opera, a phenomenon combining dance, acrobatics and theatrical performances arose, replacing pure dance as a flourishing art form. This in turn metamorphosed into what we commonly know today as traditional opera. Despite the apparent transformation, dance was still ultimately the key means of performance, thus giving rise to the saying that “Chinese classical dance evolved from traditional oper”.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, proper dance education and research began with the establishment of the Beijing Dance Academy in 1954, allowing dance training to be standardized. While continually discovering and preserving the particular charm and appeal of Chinese classical dance movements, it was also constantly improving upon its techniques in order to standardize the form. Improvements in the following areas were just a few ways in which to achieve that: foundation techniques of Chinese classical dance (barre work training, centre work training, jumps, turns, somersaults and combined technique training), Chinese classical dance posture and rhythm training, tanzigong training (fighting and acrobatics/martial arts), sword-dance training, long-sleeve dance training, etc. In fact, recently, “Han Tang” classical dance training has also started to gain popularity.

Chinese Ethnic Dance

Chinese ethnic dance is a product of the historical progress of each ethnic community as well as their individual artistic creativity. The dances reflect the various regional specialties, cultural characteristics and religious beliefs of each ethnic group at different stages in history, infusing every dance with unique local flavour, thus making it widely popular with the masses. Many of the terms used in these dances are drawn from everyday life and even the props used are also day-to-day items and instruments. Ethnic dance performances are a staple at celebrations, religious ceremonies and major events, making them an integral part of every community’s identity.

China has 56 major ethnic groups, the largest being the Han people, who make up more than 90% of the population. Primarily occupying the Yellow River, Yangtze River and Pearl River Delta region as well as the Song Liao Plains, the vast expanse of land and the breathtaking natural landscape have contributed to the Han people’s ethnic dances. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the myriad dances of the Han people vary distinctly by regions.

For instance, a popular rural folk dance in northern China known as Yang Ge is a common dance, but styles differ depending on where it originated. Yang Ge performed in northern Shaanxi is different from those performed in Hebei, Shandong or even northeastern China. In addition, the flower lantern dance and flower drum dance, performed predominantly in southern China, are also not homogeneous in style. From a regional perspective, northern China’s Yang Ge and other ethnic dances are relatively strong, simple and unsophisticated, a style reminiscent of that predominant in the states of Yan and Zhao during the Warring States Period. The flower lantern dance and flower drum dance of the south, on the other hand, are notable for being elegant and graceful, a characteristic of the ancient Chu culture. The Huai River region’s geographical location (between the Yellow River and the mighty Yangtze) has also played a part in shaping dance in the region. The flower lantern dance of the area has incorporated the positive elements of dances in both northern and southern China. Hence, the dance tempers toughness with grace – male dancers are dynamic while female dancers are charming.

Even though the remaining 55 ethnic minority groups in China make up only a small percentage of the general population, they inhabit nearly 50%-60% of the country, scattered in regions across China such as northeast China, Inner Mongolia, northwest China, southwest China, central and southeast China. Some of these ethnic minorities live in the grasslands, on plateaus, in mountainous regions or even in border areas; hence, such latitudinal and scenic differences are clearly reflected in their dance.

For instance, the nomadic lifestyles of the Mongols and the Kazakhs in the grasslands of northern China have influenced their dances. The dances of these people often portray their daily nomadic activities, with strong, dynamic movements and upbeat rhythms. Similarly, the Zhuang and Li people, who can be found in southern China, have dances which reflect their agricultural roots. Tea-picking and rice-harvesting dances are common, and such dances are often graceful with slower tempos. The Dai people and ethnic Koreans (whose ancestors migrated from the Korean peninsular), who are also engaged in agricultural activities, share the graceful characteristics of their Zhuang and Li counterparts. However, their dances are unique to their people because of their environment and their personalities. While the dance of the Dai people is vivacious, the dance of ethnic Koreans is considered more graceful and elegant. As for ethnic minorities who live near China’s border, their dances are a veritable melting pot of different cultural influences. For instance, the Uighurs and the Uzbeks, who inhabit the ancient Silk Road region of northwest China, are skilled in using their heads, necks, shoulders, backs and waists in performances. Their facial expressions are also vivid and inimitable, endowing their dance with a flavour reminiscent of the style predominant in the ancient Western regions.

To conclude, even though Chinese dance may possess its own characteristics and history, it is no different from any other dance in the world in that it is essentially a cultural phenomenon. It is ultimately an art form through which artistes express themselves. Its creation is directly influenced by both nature and society; its form can be expressed through the human form or even emotionally. In addition, the artiste’s cultural and artistic upbringing also plays a significant role in determining the tone of the dance.

Contributed by Wei Wei and translated by Koh Chern Ping 


Zhong Guo Min Jian Wu Dao Wen Hua Jiao Chen (Chinese Ethnic Dance Curriculum)

Wu Dao Jiao Yu Xue (Dance Education and Teaching Methodology)

Zhong Guo Wu Jin Xuan Jiao Cai (Selected Chinese Dance Syllabus)


Early History of Classical Indian Dance

The dancing girl from Mohenjodaro, the broken torso suggesting a dance pose from the Harappan civilization, the metaphors and similies based on dance that exist in the Vedas, the reference to dance in the ancient Indian epics. There is an enormous amount of evidence to suggest that Indian classical dance existed and in fact influenced sculptural and literary traditions from about 2nd century BC to 19th century AD. The Natyasastra, the famous treatise of dance and drama, could only have been written in an environment in which these art forms were in existence and thriving. The history of Indian dance begins with this detailed text.

The history can be broadly divided into two periods: the first between 2nd century BC to 9th century AD, and the second from 10th century AD to 18th century AD. During British rule dance want into a coma. In the first period, Sanskrit played an important role, and there was a strong link between dance, music, sculpture, literature and drama. Dance was so enmeshed in other art forms that there was no separate text on dance, until the Abhinaya Darpana was written. From the 13th century onwards there were manuals on dance emerging in various regions of the country. What emerged from these manuals is interesting – they all subscribed to the basic principles of the Natyasastra, but yet, distinctive regional styles emerged with ultimately differing native vocabulary. This period (1300AD-1800AD) marked the beginning of the classical Indian dance styles that we know today, namely Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Kathak. Forms such as Chhau, Koodiyattam and Yakshagana could in due course enter the classical classification.

Impact of British Rule
When the British entered India, classical dance was an important part of temple worship and dancers known as Devadasis were employed in temples to perform ritual dances during important festivals. Gradually this system deteriorated into dance being performed for the pleasure of priests and kings. Devadasis carried the stigma of prostitution. Labeling it as prostitution, the British abolished this system without offering an alternative source of livelihood to the dancers. Hence in British India the practice and development of danced was curbed. The generation that attended schools founded by the British was isolated from the art traditions of the country as the colonial system of education did not recognize art as a subject for the curriculum. By the 20th century, the art of dance had died, and what was left was called “nautch” in North India and “sadir” in the South.

Recovery and Export
In the 1930s, dance was brought back into Indian society through the efforts of individuals such as Muthulakshmi Reddy, E.Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale. A couple of decades later, dance began to travel from India to other parts of the world. Artists such as Uday Shankar and Ram Gopal were instrumental in taking the dance forms out into the world. Gradually, practitioners around the world began to allow influences of their locales into their dance forms, and so today while many practitioners preserve the dance form in the way that it has been handed down to them, making minor modifications, there are others who are allowing radical changes to happen in their forms. A new era has been ushered in with the export of the dance forms, especially Bharatanatyam and Kathak, to various parts of the world.

Classical Indian Dance Styles
In the Indian context, both dance and drama were fused into one at a very early stage of development. By the time the Natyasastra was written, both art forms were consciously conceived as one. And so the techniques governing the technique of Indian dance are the same as those that govern the technique of classical drama in India.

Classical Indian dance is divided into three distinct categories, namely natya (corresponds to drama), nritya (gesticulation when it is performed to words sung in a musical melody) and nritta (pure dancing where the movements do not express any mood or meaning). In Indian dance, the human body has been conceived of as a mass which can be divided equally along a central median. When the weight is equally divided, the completely balanced samabhanga position emerges. In poses where there is only one deflection, the abhanga position emerges. When there are more than two deflections on opposite sides of the central median, the tribhanga position emerges.

While most of the styles are rooted in the basic principles, there are certain characteristic features that distinguish one form from the other.



T.S. Parthasarathy (1991), “Dances of India”, Journal of the Music Academy, Madras

T.S. Parthasarathy (1992), “Dances of India: Bharatanatyam”, Journal of the Music Academy, Madras

Kapila Vatsyayan (1974), “Indian Classical Dance”, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India


View the colourful muliti-ethnic Malaysian cultural dances in the videosbelow :

MALAYSIAN CULTURAL SHOW – Malaysian Tourism Centre

<a href=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/um670j_UywA” target=”_blank”>

Traditional Musical Instruments 

Rebana Ubi

In the days of the ancient Malay kingdoms, the resounding rhythmic beats of the giant rebana ubi drums conveyed various messages from warnings of danger to wedding announcements. Later, they were used as musical instruments in an assortment of social performances.


Arguably the most popular Malay traditional instrument, the kompang is widely used in a variety of social occasions such as the National Day parades, official functions and weddings. Similar to the tambourine but without the jingling metal discs, this hand drum is most commonly played in large ensembles, where various rhythmic composite patterns are produced by overlapping multiple layers of different rhythms.

Brought to Malaysia by Persian and Middle Eastern traders, the gambus or Arabian oud is played in a variety of styles in Malay folk music, primarily as the lead instrument in Ghazal music. Carefully crafted with combinations of different woods, this instrument produces a gentle tone that is similar to that of the harpsichord.


The sape is the traditional flute of the Orang Ulu community or upriver people of Sarawak. A woodcarving masterpiece with colourful motifs, the sape is made by hollowing a length of wood. Once played solely during healing ceremonies within longhouses, it gradually became a social instrument of entertainment. Typically, its thematic music is used to accompany dances such as the Ngajat and Datun Julud.

Here’s a Youtube video on traditional Malaysian musical instruments :

September 10, 2011

(3) Festivals of Malaysia

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 4:22 am

Malaysia is a land of many colors, a richly woven cultural tapestry

of different races, religions and cultures. It’s a unique country with

its warm, hospitable, open house festive celebrations for families,

friends and strangers alike.The potpourri of Malaysian festivals is

what makes Malaysian life so vibrant, exhilarating and exciting.

Most festivals have religious and cultural significance.

These are the times for family reunions and fellowships,

joyous occasions to catch up with one another and

savor traditional delicacies and treasured family recipes

handed down from generation to generation.

Hari Raya

Chinese New Year



Visit the links below for more information on the festivals of Malaysia:


Video – https://youtu.be/Mvjy7pCqydA


Main Festivals of Malaysia


Festivals in Malaysia 2018

September 5, 2011

(2) The People of Malaysia

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 12:07 pm

Having had an interesting past and being a part of the international spice route many hundreds of years ago, Malaysia has turned into a mosaic of cultures. Everything from its people to its architecture reflects a colourful heritage and an amalgamated culture. To understand Malaysian culture, you must first get to know its people.


The Malays, Chinese, Indians and many other ethnic groups have lived together in Malaysia for generations. All these cultures have influenced each other, creating a truly Malaysian culture. The three largest ethnic and most familiar groups in Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are a myriad of indigenous ethnic groups with their own unique culture and heritage. However, not many people are aware of these minority groups, each vastly different from the others.


Today, the Malays, Malaysia’s largest ethnic group, make up more than 50% of the population. In Malaysia, the term Malay refers to a person who practices Islam and Malay traditions, speaks the Malay language and whose ancestors are Malays. Their conversion to Islam from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism began in the 1400s, largely influenced by the decision of the royal court of Melaka. The Malays are known for their gentle mannerisms and rich arts heritage.


The second largest ethnic group, the Malaysian Chinese form about 25% of the population. Mostly descendants of Chinese immigrants during the 19th century, the Chinese are known for their diligence and keen business sense. The three sub-groups who speak a different dialect of the Chinese language are the Hokkien who live predominantly on the northern island of Penang; the Cantonese who live predominantly in the capital city Kuala Lumpur; and the Mandarin-speaking group who live predominantly in the southern state of Johor.


The smallest of three main ethnic groups, the Malaysian Indians form about 10% of the population. Most are descendants of Tamil-speaking South Indian immigrants who came to the country during the British colonial rule. Lured by the prospect of breaking out of the Indian caste system, they came to Malaysia to build a better life. Predominantly Hindus, they brought with them their colourful culture such as ornate temples, spicy cuisine and exquisite sarees.



Orang Asli is a general term used for any indigenous groups that are found in Peninsular Malaysia. They are divided into three main tribal groups: Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. The Negrito usually live in the north, the Senoi in the middle and the Proto-Malay in the south. Each group or sub-group has its own language and culture. Some are fishermen, some farmers and some are semi-nomadic.







With around 32 indigenous groups in Sabah, one can expect to see tribal dresses of various styles. Most of these have retained much of their original design and color.

Many of these traditional costumes are of black material, and one of the reasons for using such a sombre color is that in the past, the people could rely on a few types of vegetables and plants from which to extract dye to color the cloth. If they needed to add color to the black, beads of red, orange, white and green were sewn on.

Traditional costumes also included antique bead necklaces and belts, antique hand-engraved silver jewellery, and belts of old silver dollar coins. Most of these accessories have been handed down from generation to generation. All are very valuable and priceless.


This is the largest ethnic category in Sabah and is predominantly wet rice and hill rice cultivators.  Their language belongs to the Dusunic family and shares a common animistic belief system with  various customs  and  practices. Their ancient beliefs on the verity that everything has life – the rocks,  trees, and rivers are  all  living  things. They have souls and spirits that must be appeased from time to  time through specific  rituals.  In these  modern times, some of the rituals are less performed accept  during certain festivities.

Customs & Beliefs

Pesta Kaamatan or Harvest Festival is a unique celebration of Kadazandusun society. It’s a celebration to honour the Rice Spirit – Bambaazon or Bambarayon and giving thanks for yet another bountiful year. The festival begins on the first of May at many district levels. The rites and customs of the Pesta Kaamatan is a tribal practice of Kadazandusun and also Murut peoples. The Bobohizan or Bobolian who are the High Priests or Priestesses (depending on the district/area undertaking the preservation) will conduct the ritual. In different districts, the priests or priestesses may be addressed to differently, for instance in Tambunan district they are known as Bobolian, in Tuaran as Tantagas and in Penampang as Bobohizan.

It is believed that rice in whatever form embodies Bambaazon that must be protected from harm. The homecoming of Babaazon is an integral part of the Harvest Festival. Ancient folklore tells of the ultimate deed of Kinoingan or Minamagun – The Almighty God or Creator, who sacrificed his only beloved daughter, Huminodun so that his people would have food. Various parts of her body were planted from which plants grew. During the Magavau ceremony, the Bobohizan will select some stalks of rice that are left undistributed until the harvest is over. In some districts, the chosen stalks are cut before the field is harvested and are then brought into the owner’s house. The task of Bobohizan is to search and salvage the lost Bambaazon who are hurt or separated from the main mystical body. In the old days, this ceremony was often performed in freshly harvested fields during the first full moon after the harvest to invoke the rice spirit.

The language used by Bobohizan is archaic whose meanings have been buried in time and known only to the few remaining Bobohizan these days. The vital aspect of Magavau is the paraphernalia used to summon Bambaazon. The sacrament of Magavau may vary according to district practices but the ceremony always ends with food offerings to Bambaazon and merry making for the village folks.

The highlight of Pesta Kaamatan is the selection of the pageant queen or “Unduk Ngadau” which can be literally translated as “Zenith of the Sun”. It conceptually derives from the sacrifice of Huminodun. The maiden who has the honour of being selected should bear semblance to Huminodun and will represent all that is virtuous in the revered Huminodun.


The Kota Belud Bajau Horseman are the famous Cowboys of the East. During special occasions, the  Bajau Horseman wears a black, sometimes white, long-sleeved shirt called badu sampit . Smart, gold buttons betawi run down the front opening and the shirt is also decorated with silver flowers called intiras. The trousers are more tight-fitting than the bajau bridegroom’s seluar sama . The  horseman’s seluar sampit is black, and both the shirt and trousers have gold lace trimmings sewn on. He also  wears a headpiece podong similar to the Bajau bridegroom’s.

The Bajau horseman wears a silver-hilted dagger karis at his side. The sheath is made of wood and silver. He  also carries a spear bujak and a shipping crop pasut . Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Bajau horseman is his horse, or rather pony. It has its own costume and is more gaily dressed than the rider. The outfit kain kuda almost completely covers the pony except for holes for the eyes and nose. This cloth is tied around the pony’s legs to keep it in place. The saddle sila-sila is not like the cowboy saddles of the West but rather a smaller piece of buffalo hide so shaped to fit the pony’s back. A thick piece of cloth lapik is placed under the sila-sila . Antique brass bells seriau , colourful reins tingalu and bridle kakang all make for a very festive pony costume. In all their finery, both ride and pony become quite an attraction.


The Rungus living in the Kudat district are known to have maintained their ancient traditions to this  day. Even the traditional ladies costume has not many changes made to it. Some of the women still  wear  costumes made from cloth processed form hand-grown and hand-spun cotton.

The design of the Rungus costume is simple. A black cloth with little hand-stitched patterns worn  from the chest to the waist becomes the blouse ( banat tondu ) and the skirt is a knee-length sarong  (tapi rinugading) of the same material. Another length of black cloth, about 28-30 cm wide is  slipped over the head and it rests on the shoulders draped over the arms like sleeves.

What makes this outfit very interesting is the belts and necklaces that go with it. Little brass rings and antique beads looped through thin strands of stripped bark ( togung ) becomes a wide and colourful hipband called orot. To wear this, the orot is slowly and carefully coiled around the hip. Then a last string of beads ( lobokon ) is hung loosely from the coil. The orot is hand made by the Rungus men as the technique is known only to them.

The Rungus are also well-known for their beadwork and the costume shows off some of their finest. Two shoulders bands (pinakol), about 6 to 8 cms wide are worn diagonally over each shoulder and cross over in front. The bead-work often tell a story and this one in particular tells  of a man going spear-hunting for a riverine creature. Usually the pattern must follow ancient designs when worn with this costume.

Long antique bed necklace ( sandang ) are also worn diagonally over the shoulders. These necklaces often include ivory-white discs, obtained from the shell of the kima ( tridachna gigas ) as well as animal bones.

Several necklaces of reddish-brown glass beads and the chocker-like suldau with the white kima as the centre-piece further adorn this costume. The large burambun and the smaller giring are antique brass bells that sound with the slightest movement.

The Rungus lady’s hair is combed into a bun and a multi-coloured floral head-piece ( titimbok ) is worn. A thin band of beads strung together ( sisingal ) is tied around the forehead and then pieces of cloth sewn together in rows to form colorful pigtails (rampai ) are tided at the nape.

This costume, with all the beads and belts, is worn during festivals. Rungus ritual specialist also wear the complete outfit when conducting rituals


Being one of the largest indigenous groups in Sabah, Murut comprises of subgroups such as Baukan, Gana’, Kalabakan, Okolod, Paluan, Sulangai, Serudung, Tagal, Timugon and the Beaufort and Keningau Murut. Literally “Murut” means “hill people”. They inhibit the interior and southeastern parts of Sabah and the territory straddling the Kalimantan and Sarawak borders. They are mostly shifting cultivators and hunters with some riverine fishing. Those of Murut origin speak 15 languages and 21 dialects. The language commonly used and understood by the large majority is Tanggal. Their language is also related to the Kadazandusun languages.

Once feared as fearless headhunters and longhouse dwellers, the Murut these days have abandoned much of their age-old traditions especially headhunting. They are also very skilled in hunting with blowpipe.

Customs & Beliefs

In the by-gone era, collecting heads of enemies served a very precise function in Murut society. A man can only get married after he has presented at least one head that he has hunted to the family of the desired girl. Heads also play a very important role in spiritual beliefs.

The essence of Murut tradition of feasts is distinctive. No merrymaking will end at least until sunrise and can last up to seven days later. This is especially the case with weddings or funerals. Through modernization, no more heads must be furnished for weddings but jars along with cloth, beads, gold and ivory bracelets have taken its place. All these dowry items will be proudly displayed at the ceremony. Jars or “sampa” holds a prominent status in their customs. The Murut know the age of sampa and treat them will due respect. Jars are also a place of spirits. Beads play an integral role in Murut life. Wedding beads must be presented in the form of belts, necklaces, headgear and decoration. The wedding ceremony must be held in the bride’s longhouse, tapai or rice wine must be served and all the meat has to be pickled.

The Murut keep the bodies of their deceased in a jar and place them in colourful and elaborately decorated grave-huts along with the deceased’s belongings. The body will be placed in the foetal position inside the jar and a gong will be placed over the mouth of the jar to close it. However this custom of burial is becoming rare with the availability of wooden coffins.


Sarawak has more than 40 ethnic groups with their own distinct language, culture and lifestyle. Cities and larger towns are populated predominantly by Malays, Melanaus, Chinese, and a smaller percentage of Ibans and Bidayuhs who have migrated from their home-villages for employment reasons. Sarawak is rather distinctive from the rest of Malaysia in that there is only a small community of Indians living in the state.


The Ibans form the largest percentage of Sarawak’s population, making up some 30%. Reputed to be   the  most formidable headhunters on the island of Borneo, the Ibans of today are a generous, hospitable and  placid people. The Ibans dwell in longhouses, a stilted structure comprising many rooms housing a whole  community of families. The Ibans are renowned for their Pua Kumbu (traditional Iban weavings), silver  craftings, wooden carvings and beadwork. Iban tattoos which were originally symbols of bravery for the Iban  warriors have become amongst the most distinctive in the world. The Ibans are also famous for their tuak, a  sweet rice wine which is served during big celebrations and festive occasions. Today, the majority of Ibans  are practice Christianity. However, like most other ethnic groups in Sarawak, they still hold strong to their many traditional rituals and beliefs. Sarawak is unique to colourful festivals such as the Gawai Dayak (harvest festival), Gawai Kenyalang (hornbill festival) and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead).


The Melanaus have been thought to be amongst the original settlers of Sarawak. Originally from Mukah  (the  10th Administrative Division as launched in march 2002), the Melanaus traditionally lived in tall houses.  Nowadays, they have adopted a Malay lifestyle, living in kampong-type settlements. Traditionally, Melanaus  were fishermen and till today, they are reputed as some of the finest boat-builders and craftsmen. While the  Melanaus are ethnically different from the Malays, their lifestyles and practices are quite similar especially in  the larger towns and cities where most Melanau have adopted the Islamic faith. The Melanaus were believed  to originally worship spirits in a practice brinking on paganism. Today many of them are Christian and  Muslim, though they still celebrate traditional animist festivals such as the annual Kaul Festival.


Originally from West Kalimantan, the Bidayuhs are now most numerous in the hill country of Bau and Serian,  within an hour’s drive from Kuching. Historically, as other tribes were migrating into Sarawak and forming  settlements, the meek-natured Bidayuhs retreated further inland, hence earning them the name of “Land  Dayaks”. The traditional Bidayuh abode is the “baruk”, a roundhouse that rises about 1.5 metres off the  ground. Typical of the Sarawak indigenous groups, the Bidayuhs are well-known for their hospitality, and are  reputed to be the best makers of tuak, or rice wine. The Bidayuhs speak a  number of different but related  dialects. While some of them still practice traditional religions, most  modern-day Bidayuhs have adopted the  Christian faith.


The phrase Orang Ulu means upriver people and is a term used to collectively describe the numerous tribes that live upriver in Sarawak’s vast interior. Such groups include the major Kayan and Kenyah tribes, and the smaller neighbouring groups of the Kajang, Kejaman, Punan, Ukit, and Penan. Nowadays, the definition also includes the down-river tribes of the Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh, Murut and Berawan as well as the plateau-dwelling Kelabits. The various Orang Ulu groups together make up roughly 5.5% of Sarawak’s population. The Orang Ulu are artistic people with longhouses elaborately decorated with murals and woodcarvings. They are also well-known for their intricate beadwork detailed tattoos. The Orang Ulu tribe can also be identified by their unique music – distinctive sounds from their sape, a stringed instrument not unlike the mandolin. A vast majority of the Orang Ulu tribe are Christians but old traditional religions are still practiced in some areas.


The Penan are the only true nomadic people in Sarawak and amongst the last of the world’s hunter-   gatherers. The Penan make their home under the rainforest canopy, deep within the vast expanse of   Sarawak’s virgin jungle. Even today, the Penan continue to roam the rainforest hunting wild boar and  deer with blowpipes.

The Penan are skilled weavers and make high-quality rattan baskets and mats. The traditional Penan religion worships a supreme god called Bungan. However, the increasing number who have  abandoned the nomadic lifestyle for settlement in longhouses have converted to Christians.

( All feature articles above  from Tourism Malaysia,  Sabah & Sarawak websites  )



September 4, 2011

(1) Our Cultural Heritage

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 2:48 pm

Merdeka Day is over and we will be celebrating Malaysia Day on Friday September 16.

Join us at TSNRA Clubhouse at 7.30 pm for our Malaysia Nite Dinner and Celebration.

Tickets can be obtained from all your Area Reps.


TSNRA Blog will be highlighting our rich heritage of Malaysian culture

in a series of articles from now to Malaysia Day. Do journey with us

and be proud of our cultural heritage which makes us who we are.

What is Culture?

Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future – Albert Camus

Culture is an integral part of every society. It is a learned pattern of behavior and ways in which a person lives his or her life. Culture is essential for the existence of a society, because it binds people together. In the explicit sense of the term, culture constitutes the music, food, arts and literature of a society. However, these are only the products of culture followed by the society and cannot be defined as culture.

According to English Anthropologist Edward B Taylor, culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Culture is something that a person learns from his family and surroundings, and is not ingrained in him from birth. It does not have any biological connection because even if a person is brought up in a culture different from that in which he was born, he imbibes the culture of the society where he grows up. It is also not a hidden fact that some people feel the need to follow the beliefs and traditions of their own culture, even though they might be not subscribing to certain ideologies within.

Culture is a complex tool which every individual has to learn to survive in a society. It is the means through which people interact with others in the society. It acts in a subconscious way and whatever we see and perceive, seems to be normal and natural. Sometimes, other societies and people seem to be a little odd because they have a different culture from ours. We must remember that every society has a distinct culture that forms the backbone of the society. Culture does not remain stagnant, on the other hand it is evolving constantly and is in fact somewhat influenced by the other cultures and societies.

Every society has a different culture, where people share a specific language, traditions, behaviors, perceptions and beliefs. Culture gives them an identity which makes them unique and different from people of other cultures. When people of different cultures migrate and settle in another society, the culture of that society becomes the dominant culture and those of the immigrants form the subculture of the community. Usually, people who settle in other nations imbibe the new culture, while at the same time strive to preserve their own.

Although every society has a specific culture, there are certain elements of culture that are universal. They are known as cultural universals, in which there are certain behavioral traits and patterns that are shared by all cultures around the world. For instance, classifying relations based on blood relations and marriage, differentiating between good and bad, having some form of art, use of jewelry, classifying people according to gender and age, etc., are common in all cultures of the world.

Some people believe that humans are the only living beings who have a culture. But, there is a group of people who believe in the existence of culture even in animals. It is said that animals have certain social rules which they teach their young ones as a medium for survival.

Culture is necessary to establish an order and discipline in the society. It is not only a means of communication between people, but also creates a feeling of belonging and togetherness among people in the society. – Deepa Kartha

What are the different elements of culture?

There are different types of cultures across the world and each culture has its unique essence. While defining the term ‘culture’, there are several elements that together constitute as the culture of a particular region or the culture of particular people. What are the elements of culture? Here is your answer:

Language: The various languages are essentially an important part of the culture. Read information about different languages.

Norms: Every society or every civilization has a set of norms, which are an inseparable part, and an important element of the culture. This can include the folkways, mores, taboos and rituals in a culture.

Values: The social values of a particular civilization are also considered as an element of the culture. The values of a culture often refer to the things to be achieved or the things, which are considered of great worth or value in a particular culture.

Religion and Beliefs: The religion and the beliefs of the people in a civilization play an important role in shaping up of the culture as well. Read information about world religions.

Social Collectives: Social collectives refer to the social groups, organizations, communities, institutions, classes, and societies, which are considered as symbolic social constructions.

Statuses and Roles: A status or a social role is nothing but a slot or position within a group or society, which gives an overall idea of the social structure and hence is an important element of culture. This can also include traditional gender-based or age-based roles.

Cultural Integration: This includes the degree of harmony or integration within the various elements of culture. This can include elements like sub-cultures, local cultures and the difference between historical and cultural traditions. – Uttara Manohar

Why is our culture important to us?

The behavioral patterns of people, their belief systems, their principles of life and their living are derivatives of culture.

Culture is that invisible bond, which ties the people of a community together. It refers to the pattern of human activity. The art, literature, language and religion of a community represent the community’s culture. Culture manifests itself through the lifestyle of the individuals of a community. The moral values of the people of a community also represent their culture. The importance of culture lies in its close association with the living of the people.

Culture is related to the development of one’s attitude. One’s culture plays an important role in shaping the principles of the individual’s life. The cultural values of an individual have a deep impact on his/her attitude towards life. According to the behaviorist definition of culture, it is the ultimate system of social control where people monitor their own standards and behavior. A community’s culture lays the foundation of the living of its people. The cultural values serve as the founding principles of one’s life. They shape an individual’s thinking and influence his/her mindset.

Why is culture important? It is definitely because it gives an individual a unique identity. The culture of a community gives its people a character of their own. Culture shapes the personality of a community. The language that a community speaks, the art forms it hosts, its staple food, its customs, traditions and festivities comprise the community’s culture. The importance of culture cannot be stressed enough as it is an integral part of living – Manali Oak

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