Saturday, January 3, 2009

Huaqiao in Malaysia...

Before I show a list of academic studies on the Malay community, there is one book that I truly enjoyed reading regarding the Chinese diaspora:

Sons of the Yellow Emperor, Lynn Pan (1994). Ms. Pan, an overseas Chinese (huaqiao) herself (raised in Brunei), put together an excellent compendium regarding the various waves of emigration out of China, and a summary of the various places of immigration, including Malaysia. She describes the distinctive differences between the various Chinese overseas communities. For example, she gives plausible answers to the question as to why the Chinese in Malaysia did not integrate into Malay society, unlike what happened in the Philippines and Thailand. She also describes the different sub-cultures of Chinese huaqiao. For example, before reading her book, I did not know the difference between Hokkien, Hakka, and Teochiu speakers.

(Photo: Chinese students of mine from my Kuala Lumpur days.)

As mentioned before, Understanding Multicultural Malaysia, by Asma Abdullah and Paul Pedersen (2003), is another book which covers the history, customs and role of Chinese within Malaysian society.

I have enjoyed teaching Chinese students my entire time in Malaysia -13 years- in addition to a year that I spent in the north of China at a foreign language high school. For my first four years in Malaysia, I was at a college that was predominantly Chinese (>90%) in one of Kuala Lumpur's burgeoning suburbs. Although I enjoyed it, I felt like I was still in China. Thus, I chose to move out of KL and find a school where there was a larger percentage of Malay students. This should not be construed as disliking Chinese students or culture, but rather that I wanted a different experience.

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