By: RaY KinZoKu

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Sunday, 18-Feb-2007 00:00 Email | Share | Bookmark
ORGHAE CHINO KITO : The Kelantanese Chinese

Pasar Pokok Pinang at Jalan Suara Muda, Kota Bharu
A back street makeshift wet market turned permanent
The only place (right) where fresh pork is sold openly in KB
Pasar Pokok Pinang normally closed at night
But often on few nights before CNY ....
.. the back streets would come alive with activities.
Flashback : Kota Bharu's Kampong Cina in the 1900s
The Kapitan Cina house ( Kg. Cina, 1900s )
A 1900s Joss-House at Kg. Cina ( is this Tokong Mek? )
The old and historical Tokong Mek ...
or Tin Hin Kong in Chinese .
Built 1790 as stated on the main entrance
In respond to Ms. Ong Hui Thing's comment. Thanks for the tip off :

The Kelantanese Chinese

Chinese in Kelantan constitute roughly 4%
out of the entire 1.4 million Kelantanese in which the Malays alone make up 95%.
Though very small in number compared to other states in Malaysia, their presence is undeniably very significant and contributes much to the state's prosperity.

The Kelantanese Chinese are historically, culturally and demographically unique compared to their cousins in other parts of Malaysia.

The earliest confirmed arrival was of the Hakka Chinese who came and went up the Kelantan River roughly 400 years ago, going deep into the interior, eventually settling down at a remote post now called Pulai in Gua Musang.


Pada 400 Tahun dahulu, iaitu lebih kurang tahun 1600 zaman hamper keruntuhan pemerintah Dynasti Ming, terdapat segolongan rakyat cina mula berhijrah ke Kampung Pulai melalui Sungai kelantan dan Sungai Galas untuk mencari gali emas. Apabila tiba di Kota Bharu, ketua golongan ini pergi mengadap Sultan kelantan dan mereka dapat mengenalpasti bau air sungai Kelantan pada ketika itu di mana di satu tempat yang terletak di kawasan ulu,pendalaman bukit-bukau dan hutan rimba itu, iaitu di Kampung Pulai kaya raya dengan emas. Mereka menaiki kapal kecil (Tongkang) mengikut Sungai Kelantan dan Sungai Galas yangmengambil masa 2-3 minggu baru sampai di Pulai.


There, they engaged in gold mining ( it is well known, since ancient times that the Kelantanese interior is littered with gold ) and though, such large scale activity is no longer existed today, the people continue to reside there in rather isolated manner from the mainstream Chinese. These Hakka Chinese, confined to the extreme reach of the interior is however, smaller in number compared to the Hokkiens that followed later.

The first Hokkiens came down to Kelantan through the Isthmus of Kra soon later or perhaps around the same time as the Hakka of Pulai. They scattered all over the Kelantanese plain, living side by side with either Malay or Thai neighbours, working the land as farmers, adopting local customs and languages in the process. Amidst hardships on the adopted foreign land, they thrived very well as the then " Siamese-appointed " British Advisor to the Kelantanese Court, W.A. Graham, noted in his guidebook on Kelantan ( 1908 ) :

The Straits Chinese followed much later ( some a hundred years ago ) during the beginning of British takeover of Kelantan in 1909. They sailed up from the Straits or Singapore and are easily distinguishable from the early Chinese settlers as they prefer to stay in towns, indulging in trades or working as labourers instead of farming.

The terminology, Cina Bandar and Cina Kampung came to being later from such differences in economic activities as well as the level of social interactions they show in regards of the native population. Still, both mixed well with the locals and many placed in their daily lives the Kelantanese identity as their favorable forefront identity.

( TRIVIA : The Kelantanese Malays refer the Kelantanese Chinese as Chino Kito or Chino Kelate while those from other states as Chino Luwaa. Such reference is made since the Kelantanese tend to see the Kelantanese Chinese as a part of themselves thus giving them a special place in the closely knitted, culturally sensitive Kelantanese society, compared to the non-Kelantanese Chinese aka Chino Luwaa )

So to speak, the Kelantanese Chinese are so well assimilated ( without the expense of their own cultures and religions ) and well immersed in the local atmosphere that many speak fluent and beautiful Kelantanese far better than the non-Kelantanese Malays who had spent much of their lives in Kelantan ( believe it or not, even better than some native Kelantanese Malays themselves ! ) I heard one who can even perform Wayang Kulit in the local dialect ! Either it comes from deep interaction with the larger Malay populations or simply because the Kelantanese Malay dialect is " pronunciation-friendly " to the Chinese speakers, I have no idea but to wonder.

Well, it's Chinese New Year.

Wishing all the Kelantanese Chinese
( Yay ! Hidup Kelate ... errr .. oh well, to all Malaysian Chinese too ),
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Kong Hei Fat Choy or in whatever dialects you have there as long as it means something like :

" May the new year brings in prosperity, good health, happiness and harmony to our lives "

and isn't it interesting,

when the word " Kelantanese " and " Chinese " rhyme with each other ?

Pasar Pokok Pinang, Kota Bharu, Kelantan :
A typical morning scene at a back street wet market, much favored by the local Chinese.

Pasar Pokok Pinang ( top image ) seen from Jalan Suara Muda in Kota Bharu.

The wet market started from a typical Kelantanese makeshift markets where peddlers trade their goods by the street sides, to passing padesterians. Gaining popularity, it later turned into a permanent market place, which caters mostly to the Chinese kitchen needs and perhaps the only place in Kota Bharu where pork is openly butchered and sold ( the premise at the right ).

Normally closed from dusk to dawn, the area would only come to life at night once a year, on few nights before Chinese New Year ( below image ).

Caption reads "Chinese Joss-House, Kampong China" ( from Kelantan : A State of The Malay Peninsula , W.A Graham, 1908 ).

Unfortunately, the source didn't mention anything about it other than this old photo which was taken around 1905. From from the look, location and probability, it looks very similar to the 200 years old Tokong Mek of Kampong China ( present day photo, below ). Is this really Tokong Mek a hundred years ago ?

* Click image for detailed view of Tokong Mek

Let's see, I got Oranges ( they call it "Baby Honey Mandarin" . Wooo, how sexy ! ) but got no Gold ingots to go with them. Well, I guess the new Kelantanese Gold Dinar will do ! Ha ha





THE PERANAKAN CHINESE OF KELANTAN - Culture, Language & Identity of a Chinese Sub-Community in Malaysia


PUSTAKA USM : Kampung Or Town Chinese ?

KAIHONGS : Is pork available in Kelantan?

THE STAR : The Grand Old Lady of Kota Bharu





The old Chinese houses of Kelantan are different from those elsewhere in that they are an interesting blend of Chinese and Malay influences.

Wee Ah Mek of Pasir Mas, Kelantan recalls her growing years in her village, Kampung Kasa, a Chinese settlement on the banks of Sungai Kelantan. Taking a short stroll from her parent’s wooden house, she used to observe the daily bustle on the river – the “highway” of those times.

“I remember the Malay traders plying budu (fermented anchovy sauce), salted fish and ikan pekasam (fermented freshwater fish) as they travelled upriver in their wooden boats,” says Wee, 59, who still lives in Kasa.

“Even to get to Kota Baru (a 20-minute drive today), we needed to take the boat.”

Like many early Chinese settlers, the Chinese in Kasa were mostly farmers who reared pigs and grew vegetables. Some ventured to town and became shopkeepers, Wee adds.

A fifth-generation Chinese, Wee has only a vague idea about her family roots. According to historians, most of the early settlers hailed from China’s southern provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Guanxi.

“My grandmother was born here and my mother still lives in the house her great grandfather built,” says Wee, a retired teacher.

Today, what makes Kasa, like other early Chinese settlements in Kelantan, unique are its clusters of Chinese houses that are more than a century old. Some 4km north of Pasir Mas town, Kasa – along with two other villages, Tendong and Saka – constitute a settlement of about 600 residents. There are 50-odd Chinese settlements in Kelantan that were founded in the 1800s from Tumpat, Bachok to Gua Musang.

“I believe most of the early Chinese settlers preferred to live near the river because of its easy access since boats were the main mode of transport,” says Wee.

Quoted From :
Leong Siok Hui, The Star Online : Sunday, March 24th, 2007
( Click the above URL for the rest of the article )

* Alternative Source at


    From The Holy Quran ( 49 : 13 ) :

    يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ

    لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

    " O Men! Truly We have created you from a male and a female, and made you
    into nations and tribes that you might get to know (and be kind to) one another.

    The noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the one most deeply conscious of Him
    among you (not in accordance with the nobility of lineage or ethnicity).

    Truly Allah is Most Knowing, Most Aware (of your state and deeds). "

    - Surah Al Hujuraat ( Verse 13 ) -

" One of the greatest losses to the world
is that we don't share the secrets of our hearts
with others

John Henry Newman ( 1801 ~ 1890 )

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