“Baba”, “Nonya”, “Peranakan” and “Straits Chinese” are terms that refer to the descendants of Chinese traders who settled in Southeast Asia centuries ago, and assimilated aspects of indigenous Malay culture into Chinese culture. Built between 1896 and 1897, the NUS Baba House was the ancestral home of the Wee family, who are part of the Straits Chinese community in Singapore. The building is now a museum that replicates the unique experience of a visit to a 1928 Peranakan home, featuring a range of beautiful and distinctive furniture, architectural decorations, ceramics and other household objects cherished by the Straits Chinese.
NUS Baba House: Architecture and Artefacts of a Straits Chinese Home is an illustrated guide for visitors as well as a useful reference for people interested in the social history of Southeast Asia. Accompanied by detailed photography and carefully researched explanations of the symbolism behind the objects and ornamental motifs in the house, this guide is designed to provide an exclusive view into the colourful domestic lifestyle of the Straits Chinese people.
Peter Lee is Honorary Curator, NUS Baba House.