Education About Asia

Emily of Emerald Hill: A Reaffirmation of Peranakan Culture

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Stella Kon’s Emily of Emerald Hill is one of Singapore’s most enduring plays. Written in English and interspersed with Singlish (colloquially spoken English) expressions, this one-woman play recounts Emily’s life in the 1950s. Through her memories, the audience learns about the life, culture, and traditions of the Peranakans, a group of overseas Chinese long-resident in Penang and Malacca, who adopted Malay language and culture. Known variously as Babas, Straits Chinese, Melaka Men, and Peranakans, this community made enormous contributions to economic and cultural life in the regions of Southeast Asia they inhabited. The visibility and dominance of this community lend a special character to the Chinese community of Singapore.