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About the Chinese

Chinese is the second biggest ethnic group in Malaysia. They are the descendents of the Chinese people who arrived in Malaysia in the 15th to mid 20th centuries.

In the 15th century, Chinese traders have already started arriving in Malacca to trade. There was a significant number of Chinese living in Malacca during the Sultanate period. They were mainly traders from southern China, specifically the Fujian province. Many of these Chinese intermarried with the locals, and their descendents are called the earliest Peranakans, or Straits-born Chinese. Although they retained Chinese names, many have adopted Malay as their mother tongue. The graves at Bukit Cina in Malacca belong to the Chinese people who were already living in Malacca in the Dutch period.

The second wave of Chinese immigrants came in the 19th century until the mid 20th century, when the political upheaval in China makes many Chinese leave the country to seek a better life. This second wave comprised Chinese from the southern provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. They settled in the newly established British Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, and subsequently batch of Chinese immigrants arrived to work the tin mines in Perak and Selangor.

Today, the majority of Chinese people in Malaysia live along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia as well as in the main towns in Sabah and Sarawak. They form at least 30% or more of the inhabitants of many major towns in Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Johor, and are the majority in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. The towns in Perak with a significant Chinese population includes Ipoh, Taiping, Batu Gajah and Setiawan. In Johor, there is a significant percentage of Chinese in Johor Bahru, Kluang, Batu Pahat, Muar and Segamat. In states where Chinese form a minority - below 30% - they are still concentrated in the major towns, where they constitute 40% or more of the town population. This includes Bentong, Raub, Mentakab, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan.

The Chinese in Malaysia are from several different dialect groups. The majority are Hokkien, followed by Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese and Hockchews.


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