Different Cultures in Malaysia Malaysia is a multicultural society, with Malays, Chinese and Indians living side by side. The Malays are the largest community. They are mostly Muslims, but there are Christians and Hindus amongst them. The Malays speak Bahasa and are largely responsible for the political fortunes of the country. The Chinese comprise about a third of the population. They are Buddhists and Taoists, speak Hokkeen, Hakka and Cantonese, and are dominant in the business community. The Indians account for about 10% of the population. They are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India, they speak Tamil, Malayalam, and some Hindi, and live mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. There is also a sizeable Sikh community. Eurasians and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. Despite Bahasa Malaysia being the official language, when members of these different communities talk to each other, they generally speak English, which was recently reinstated as the language of instruction in higher education. The main indigenous tribe is the Iban of Sarawak, who number 395,000. They are largely longhouse dwellers and live along the Rejang and Baram rivers. The Bidayuh (107,000) are concentrated on Sarawak's Skrang River. The Orang Asli (80,000) live in small scattered groups in Peninsular Malaysia. Malays are the largest ethnic group in Malaysia. They are mainly muslims and speaks Malay language. They are known for their gentle mannerism and rich arts heritage. Traditional Malay architecture employs sophisticated architectural processes ideally suited to tropical conditions such as structures built on stilts, which allow cross-ventilating breeze beneath the dwelling to cool the house whilst mitigating the effects of the occasional flood. High-pitched roofs and large windows not only allow cross-ventilation but are also carved with intricate organic designs. Today, many Malay or Islamic buildings incorporate Moorish design elements as can be seen in the Islamic Arts Museum and a number of buildings in Putrajaya. Malay women wear baju karung, which is an elegant modest styled clothing. These traditional outfits are completed with a selendang or shawl or tudung or headscarf. The traditional attire for Malay men is the baju
melayu. The baju melayu is a loose tunic worn over trousers. It is usually complemented with a sampin - a short sarong wrapped around the hips. Chinese are the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia. Chinese are known for their diligence and keen business sense. Chinese, in Malaysia, can be divided into three sub – divided groups who speaks different dialects of Chinese language, Hokkien who live predominantly on the northern island of Penang; the Cantonese who live predominantly in the capital city Kuala Lumpur; and the Mandarinspeaking group who live predominantly in the southern state of Johor. In Malaysia, Chinese architecture is of two broad types: traditional and BabaNyonya. Examples of traditional architecture include Chinese temples found throughout the country. Many old houses especially those in Melaka and Penang are of Baba-Nyonya heritage, built with indoor courtyards and beautiful, colourful tiles. A rare architectural combination of Chinese and Western elements is displayed by Melaka's Terengkera mosque. Chinese ladies wear traditional cheongsam which is a comfortable and elegant clothing. Usually, it has a high collar, buttons or frog closures near the shoulder, a snug fit at the waist and slits on either one or both sides. It is often made of shimmering silk, embroidered satin or other sensual fabrics. Malaysian Indians are the smallest of the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia. They are mainly Hindus and speaks Tamil and Hindi. South Indians , who came to Malaysia during British colonial rule brought their colourful culture such as ornate temples, spicy cuisine and exquisite sarees. Local Hindu temples exhibit the colourful architecture of Southern India. Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur is one of the most ornate and elaborate Hindu temples in the country. The detailed decorative scheme for the temple incorporates intricate carvings, gold embellishments, hand-painted motifs and exquisite tiles from Italy and Spain. Sikhs also have temples of more staid design in many parts of country. Most of the Indian women wear their traditional dress, Saree. Made from a myriad of materials, textures and designs, the saree is truly exquisite. Popular with northern Indian ladies is the salwar kameez or Punjabi suit; a long tunic worn over trousers with a matching shawl. The kurta is the traditional attire for men on formal
occasions. It is a long knee-length shirt that is typically made from cotton or linen cloth. The largest indigenous ethnic groups of Sabah's population are the Kadazan Dusun, the Bajau and the Murut. Kadazan Dusun is the largest ethnic group in Sabah followed by Bajau and Murut. In Sarawak, Iban is the largest ethnic group followed by Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. Two unique architectural highlights of the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak are longhouses and water villages. Homes to interior riverine tribes, longhouses are traditional community homes. Rustic water villages built on stilts are also commonly found along riverbanks and seafronts. Houses are linked by plank walkways with boats anchored on the sides. Transport around the village is usually by sampan or canoe. Sarawak, has a plethora of unique tribal costumes. Using a variety of designs and native motifs, common materials for the Orang Ulu or upriver tribes are hand-loomed cloths, tree bark fabrics, feathers and beads. Sarawak is known for the woven pua kumbu of the Iban tribe, songket of the Sarawak Malay, colourful beaded accessories, traditional jewellery and head adornments. Like Sarawak, Sabah is also blessed with a rich mix of ethnic groups. Each group adorns attire, headgears and personal ornaments with distinctive forms, motifs and colour schemes characteristic of their respective tribe and district. Notable hats and headdresses include the Kadazan Dusun ladies' straw hats, the Bajau woven dastar and the headdress of the Lotud man, which indicate the number of wives he has by the number of fold points. Malaysia's multi-cultural and multi-racial heritage is most prominently exhibited in its diverse music and dance forms. The dances of the indigenous Malay, Orang Asli and different ethnic peoples of Sabah and Sarawak are truly exotic and enchanting. As the Chinese, Indians and Portuguese settled in Malaysia, the traditional dances of their homelands became a part of Malaysia's culture and heritage. Malaysia boasts a delightful variety of traditional handicrafts. As most artisans are Muslims, Malaysian handicraft designs are heavily influenced by Islam. The religion prohibits the depiction of the human form in art. Hence, most designs are based on natural elements such as the interlacing of leaves or vines, flowers and animals. Malaysians' strong sense of community is reflected in many
of their traditional games and pastimes. These activities are still played by local children on cool afternoons and are also a communal activity during festivities such as before or after the rice harvest season and weddings.