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Evolution of the Chinese shophouse facade in Malaysia: Manifestations of a diasporic people

Chiong, Fiona Wong E (2014) Evolution of the Chinese shophouse facade in Malaysia: Manifestations of a diasporic people. In: 23rd International Conference of Historians of Asia 2014 (IAHA2014), 23 - 27 August 2014, Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia.

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The Chinese shophouse, in particular the traditional style of the pre-war period, is a unique residential-business built form common in major towns and cities in Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia.This ubiquitous edifice was originally a built technology and concept of the Chinese immigrants that flocked to the Southern Seas in search for better prospects during the 19th century.The lives of the diasporic Chinese greatly intertwined with the shophouse – from daily living to commercial activities such as trading and business were all conducted within the premise of the shophouse.The shophouse gained importance and started to evolve its façade when the thriving Chinese emerged as wealthy middle-class that ultimately contributed to the economic urbanization and development of major towns in Malaya.Under presiding trends,the plain unadorned shophouse façade transformed into ornate stylistic ornamentations that reflected an eclectic mix of Chinese, European and Malay cultural symbols and motifs.This essay examines the evolution of shophouse typology and façade during the late 19th- and early 20th -century Malaya. The shophouse’s evolving fa ade was a manifestation of the diasporic Chinese immigrant community that not only asserted their culture but celebrated eclecticism and hybridity in a pluralistic Malayan milieu.Employing qualitative research methods mainly utilizing visual materials (photographs) and in-depth interviews, this visual study discusses the cultural significations and symbolisms underneath the shophouse façade ornamentations, particularly the eclectic façade at its peak of evolution. Visual arts concepts such as ornamentation, visual semiotics, iconography and style, as well as cultural concepts like diaspora, eclecticism and hybridity are referred.At present, with modernization and skyscrapers changing the Malaysian urban landscape, many of these shophouses have ceased importance and are now abandoned, defaced or destroyed.This study highlights the present critical scenario of a possible vanishing cultural heritage and recommends for necessary shophouse conservation actions to be taken.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: ISBN 978-967-0474-76-2 Organized by: Universiti Utara Malaysia and Malaysian Historical Society (Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Chinese shophouse, built typology, façade ornamentation, cultural diaspora, cultural heritage
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Divisions: School of International Studies
Depositing User: Mrs. Norazmilah Yaakub
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2015 07:11
Last Modified: 12 May 2016 02:56

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