I come in a pair
That the dainty wear
Embroidered in thread
Of silver, gold or red
Adorned with shiny beads
Colourful and tiny as seeds
Flat or set on high heels
Wear me and elation feels
I flatter all who slip me on
Kebayas and sarongs worn
Match your favourite colours
Admire your finery for hours
Can you guess what I am?
I am a pair of Peranakan beaded shoes.
An original riddle by
Khor Hui Min
27 June 2014
The Peranakan community, also popularly referred to as the Baba-Nyonya, is unique and only found in certain parts of Asia. In the Malay Peninsular, the community is commonly centred around the former British Straits Settlements of Penang (northern), Melaka (central) and Singapore (southern). The community came into being when Chinese traders married the local Malay women and settled down in the area, which is mainly why the communities are found largely in regions with ports. The ladies were referred to as ‘nyonya’, while the men were referred to as ‘baba’.
The origin of the Peranakan beaded slippers can be traced back to the early 20th century. Back then, the beaded slippers were worn by both men and women, but in modern times, only ladies wear them now. The beaded shoes were symbols of status, because they were handmade by highly skilled artisans,who took many hours to complete each pair. The shoes were worn by ladies to complement their ‘sarong kebaya’ outfit. Other adornments worn with the outfit include the ‘kerongsang’ (elaborate chained brooches) and a multitude of beautifully crafted jewellery.
The three photos above were taken at the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, Melaka, Malaysia, on 6 December 2013.
To read up more on the Peranakan community and culture as well as their unique beaded shoes, see:
1. The Penang Heritage City website.
2. The Wikipedia page on Peranakan beades shoes.
3. The Wikipedia page on the Peranakan community.
To learn more about writing riddles, visit the Young Writers’ website.