The Penang Hokkien Rhymes and Songs on this page are some of the most popular for the Penang Hokkien-speaking people. I will be adding to this page from time to time. View also the companion page of Penang Hokkien Nursery Rhymes in video format.
Between 1860 and the Second World War, the Chinese people of Penang experienced a period of unprecedented prosperity. Although there has been a small minority of affluent people before then, the British trading port of George Town was very much struggling to survive. Experiments by Captain Francis Light on various commodity crops only yielded limited commercial success.
It was only in the second half of the 19th century that the British settlement of Penang experience true prosperity, fueled largely by the discovery of rich tin deposits in the Larut Valley. This coincided with the soaring demand for tin to feed the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, while on the other side of the world, political turmoil such as the Taiping Rebellion in China caused much hardship that resulted in an influx of penniless coolies that provided cheap labour.
In a span of one generation, the early Chinese community of Penang began to taste unprecedented wealth. The availability of disposable income and recreational time enabled a flourishing of local culture. It is during this period that a number of nursery rhymes and ditties were created. These rhymes have the purpose of educating, of teasing as well as of admonishing against specific evils in their society. It also reflects the often stereotype views of the local Penang Chinese community and their perception of other races in Penang.
On this page, I present the Hokkien Rhymes as they are, from the time I first learned them, without any censorship for political correctness. Rather than attempting to explain any racial bias that may exist in these rhymes, we should simply take them at face value, as an important part of the intangible heritage of the Penang Chinese community.
Thank you for visiting my website. I started it in 2003, and today it has over twenty thousand pages of information. My name is Timothy Tye. You can call me Tim. I have been writing my website full time since 1 November 2007, and I am enjoying every moment of it. I write my website to satisfy my own curiosity, but I am glad if the information is useful to you.