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Penang Hokkien Rhymes & Songs (Text Format)

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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.

Nursery Rhymes & Ditties in Penang Hokkien

  1. A3phien3 (Opium)

  2. Air si3 chooi4 ("Air" means water)

  3. Am1bong3-bong1 (In Total Darkness)

  4. Guek1 Kim3 Chnae1 (The Moon is Shining Brightly)

  5. Chau1 Mek1 Kong1 (The Dear Grasshopper)

  6. Chinese Zodiac Animals

  7. Eh1ya1tork1 (The Shorty)

  8. Xiào kio1 chio3 ("Xià" means laugh)

  9. Linking Rhyme

  10. Pa1 Pa1 Lang3 (The Dragonfly)

  11. Tek Gar Kee (Beancurd Sticks)

  12. Ting1 Tong3 Tiang1

  13. Tua33 Phau3 (Big Fire-Cracker)

  14. Tua33 Pui2 (The Fatso)
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.

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Selected Books related to the Hokkien Language

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