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Culture
 
 
 

General

Culture in Malaysia draws on the varied cultures of the different people of Malaysia. The first people to live in the area were indigenous tribes that still remain; they were followed by the Malays, who moved there from mainland Asia in ancient times. Chinese and Indian cultural influences made their mark when trade began with those countries, and increased with immigration to Malaysia. Other cultures that heavily influenced that of Malaysia include Persian, Arabic and British. The many different ethnicities that currently exist in Malaysia have their own unique and distinctive cultural identities, with some crossover.

Some cultural disputes exist between Malaysia and neighbouring countries, notably Indonesia. The two countries have a similar cultural heritage, sharing many traditions and items. However, disputes have arisen over things ranging from culinary dishes to Malaysia's national anthem. Strong feelings exist in Indonesia about protecting their national heritage. The Malaysian and Indonesian government have met to defuse some of the tensions resulting from the overlaps in culture. Feelings are not as strong in Malaysia, where most recognise that many cultural values are shared.

Public support for the arts is meagre. Malaysian society for the past century has been so heavily geared toward economic development that the arts have suffered, and many practitioners of Malaysia's aesthetic traditions mourn the lack of apprentices to carry them on. The possibility exists for a Malaysian arts renaissance amid the country's growing affluence.

Architecture

Architecture in Malaysia is a combination of many styles, from Islamic and Chinese styles to those brought by European colonists. Malay architecture has changed due to these influences. Houses in the north are similar to those in Thailand, while those in the south are similar to those in Java. New materials, such as glass and nails, were brought in by Europeans, changing the architecture. Houses are built for tropical conditions, raised on stilts with high roofs and large windows, allowing air to flow through the house and cool it down. Wood has been the main building material for much of Malaysia's history; it is used for everything from the simple kampung to royal palaces. In Negeri Sembilan traditional houses are entirely free of nails. Besides wood, other common materials such as bamboo and leaves were used. The Istana Kenangan in Kuala Kangar was built in 1926, and it the only Malay palace with bamboo walls. The indigenous people of East Malaysia live in longhouses and water villages. Longhouses are elevated and on stilts, and can house 20 to 100 families. Water villages are also built on stilts, with houses connected with planks and most transport by boats.

Chinese architecture can be divided into two types, traditional and Baba Nyonya. Baba Nyonya households are made of colourful tiles and have large indoor courtyards. Indian architecture came with the Malaysian Indians, reflecting the architecture of southern India where most originated from. Some Sikh architecture was also imported. Malacca, which was a traditional centre of trade, has a large variety of building styles. Large wooden structures such as the Palace of Sultan Mansur Shah exist from early periods. Chinese influence can be seen in brightly decorated temples and terraced shop houses. The largest remaining Portuguese structure in Malacca is the A Famosa fort. Other colonial building include the Dutch Stadthuys, the Dutch Colonial town brick buildings, and buildings built by the British such as the Memorial Hall, which combines Baroque and Islamic architecture.

The shapes and sizes of houses differ from state to state. Common elements in Peninsular Malaysia include pitched roofs, verandahs, and high ceilings, raised on stilts for ventilation. The woodwork in the house is often intricately carved. The floors are at different levels depending on the function of the room. Mosques have traditionally been based on Javanese architecture. In modern times, the government has promoted different projects, from the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, to a whole garden city, Putrajaya. Malaysian firms are developing skyscraper designs that are specifically for tropical climates.


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