Amongst the most auspicious of flowers in the repertoire of Chinese decoration, the peony is held in particular esteem by the Peranakan or Straits Chinese. Much admired for its large pink blossoms with their lush ruffled petals, the peony is a symbol of spring, love and affection, and feminine beauty. Unsurprisingly, it is ubiquitous on wares and gifts related to nuptials.
The Malay term peranakan, or locally born, dates to the 19th century, and refers to a community with a far older lineage, descendants of traders from imperial China and the Indian subcontinent, and citizens of the 15th century port of Malacca. The former Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore may be strongholds of peranakan culture, but communities exist throughout Southeast Asia.