The Beautiful Heritage of Malaysia

By: Thomas Teo

Malaysia is a place full of heritage as there are different races living together.  Malaysian celebrates festivals together regardless of races. To understand the heritage of Malaysia, we can look into people, architecture, games and relaxation, music and dance, and attire.


Before Malaysia was formed, Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnic group lived together. Today, Malays are the largest race among the population in Malaysia. Malay usually refers to person who speaks Malay language and belief in Islam. Chinese in Malaysia are mostly immigrate from China during 19th century. The 3 dialect that commonly speak are Hokkien, Cantonese, and Mandarin. During the British colonial rule, Tamil-speaking South Indian immigrants came into Malaysia. They brought in their beautiful cultural likes ornate temples, spicy cuisine, and sarees. There are other indigenous ethnic live in Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak. In Sabah, you can find Kadazan Dusun, Bajau, and Murut; while in Sarawak you can find Dayaks, Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu. If you visit Sabah and Sarawak, make sure you did not miss out their festival celebration and living places.


The main elements of traditional Malay houses are built on stilts, high-pitched roofs and large windows. In Negeri Sembilan, some of the houses are built of hardwood, and beams which held together with wedges without using any nails. Moorish design is another element used by many Malays or Islamic building such as Islamic Arts Museum, mosques, and building in Putrajaya.

There are two types of Chinese architecture can be found, which is traditional and Baba-Nyonya. You can found it in Melaka and Penang. The buildings are built with indoor courtyards and colourful tiles.  One of the famous Chinese traditional buildings is Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, located in Melaka.

To look into Indian architecture, Hindu temples are the best place to study as they represent the beauty of the region. Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur is one of the most symbolic Hindu temples in Malaysia. The building is full of decorative design with complex carvings, gold embroidery, hand painted motifs, and tiles from Italy or Spain.


The children in Malaysia usually spend their free time with traditional games, even though the world is full of cyber activities and information now. Traditional games or sports like Silat, Sepak Takraw, Wau, gasing, wayang kulit, and congkak are the activities practiced during free time. The activities not only entertaining but also require skills in order to win the games. It is more fun to play together with a bunch of friend.

Music and Dance

The music and dance in Malaysia is also an important element representing Malaysia. There are many types of music instrument in Malaysia, such as rebana ubi, konbang, gambus, and sape.  Along with the instruments, traditional dance is performed during the shows. The famous dances among Malays are Kuda Kepang, Zapin, Joget, and Silat.

Chinese Lion Dance is also famous dance in Malaysia, sometimes will also perform along with Dragon dance during Chinese New Year. Lion Dance is energetic and entertaining, as the lion dance along the beat of Chinese drum, tagu and clanging of cymbals. There are few movies about Lion Dance produced in Malaysia and Singapore to spread the beauty and culture of Lion Dance to the public.

Indian dance is not an easy dance to learn. Bharata Natyam is a classical Indian dance – poetry in motion.  The dance is based on ancient Indian epics and form by over 100 dance steps and gestures. To master the dance, it requires many years of practice. Bhangra, originally a harvest dance is a folk music and dance of Sikh community. The dance is romantic centred theme with singing and dance along the heavy beats of dhol.

Traditional Attire

Today, traditional attire like the Malay baju kebaya, Indian saree and Chinese cheongsam are still widely worn in Malaysia. Malay women wore baju kurung, a songket or batik printing knee-length loose-fitting blouse over a long skirt with pleats at the side. Baju kurung also completed with a seledang r shawl or tudung or headscarf. Malay men’s outfit is baju melayu, a loose tunic worn over trousers with a supin – a short sarong wrapped around the hips.

Cheongsam, a comfortable and elegant long dress is the traditional outfit of a Chinese lady. IT has a high collar , button near the shoulder, snug fit at the waist and slit on either one or both sides. The dress is often made of silk, embroidered satin or other fabrics.

Another fashion icon in Malaysia is Indian attire, saree. Saree is a 5 – 6 yards width cloth worn with petticoat or similar or matching contrast blouse. It was wrapped around the body and the printed end is draped over the shoulder. The petticoat is word below or above bellybutton, function as holding the saree. Another tradition outfit for Indian ladies is salwar kameez or Punjabi suit. Indian men usually wear a kurta in a formal occasion, a long knee – length shirt made from cotton or linen cloth.

Want to experience the heritage of Malaysia? Come and visit and you will find that it is excited and fun travelling in Malaysia.