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Sources on Medicine in the Peranakan Community

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Back of a prescription in the Yok Tua concerning the nourishment of adolescents. Such prescriptions were often handwritten in ink in Chinese, paired with Malay annotations at the back or on the margins.


Malay annotation reads "Budak 15 tahun / makan satu ekor ayam / Jantan atau perempuan" which translates to "[For] children aged 15, eat one whole chicken, [suitable for] males or females."

Click here to read some translations,

Click here to see the database,

Click here to visit the NLB archive.

Courtesy of Mr and Mrs Tan Geok Koon.

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Medicinal recipe in a bound family collection that has been passed down from generation to generation. Malay annotation reads "Obat Tim Itek / Iteh Betina." 


Itek Tim is a duck and salted vegetable soup served by Peranakan families during special occasions. Check out one of the variations of the menu here.

Courtesy of Peter Lee.

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'Anomi' is a manuscript by Ong Swi Pan, believed to be published in Batavia of the Dutch East Indies circa the early 1900s. The book has 201 pages in total, typewritten in Bahasa Indonesia. The multi-chaptered monograph provides medical advice for readers with the strong mission to educate them on maintaining good health such as ways to preserve bone density, staying active, and having a proper diet. It primarily draws on scientific principles with tidbits of religious commentary and peribahasa (Malay proverbs). The book may be a struggle to read even for those fluent in Bahasa because of the different spelling conventions used. 'Anomi' reflects that traditional medicine practices were not only circulated within laymen's social circles but were taken seriously by the formally educated.

Yoke Tua

Peranakan Magazine 2020.2
To see the full recipes, click here

Yoke Tua


We are indebted to Mr and Mrs Tan, and Peter Lee as both sets of manuscripts will be scanned for digitisation and use for the research team. The files from the Yok Tua will be also hosted by the National Library for public access at a later date. The donation will be titled “A collection of Traditional Chinese Medical Slips: An inheritance from two Peranakan families – Donated by Mr and Mrs Tan Geok Koon.”

Select Bibliography of Peranakan Medical Texts


Lee, P. Collection of Traditional Chinese Medical Texts.


Ong S. P. (n. d.) Anomi: Di bikin oleh Orang Njang Giat Soeka Wartakan Ilmoe Pladjaran Aken Niaman. Batavia.


Tan, & Tan G. K. Collection of Traditional Chinese Medical Slips: An Inheritance from Two Peranakan Families. Tan Geok Koon.

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