A Tapestry of Tradition: Yee Sang Unites a Multicultural Malaysian Family

by Rahim Said

Image from Royal Lake Club’s FB

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Kampung Bahru, the amalgamation of cultures and traditions within a well-established mixed Malay family unfolds during the auspicious season of welcoming the new year of the Dragon. 

Gathered around a table at the Chinese restaurant of the Royal Lake Club, this unique family of 10, representing Chinese, Malay, and Indian ancestry, embraces the time-honoured practice of yee sang, a symbolic ritual that binds them together.

The family’s youngest member recently married a man with ties to the diverse corners of the Indian subcontinent, adding yet another layer to this already rich cultural tapestry. 

Unfortunately, he couldn’t be present that night, but his absence did little to diminish the spirit of unity.

Rooted in the history of Kampung Bahru, the late father of the family, a man with a penchant for blending cultures, married two Chinese ladies and a Malay woman during his lifetime. 

The surviving matriarch, now in her 80s, radiates timeless beauty, a testament to the love and admiration she garnered from her late husband. As family members marveled at her photograph from her youth, it became evident that the late patriarch’s other two wives were equally enchanting.

Amidst the laughter and joy, the four brothers left behind by their father exemplify the essence of familial bonds. Their shared heritage and upbringing reflect in their strikingly similar appearances. Upon arrival, they exchanged hugs and kisses, displaying a genuine affection that spoke volumes about their closeness.

The eldest brother, an Anglophile with a penchant for meticulousness, took charge of the table setting. Despite the excellent Chinese cuisine at Bunga Raya, he brought a touch of refinement with cloth napkins, fine wine, and authentic porcelain spoons and long wooden chopsticks. 

Plastic utensils would not suffice for this gentleman’s commitment to maintaining the grandeur of their pre-Chinese dinner event.

When the centerpiece, a large dish of yee sang, was presented, the meticulous brother revealed a marinated salmon he had prepared. A thoughtful touch, emphasising the family’s dedication to preserving traditions in a modern context.

As the yee sang was tossed with long wooden chopsticks, the family echoed phrases of prosperity, long life, and happiness. 

The joyous shouts and laughter resonated like a united chorus, reminiscent of a corporate team-building workshop aiming to align diverse interests toward a common goal. 

Yet, for this family, the tradition serves as a binding force, a reminder of their parents’ expectations for them to stand united as one integrated family, transcending diverse backgrounds — a beacon of hope for the broader Malaysian society.

Dr. Rahim Said is a human behaviourist and regular contributor on digital media platforms. He is a professional management consultant, a corporate trainer and an executive coach specialising in coaching of senior executives and individual entrepreneurs with the purpose of modifying their behaviour in the pursuit of their cherished missions. (The views expressed by our columnist are entirely his own)