I hardly watch Singaporean dramas, but this drama piqued my curiosity, especially since my grandmother is a Nyonya lady. After watching a couple of episodes on tv in Malaysia, I quickly bought the dvd. I’m sure many of you don’t know what a Nyonya is. Allow me to explain. A Nyonya (woman) or Baba (man) are descendants of a Straits Chinese and a Malay. Hence, Nyonyas and Babas are found in Malayisa. Their unique culture is a mixture of Chinese and Malay traditions, the most famous aspect being Nyonya food. Believe me, Nyonya food is absolutely delicious, especially the cakes or kueh (in Hokkien).
Being a 34 episode drama, it was a rather long drama. However, the story spans across two generations. It tells the story of Ju Xiang (Jeanette Aw), a Nyonya girl born into a prominent family. However, since her mother is the second wife (used to be a servant in the household) of the master in the house, she is treated as a lowly servant. Due to an accident when she was a child, Ju Xiang has since been a deaf-mute. She is a kind hearted person who excels in all things a Nyonya girl ought to know, including bead embroidery and cooking. However, everyone in the household besides her mother and loyal maid treats her with cruelty, especially the first mistress of the house. She is forced to marry Charlie Zhang (Desmond Sim), a rich and ruthless businessman who is eager to make Ju Xiang his mistress, despite her handicap. Ju Xiang refuses to marry such a man and runs away from home. She then encounters Yamamoto Yousuke (Dai Yang Tian), a handsome Japanese photographer who assists in her getaway to Singapore. They get married and Ju Xiang gives birth to a daughter, Yue Niang (Jeanette Aw). When the Japenese invades Singapore, Ju Xiang and Yamamoto Yousuke get killed, leaving an 8 year old Yue Niang behind.
Yue Niang finds her way to her grandmother’s house and is taught how to cook and sew. The rest of the Huang family has fled Malacca during the war, leaving her grandmother and the maid to look after the house. They struggle financially, but is able to get by with Yue Niang’s innovative idea to sell her kuehs. The rest of the family returns a decade later and does not accept Yue Niang as a member of the Huang family, degrading her to the status of a servant without pay. Yue Niang ends up suffering the same fate as her mother, often being abused, bullied and discriminated against. Although she wishes to leave the house, she has her grandmother to think of and puts up with all the nonsense.
Yue Niang turns out to be as beautiful lady, just like her mother. This attracts many attentions from Rich Babas. However, she has already fallen for the only grandson of the Chen family, whom she thought was a penniless driver. Chen Xi (Qi Yu Wu) has concealed his identity from Yue Niang in order for him to get to know her more. However, their love was not meant to be. After going through many obstacles, Yue Niang admits defeat and lets Chen Xi go. Chen Xi is forced to marry Yue Niang’s cousin, Zhen Zhu (Eelyn Kok). Yue Niang is also forced to marry Liu Yi Dao (San Yow), the butcher. After much persuasion and reasoning, they decide to be sworn siblings instead. In return, Yue Niang helps Liu Yi Dao and his brothers financially by starting a business selling bird’s nests.
Despite being married, Chen Xi still seeks out Yue Niang, refusing to let her go. He promises to divorce his current wife, but Yue Niang refuses. Yue Niang ends up marrying a Caucasian lawyer, Paul. She suffers two miscarriages and ends up adopting her cousin’s son. All of this is retold by an elderly Yue Niang to her granddaughter, Angela (Felicia Chin).
Overall, this was quite an accurate representation of Perenakan families during those days, as commented by my grandmother. Despite being quite draggy in some parts, I still enjoyed the drama at the end. There were times that I felt like killing the people who kept torturing Yue Niang and was quite annoyed that she did not end up marrying Chen Xi. However, I have to keep in mind that this is all just fiction. It has made me more curious about my heritage and how my grandmother grew up as a young girl. I can see why this drama had the highest viewership in Singapore. 9/10
If you are interested in more, check out the official website!