Snapshots with Stories

18 – The bridal costume of grandma Tan Tjoen Lee (Han Tek Nio)

At the open day of the CIHC (Chinese Indonesian Heritage Center), the following question came up: what to do to preserve three-dimensional objects? No solution came at that time. As I wanted to know what to do with objects belonging to my family, I started searching for an organisation that could possibly assist with storing three-dimensional heritage objects.

After a long search, I came across the Royal Museum of Ethnology (RMV) in Leiden. The Museum is interested in expanding its still modest Peranakan collection, including with contributions from the Chinese Indonesian community. RMV is especially keen on objects with stories behind them, and even better when they come with documentation and photographs. However, due to lack of space, the museum can only accept a limited amount of objects.

As a test case, I donated the bridal costume of my grandmother Tan Tjoen Lee (Han Tek Nio).
The costume had been worn four times, the first time being the wedding of grandma to grandpa Tan Tjoen Lee on January 2, 1901 (no photograph available). After that, it was used by her two elder daughters, and the bride of her eldest son.

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The weddings of aunt Ting Tan and uncle Phoa Liong Djin in 1925,
aunt Len Tan en uncle Riki Kan in 1928, aunt Lucy Kan and uncle Freddie Tan in 1927.

The bridal costume came from Indonesia in its original box filled with various herbs as a conservation method. These herbs contributed to the fact that the costume has remained intact and has kept its original colors over time.

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In order to enhance Leiden’s RVM involvement in securing the Chinese-Indonesian Peranakan heritage, I have set up the Kan Sioe Yao Fund together with the museum in December 2013.

The goal of this fund is the following:
To contribute to the preservation of Chinese-Indonesian Peranakan heritage present in the Netherlands, through research into – and disclosure of – this heritage for a wider audience.

The inventory number of the bridal costume at the RMV is 6206-1, and can be viewed on the following site: