03 Desember 2011

The Peranakan Museum, showcasing Singapore’s Cultural Heritage

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Singapore is a country with ultra-modern and high tech written all over it. From the fast paced metropolis that is the central city, Singapore is an economic/ business based society with a stronghold in modern technology and a significant place in the global markets. Singapore is also a melting pot of cultures, traditions, cuisines and customs. With a largely Chinese population, Singapore has retained the customs of old. However, the values of different colonies in Singapore have integrated and permeated through each other to give rise to the dynamic, diverse Singaporean society as we know it today. Through immigration and emigration, Singapore is now home to people from all over the world. From the neighbouring Chinese to the Japanese, Europeans, South Asians and Americans, Singapore is a wonderful amalgam of cultures and ethnicities. Tucked away amidst the sprawling, well maintained streets and far reaching skyscrapers are cultural gems that capture the true essence of Singaporean culture. The Peranakan Museum is one such building.

The mission of the Peranakan Museum is to extensively promote and explore ancient cultures like the Peranakan culture that was prevalent in South East Asia, so that there would be awareness and appreciation of these cultures. The museum building was originally a school, namely the Tao Nan School. Plans were laid out for the school in 1910 with the building design paying homage to an eclectic, colonial style with broad facades and balconies. Named the Tao Nan building back then, the structure initially taught Hokkien, then Mandarin and finally incorporating English, Tamil and Malay in the post World War II decades. However, the rising number of pupils and the increasing popularity of the school meant that the institution had to relocate its premises to a larger building at another location. This move occurred in 1982.

In 1994, the building came to be the home of the Asian Civilizations Museum which showcased different aspects of Chinese culture, civilization and architecture. Over time, the museum developed into the Peranakan Museum where the focus was mainly on Peranakan Culture. The Chinese Peranakans were descendants of traders from China who settled the region of Malacca in the coastal regions of Sumatra and Java before permanently relocating to Singapore for livelihood and trading purposes. There are also other types of Peranakan people; the Jawi Peranakans who are descended from South-Indian Muslim merchants and native women after being intermarried and the Chitty Melaka, a kind of Peranakans who were said to have resulted from marriages involving South Indian Hindu merchants and local women. In any case, the Peranakan cultural heritage is a distinctive hybrid culture unlike any other and the museum deserves a visit.

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