Nov 22, 2009

Big Baba Blog-Out

What's your impression of peranakans? For me, my last impression of peranakans is probably from the Mediacorp TV series "Little Nonya": the batik sarong, the intricate jewellery pieces, the elaborate dinners and their dinnerware and the mixture of dialect and malay in their conversation.

That's just a tip of what Peranakan culture is, that is, what I realised after I visited here:

Right at the doorway, you would have noticed a father and daughter pair of statues. The daughter is waving to her mother, who's situated at the 2nd floor. They are all dressed in nonya clothes. Do keep a lookout for the family when you visit the Peranakan Museum.

There are 10 permanent galleries distributed across 3 levels of the museum. In addition, there will be special exhibition galleries as well, from time to time. Right now till 13 December 2009, you can catch some of the finest Peranakan jewellery, such as the kerosang (a set of 3 jewelled brooches - I love those, they're so beautiful!) at the museum's latest special exhibition "Baba Bling: The Peranakans and Their Jewellery".

Starting from Gallery 1, at Level 1: The Origins, we were introduced to a world of Peranakans and their history.

Portraits of Peranakans from Singapore, Malacca, Penang and more. You may spot someone familiar here :P

My favourite section would probably be "Wedding", from Galleries 2 to 5 situated at level 2.

Do you know that that a Peranakan wedding takes 12 days? Wow... and there are many many interesting customs, some of which very similar to that of the Chinese, such as a boy, from the family of many sons and living parents, will be asked to roll on the wedding bed, a few days before the wedding, to increase the chances of the new couple conceiving a son.

And the role of sireh, otherwise known as betel nuts and 槟榔, is also very crucial in a Peranakan wedding. It all starts with the match-making session, where the bride-to-be's mother will offer sireh to the groom-to-be's mother, as a form of hospitality, and in return, the groom-to-be's mother would offer sireh to the bride-to-be's mother to signify the start of the match-make negotiation.

And on the last day of the wedding, the bride will carry with her, a sireh set, to her husband's house.

A sireh set.

Elaborate wedding gifts such as the pagoda trays used to keep jewellery pieces were also given:

Gilded pagoda trays

Besides their intricate craftwork through jewellery and wedding gifts, we were also treated to a array of nonya craftwork such as beadwork and embroidery in Gallery 6, located at Level 3.


Lucky for us, we managed to catch a live demo on art of embroidery as there was a book launch held on the Blog-Out day as well.

At the "Religion" gallery, located at Level 3 (Gallery 7), what caught my eyes was the Catholic altar. Most Peranakans were Daoists and believed in ancestor worship. Hence, amongst the heavily Daoist influence display of artefacts in this gallery, the display of the one artefact - the Catholic Altar, is very striking. It depicts the conversion of religion from a Peranakan Chinese family from Daoism and ancestor worship to Catholicism.

On to the next gallery, a familiar porcelain artefact caught my eye. It's the kamcheng, which means covered container. The first time I came to know this term is via the TV series "Little Nonya". In the show, kamcheng was a very important item, it's signified as a family heirloom (the only thing the mother passed to the main character, and the only item she refused to sell despite their extreme poverty days.) Hence, I was very curious, what's the purpose of kamchengs. Kamcheng is primarily used to store food and serve food. There are also smaller versions which are used to store cosmetics.

Row of kamchengs

And lastly, also at the "Food and Feasting" gallery at Gallery 9 situated at Level 3, there's a centrepiece display of the Yap Ah Loy Tok Panjang. Notice that all the dinnerware features the surname "Yap". Wow... customised dinnerware for each family.

Notice the character 葉 is decorated on the rim of the porcelain plates.

So, are you tempted to go on a Peranakan trail as well? From 27 Nov to 6 Dec, the Peranakan Association is holding Peranakan Festival. Do check out the exciting activities planned for you.

If you would like to embark on the Peranakan culture tour from the Peranakan museum, like me, you can visit at the museum at:

View Larger Map

A great thanks to the Peranakan Association of Singapore for organising this Blog-Out session, I was given a chance to have a glimpse of the peranakan way of living via the artefacts at the Peranakan Museum. :)

And if you would like to catch more sneaks of the museum, visit my facebook album.

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