Peranakan culture in Singapore
I had never heard of Peranakan (Non Malays born in Malaysia) before traveling to Singapore, but when I saw beautiful glass beadwork by Nyonya (Female Chinese Peranakan) I started to really liked the culture.
Singapore has a long history as a trading port and travelers settled there and had family and their descendants were called Peranakans. It was mainly Chinese, but Indian, Arab and Eurasian also were included.
The National Museum is a good start to understanding Peranakan’s background and history.
After visiting the National Museum of Singapore, I went to Peranakan Museum. Peranakan Museum displays fine art and objects. Especially, Traditional Wedding exhibition, Nyonya needlework and beadwork were astonishing.
It features traditional needlework that is used in Peranakan weddings and ceramic goods with gorgeous designs and colors. Beadwork needs a high skill of design in deciding how many beads are needed and which colors to use. It’s the most complicated puzzle with very small glass beads. The intricate workmanship, luxurious materials and high level of concentration results in pieces of great detail and complex texture.
The Museum displays Kamcheng, brightly colored Nyonyaware porcelain, to serve a mixture cuisines and also fine quality furnitures.
In the Katong area, we can still see Peranakan terraced houses. It was interesting to know how Peranakan kept their traditions and adapted many aspects of Singaporean culture to develop their community.
The Peranakan Terraced Arcade is a row of shop houses which have the first floor as a shop and the 2nd and 3rd floors as residential. Peranakan decorated the outside of their houses with bright tiles imported from Europe, and this has created a mixture of Asian-European traditional style.
Some shops are selling traditional products and opening up their houses to display their old furniture, costumes and slippers.
One shop, Kim Choo Kueh Chang, produces traditional sweets, Kueh Dadar with sugared coconuts and Pandan leaf crepes. It was sticky and crispy with a coconut flavor.