My friend who has just started to live in Singapore guided us to Chinatown where she had fond memories from when she had visited. I have been to China and visited Chinatowns in Japan and North America, but Chinatown in Singapore was different from the others. Here’s a complete itinerary to know Peranakan Culture in Singapore.
The scenery retains the original atmosphere and it was unique to me. We visited Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and found a very active and lively religion there. We also came across Indian temples with lots of Indian people praying in the middle of Chinatown. The coexistence of several religions and cultures has created the unique atmosphere of Chinatown in Singapore.
Learn the History of Peranakan
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 like the culture. Singapore has a long history as a trading port and travelers settled there and had family and their descendants are called Peranakans. It is mainly Chinese, but Indian, Arab and Eurasians also are included. The National Museum of Singapore is a good start to understanding Peranakan background and history.
Enjoy the Beadwork by Nyonya
After visiting the National Museum of Singapore, we went to Peranakan Museum. Peranakan Museum displays fine art and objects. Especially, Traditional Wedding exhibition, Nyonya needlework and glass beadwork were astonishing. It features traditional needlework that is used in Peranakan weddings and ceramic goods with gorgeous designs and colors.
Glass beadwork needs a high skill of design in deciding how many glass 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 of cuisines and also fine quality furniture.
Beauty of Peranakan Culture
In the Katong area, we can still see Peranakan terraced houses. It was interesting to know how Peranakan have 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 residences. Peranakan decorate 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.
In the early morning, walk around the Fort Cunning Park and visit to National Museum of Singapore located on the north side of the park for two to three hours. Next head to Peranakan Museum or a 10-minute walk and spend one hour. If you still have energy, take a walk along the Singapore River to Asian Civilisations Museum spending one to two hours. During the day, ride on SBS Transit to Chinatown exploring the area. If you have time, try to visit Katong area by SBS Transit.