Always present in the do-not-miss lists of places to visit in Singapore, the Peranakan Museum showcases one of the most historically unique cultures of Singapore and among the best museums in Singapore. This is the culture of Peranakans, descendants of 18th-century Chinese immigrants to the region which is now constituted by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. These descendants assimilated into Malay communities and developed a distinct culture- with Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences – and an elite socio-political standing. Since this culture is rapidly disappearing from the region, this museum serves a special purpose in celebrating it and serving it as a reminder of Singapore’s rich cultural past.
The themes of Peranakan life
Peranakan museum’s 10 galleries are displayed throughout three levels of the museum.
- Gallery 1, Origins. This gallery serves as an introduction to Peranakans and highlights Peranakan communities throughout Penang, Singapore, and Malacca. In this section there are also incredible life-sized portraits of notable people with Peranakan roots.
- Galleries 2 to 5, Wedding. These 4 galleries narrate the course of a 12-day Peranakan wedding, highlighting significant rituals and ceremonies in the process. Along with the display of the wedding chamber is the dynamic display of an elaborate wedding procession.
- Gallery 6, Nonya. This gallery displays Peranakan artwork, pieces that are signature examples of Peranakan art, which is distinctively and memorably ornate and colorful, an Eastern interpretation of the baroque style. There are not just historical pieces, but even a few modern interpretations of Peranakan art. The gallery also showcases marvelously regal Peranakan costumes and clothes and intricately crafted jewelry and furniture in styles inspirational to modern-day designers.
- Gallery 7, Religion. The artwork in this gallery illustrates the religion and beliefs of the Peranakans. Peranakans adhered to several different religious beliefs, depending on the time period. In the Eastern tradition they practiced buddhism, daoism, ancestral and spiritual worship. As British colonial rule became more influential, several peranakans converted to catholicism. Such a fusion of religions leave a remarkable mark on Peranakan art: for example, a daoist altar was converted into a catholic altar and was made to depict images of Jesus Christ.
- Gallery 8, Public Life. This spectacular gallery display has examples of the conduct of political and social affairs of the Peranakans as well as portraits of prominent Peranakans in Singaporean history.
- Gallery 9, Food and Feasting. The end of your tour contains a special treat: delicious displays and samples of Peranakan food. The gallery also displays fine Nonya porcelein, which is distinguished for its vivid enamel tints.
Given the elite status of Peranakan culture, you will be delighted to see so many articles made in the finest material and with the most skilled craftsmanship possible!
The museum is well-known for its display of a grand Peranakan wedding bed, in which Mrs. Quah Hong Chiam of Penan gave birth to seven of her eleven children. The bed has lush carvings of symbols off fertility, rich, colourful tassels and intricate embroidery on its sheets.
The arts sections contain a variety of ornate gold jewelry made for and worn by this elite class. Such regality is conceivable only with such means and in such a period of history!
Experience the culture with all your senses
The founders of the museum have ensured that Peranakan culture be experienced in its entirety. Thus Peranakan museum features not only static displays, but interactive exhibits as well; hence the performances and the eateries!
One especially lively simulation is a diorama which displays a Peranakan home with video-mounted portraits of elders arguing with one another, debating whether or not their offpsring lead culturally-appropriate lives.
It is without doubt that by visiting Peranakan Museum, you will come out feeling like you have re-lived a day in regal history!
Peranakan Museum Address:
The Peranakan Museum
39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941
From 10 am — 7 pm daily
10 am — 9 pm Friday
The admission charges to the Peranakan Museum are $6 for adult and $3 for student & senior citizens.
Peranakan Museum also has special exhibits and various cultural festivals on different occasions. The unique aspects of the museum put it in the list of best museums in Singapore.