A sister to the Asian Civilisations Museum, The Peranakan Museum is set in a gorgeous three-storey building on Armenian Street and is well deserving of an hour or two of your time. You’ll find it at the base of Fort Canning Park and just a short walk from the National Museum.
Dating back to 1912, the building that today houses the museum began life as the Tao Nan School, when it taught practical courses to students in Hokkien and later in Mandarin. It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, then reverted to being a school. It was later converted into a museum. At first, it housed a permanent exhibition of the Asian Civilisations Museum, and then in 2005 it was closed and redeveloped to showcase Peranakan culture as the Peranakan Museum.
The museum comprises nine galleries across three floors. The first gallery is one of the most interesting, as it covers the identity of the Peranakan people. Peranakan means “child of” in Malay and it is used to describe people of mixed ethnic heritage. In Singapore’s case, Chinese Peranakans are in the majority but in other parts of Southeast Asia you’ll find Indian and Eurasian Peranakans, for example. The predominantly photographic display details the lives of Peranakan people in Singapore.
The next five galleries occupy all of the second floor and are dedicated solely to the extensive wedding rituals of Peranakan people. The displays are detailed and very well presented, with the bedrooms being especially noteworthy. The last floor is a catchall of everything: language and fashion (gallery 6), religion (gallery 7), public life (gallery 8) and food (gallery 9). If you’re limited for time, be sure to take a peek at the religion gallery, which includes ancestor worship and death rituals.
While you’re welcome just to wander the museum at your own pace, there are free one-hour tours in English on Monday to Friday at 11:00 and 14:00, Saturday 11:00 and 15:00 and on Sunday and public holidays at 11:00, 14:00 and 15:00.
The museum also offers semi-regular activities and special events. Check their website for details.
By Stuart McDonald.
Last updated on 1st February, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.