Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum 27.9.05
Posted by Lisa Hill on November 16, 2005
After a good night’s sleep in the lap of luxury we made an early start for the Asian Civilisations Museum. (http://www.nhb.gov.sg/ACM/acm.shtml We had a terrific tour guide, Sandra, who showed us around the museum in Empress Place. (There are two, the other one covers a later period in Singapore history). Her theme was the voyages of a C13th Chinese admiral who made seven voyages before there was a change of emperor and all trade and contact with other countries was shut down. The emperor ordered that all records about the admiral be burnt, so all that is known about him is from records of places that he visited and from journals of those on the journey.
She showed us beautiful Chinese artefacts including an imperial bowl with a seal so fine that only the user could see it, and some less fine quality porcelain made for trade. There was also a bowl for a Sumatran emperor and some chinoiserie that my mother would love!
Singapore, she said, was a place between the two great civilisations of India and China, so there are elements of both cultures in some artefacts – like a Buddha with a top-knot, and on Chinese pottery, the Hindu swastika, for them, a symbol of hope for happiness. Islamic culture was influential too, because of their interest in continuing to develop knowledge during the European Dark Ages. There was a book of medicines, a pharmacopia, and navigation tools – which were developed because Muslims need to be able to orientate themselves towards mecca.
There was also a wonderful display of the Tang Ship, the wreck of an Arab dhow discovered only in 1998 and the contents restored and put on display. Wonderful pottery, especially the green splashware which I’d never seen before. There was a ewer with a lion’s head stopper, and some enchanting soup bowls which had tiny 3D animal figures in the bottom of the bowl… perhaps to encourage children to finish eating their dinner??
Definitely a place to visit again on a Singapore stopover.