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Singapore – on history and heritage

Singapore – on history and heritage

Singapore is very eager and does a great job to reflect on its short history since it was founded in 1819 by a British man. Because Singapore’s past is time-limited, it does focus on a broad spectrum of Asian culture and various influences from its Asian immigrants, who have shaped the country and are Singaporian citizens today.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is a fine example reflecting on Singapore’s identity and heritage and mirrors the melting pot society. It also recounts on the people and history before Singapore became a state. It tells about the countries fate, when Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore arrived on its shores and met the Muslim Malay king living in his kingdom. The land that was formed into British colony and shaped to be Britain’s main naval base in Asia. Singapore has gained independence as a sovereign republic in 1965.

Monument of Raffles – unfortunately not his best looking day :) The plaque reads: ‘On this historic site, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore on 28th January 1819, and with genius and perception changed the destiny of Singapore from an obscure fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis.’ There are also numerous sculptures of early business at the river bank. Tomek is looking at a scene from around 1840, when the Chettiars (caste of sellers from India) were successful in money lending to the Chinese, who engaged in the thriving trade between Singapore and China.

Raffles Monument Singapore Sculpture of Chinese merchants Singapore


The Singapore river was once a busy trading port for cotton, spices and rubber. The European trader with a hat is making a deal with a Chinese businessman. The Chinese pigtailed coolie and turban wearing Indian coolie (laborers who did the hardest jobs like carrying goods at the harbour) are not at least impressed by my weight :)

Trading at the river bank Singapore


This famous British Victorian style hotel opened in 1887 and was named after Raffles. It was the most modern building at the time and the first building with electricity in Singapore. It was also here that the last surviving Singapore tiger was made extinct,  shot at hotel premises after escaping a ‘native show’.

Raffles Hotel Singapore


The British general post office building from 1928 named after Robert Fullerton, governor of first British settlements, has been converted into a luxury hotel.

The Fullerton Hotel Singapore


British names on Singapore’s signs.

British names in Singapore


British monarchy in Singapore. Prince on pub. Queen on newspaper cover.

British pub Singapore British news in Singapore


British flair at the river front restaurant zones. The Penny Black is a Victorian London pub named after the first self-adhesive British stamp. Ironically, with a lot of construction and restructuring going on in Singapore, this place was designed and built in England, then shipped and installed in its entirety to its present location.

British pub Singapore


Last unobstructed view of the original tiny shop houses in the back.

Construction in Singapore


The exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum shows what life was like along the river banks, when Singapore was a peaceful fishing village and how the city has been gradually, sometimes drastically, changed into a bustling metropolis with an impressive city skyline. As an art nouveau fanatic, worshipper of fin de siecle architecture, fashion and design, I looked at the displayed pictures that explain the enormous efforts put into Singapore’s transformation with mixed feelings as a lot of the beautiful British colonial houses were torn down to make room for modern glass office buildings.

Raffles Place. And exactly the same Raffles Place after the 1960s demolition and creation of the financial centre.

old picture of Singapore Financial Centre Singapore


The Asian Civilisations Museum building still standing in old splendour overlooking the Singapore river. The ‘Patterns of Trade’ showroom displayed extraordinary textiles from India with sacred motifs and floral patterns from the last six centuries that are still used in fashion design today.

Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore


I  liked the interactive parts  – learning about cultural differences by dressing up as maharajah and preparing Asian meals with plastic exhibits was not a typical museums experience.

Going Indian. Found a thought for perpetual travelers.
Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore


The purpose of this depiction is probably another one than to make you smile.

Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore


Timeless fashion. Classic fisherman pants are worn by young visitors.

Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore


The dominating Chinese population has got a very nice museum at one of the old houses in Chinatown to reflect on its heritage in Singapore.

Chinatown heritage museum Singapore


The Centre has recreated the 50s interiors of the shop house, showing beautifully restored cubicles in which the Chinese immigrants lived. There were many cubicles on each floor of a shop house and its tenants had to share kitchen, toilet and water facilities.

Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore


Carpenters, sellers, coolies, prostitutes, fortune tellers, housemaids for the rich, tailors and painters were all saving their money to return to China. Many sought distraction in opium and gambling, loosing everything to their addiction.

Chinese Heritage Centre Singapore


Very detailed demonstration of the sanitary situation – in contrast to advances in laundry procedures: little or no ironing necessary with this powder.

Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore Chinatown Heritage Centre Singapore


The tailor’s workshop looking like someone’s  still using it.

Chinese Heritage Centre Singapore


Replica of a tea house from the 60s.

Chinese Heritage Centre Singapore


And a real Chinese tea house we found in Chinatown. Could be a museum exposition. Like these Cantonese actors, who were not real but suddenly appeared out of the dark, moving in the spotlight!
Chinese restaurant Singapore Chinese Heritage Centre Singapore


Huge Chinese housing estate behind Chinatown.

Chinatown Singapore


The lucky cat is an ever favorite souvenir and just as popular with locals. Contrary to Chinese claims the fortune cat is a Japanese invention. These maneki-neko have solar-powered moving arms endlessly engaged in the beckoning gesture.

Lucky Cat Singapore


I had a glimpse on the harbour from a distance. It is crowded with ships which are only dots in this so so picture :)

Harbour Singapore


The Majestic was a Cantonese opera built by a rubber magnate for his wife during colonial times, it was a movie theater in the 40s until it closed in the 90s and was turned into a mall in the 2000s. History has its way to turn things around.

The Majestic Singapore


Singapore’s primary kids learning about their heritage. There is a lot to learn about Singapore!

School children Singapore

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