Do you know you are part Peranakan?
This was told to me by my cousin. Apparently, my grandfather’s roots can be
traced to Peranakan. It caught me by surprise, but that could also be why my
‘mother tongue’ results are always unimpressive.
The Peranakan Museum in Singapore is one of the places you can visit to get an
insight into the Peranakan culture and heritage. Having gone off the grid for
renovation for 4 years, it reopened its doors to the public on February 16.
There are 3 levels to explore in the Peranakan Museum.
Level 1: Origins
What exactly makes one a Peranakan. By definition, Peranakan refers to
the descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled in the Malay archipelago and
adopted local customs, culture, and language. They have a unique hybrid
identity, blending Chinese, Malay, and European influences in their cuisine,
fashion, and traditions. While Peranakan Chinese are the majority, there are
sub-groups such as Peranakan Indians and Peranakan Eurasians.
The Origins on Level 1 attempts to unravel the Peranakan heritage with a
collection of photos and artefacts from the past.
Family and Community Life
You are welcome to a Perankan’s home on Level 2. First off is the family and
community life section.
Here you will see the furniture specially made for the Peranakan family. Look
closely, and you will appreciate the intriguing details, such as dragons on a
dresser and the exquisitely carved doors.
The Peranakans adopted different faiths, as seen on the halls’ various altars.
There is also a rate Peranakan carriage on display. This was probably used in
a traditional ceremony called Tedun, where a child selects objects which will
symbolically predict their future interest and personality.
Ceramics and Food Culture
Peranakan heritage extends to the food ware they use.
Look at the intricate designs on the plates, teapots and more.
Batik origins from Java, Indonesia. Peranakan adopts it with motifs such as
dragons, phoenixes and flora. Another difference is the colouring technique
The use of motifs extends to decorative textiles used for occasions such as
These designs are unique to Peranakan, even though most have Chinese roots.
Tuck away in a corner is an exploration zone. This is a spot for little ones.
Workshops may be conducted here occasionally.
You will be amazed by the delicate designs made for Peranakans
The wedding Peranakan headdress is elaborate and composed of several gilt
The jewellery is modern and fashionable, highlighting the styles of Peranakan.
The last section focuses on Peranakan Fashion.
Take a look at Peranakan Kebaya
There are also notable pieces on display, such as the shoes worn by Jeanette
Aw in Little Nonya.
Other exhibits include Ivan Heng Nonya Kebaya
Want to take a piece of Peranakan home with you?
Stop at Suns Singapore on level 1 and bring a souvenir home.
The Peranakan Museum is a treasure trove for those who want a peek at the
Peranakan Culture. This museum would appeal more to older teens and adults
rather than children. It would have been better in terms of interactive
displays, given that it had years to explore the option.
Kids do have an activity trail that they can use to explore Peranakan Museum.
Also, look out for Anak Anak labels on the exhibits to enhance the experience.
That said, the static displays are interesting enough to warrant a visit. It
is old school, and in today’s modern world, it may be just what is needed to
be immersed in the past amid the hustle and bustle of the city outside its