Adventures in East Asia

Chinese Heritage Museum - Superb Culture and History Display

Practically in the heart of Singapore's Chinatown is the excellent Chinese Heritage Museum. Chinatown seems to spread across several areas but the museum was within one of the market streets packed with stalls.


The Chinese Heritage Museum consisted of all three floors of an old shophouse and although this sounded quite small (the building was narrow), the engaging displays were packed with objects and artefacts and plenty of information. We spent a good two hours poring over them.

The museum was split in two halves so that we entered at the ground floor of one side, moving up, and then on the top floor, came back down again. The first half presented displays outlining the history of Singapore's Chinatown, the first settlers to arrive and the trades they brought with them.


In the "basket" of one display, we watched footage that revealed reptile traders at work, managing snakes and eels and also ripping a turtle and its shell apart (eek!)

More audio visual media allowed the stories of some local characters to be told, and this was carried over consistently across several displays, along with infographics and accompanying artefacts. After visiting the museum, we felt like we'd absorbed a fuller understanding of the (economic) difficulties local people faced when they lived in Singapore Chinatown's past.


There were also displays of cultural events including the ubiquitous explanations of Chinese New Year and an animatronic head to depict the Lion Dance.

The four evils of gambling, prostitution, secret societies and opium were also explored as well as poverty, which was a way of life for many. The most horrifying of quotes I read on display was on the Health Problems:

"I had no money to see a doctor. I would clean a cockroach, pour boiling water over it and swallow it when I was sick. Otherwise, I would buy herbal tea or see a Chinese physician."


The second half of the Chinese Heritage Museum was split into small, cubic rooms and themed areas to portray the structure of a shophouse. Old kitchens and squashed dining areas could be seen.





Each room represented a possible lodger, with a variety of different personalities all living under the same roof, for example, the tailor's apprentice, a shoe seller or maids who took turns to inhabit a room when not living at their employers.






The shophouse was meant to have been owned by a tailor and so the ground floor presented a complete workshop for the trade.






More photos from the Singapore Chinese Heritage Museum on Flickr.

This entry posted in : Attractions. Culture. History. Singapore. Tourism.

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11/11/11  at  02:08 PM
Hello! I just wanted to say that I'm really enjoying reading your blog. It has given me some great ideas about my upcoming trip to Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. And it makes me hungry to see all those nice photos of good foods. Thanks for the time you've put into this.

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