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Archive for the ‘Peranakan House’ Category

I’ve just realised that there were a few other things I did in Singapore that I haven’t mentioned, so this post will cover just two of them – the NUS Baba House, and Singapore City Gallery.

The NUS Baba House

The NUS Baba House is the sole surviving intact house from the Peranakan community. This isn’t the place to describe or define the Peranakan identity or culture – here’s a link to a Wikipedia page that does so. In Singapore the Peranakans emerged as merchants and traders and thus were at least reasonably wealthy, and with this wealth they built distinctive and high-quality houses. Almost all of these have either been demolished completely, or (once Singapore recognised the importance of preserving them) have been been preserved externally but gutted and modernised internally. The NUS Baba House is thought to be the only house that is preserved internally¬†as well as externally. Visits have to be booked in advance, and there are only a limited number of places available.

The National University of Singapore (NUS – the owners and managers of there house) don’t allow photography inside the house so I don’t have any pictures to display. I will say however that it was beautiful and individual. The house, which has been conserved as it was in the 1920s, is narrow and deep – three rooms deep, plus a courtyard at the front.. The courtyard features an ornately decorated exterior – the image above shows this. Then you go through the door and enter the front parlour. This was where the merchant did business, entertained guests, clients and customers, and where receptions were held. It’s furnished in a business-like but quality way – there are lots of high-quality paintings and decorations. This was the space in which an impression would be made! At the back of this room is a screen, and behind that is a living space, much more domestic in feel – still luxurious but more comfortable. For a visitor to be invited beyond the business area into the living area would be a mark of either real friendship or possibly deep respect. it’s also the case that the screen was not solid, so someone – the merchant’s wife, perhaps? – could sit behind the screen and listen to the business conversations while remaining hidden. Behind this living space was the kitchen. Upstairs were either two or three bedrooms, all furnished beautifully. One was very traditional, another was furnished in a modern style – as in 1924! (more…)

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