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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Around Asia in 3 Hours!


Explore Singapore - Day 5, Part 2

Multi-armed Quan-Am, 18th Century or later, North Vietnam.  Mahayana Buddhism was brought to Vietnam from China during the early 1st millennium CE, and by the 2nd century CE, Hanoi had become an important center for Buddhism.

I think I have previous posts declaring my passion for history, specifically on ancient civilizations.  I cannot pin point the actual reason but perhaps it may have started with my fascination on stories that dissect the essence of every race or the backdrop of temples, castles and other architectural wonders sans modern technology; or perhaps it's because of the influence by the popular media I grew up with and eventually embraced (e.g. Indiana Jones, The Adventures of Tintin, The National Geographic etc.); or perhaps it's brought up by my thirst for our people's authentic identity through my quest for pre-colonial literature, artifacts and historical data.  And with that, the Asian Civilizations Museum can't be in the list in my Explore Singapore mission.  And here it is, my Around Asia tour in 3 Hours! =)

Day 5 -- So right after our trip in Jurong Bird Park (and that big lunch in Bongo burger) Jandy and I took our Explore Singapore master plan by heart and hurried to the Asian Civilizations Museum in Raffles. The Asian Civilizations Museum, the only Asian focused museum in the region, has a collection spanning South East Asia, China, the Middle East and India.  I was not able to visit the Singapore National Museum but good thing that this museum has sections that traces the diverse cultural roots of Singapore and it somehow completed my supposed museum hopping spree!  =)

Well, I know a lot of people will find a museum visit boring, but who cares, this is among the things that will complete my exploration and provide me with fulfillment and happiness.  And I know there are people like me who can also see adventure in museums!  =)  So be it, here's what i discovered from this fantastic place.

Diorama for Kids

Discovering Asia

Ancient Singapore
Singapore's history did not start with its founding as a British port in 1819.  Singapore River in ancient times was sustaining the inhabitants of a Malay kingdom and playing host to a collection of vessels from all over Asia: Chinese junks, Arabian sanbuq, Bugis perahu and other tiny boats from the surrounding islands.

Trade at the Singapore River.  The mouth of the Singapore River was one of the few points on the island at which the trade was carried out.  With a safe, well-sheltered estuary and its freshwater spring , the river was probably the main trading site for foreign vessels as well as regional craft in the 14th century.

Direct Chinese participation in the South East Asian trade began in the 10th century.

South East Asia
This gallery narrated the 2,500 years of South East Asian history.  It's a glimpse of the region's unique diversity, from prehistoric bronzes to tribal textiles and the performing arts.

Sandstone figure of Buddha, 11th to 12th centuries, Cambodia.  Stone images were placed at the center of Khmer temples for worship.  In this image, Naga Muchalinda, king of mythical serpents, shelters the Buddha from the floods.  Buddha's serene expression and features are symbolic of his enlightenment.

Hilltribe silver accessories, Early-mid 20th century, Northern Thailand.  Silver was valued more highly than gold by many highland communities in Thailand, who also used it as currency for trade. 

Makara processional ornament, date unknown, Northeastern Malay peninsula.  The makara is a sea creature from Hindu mythology that is said to be a composite of elephant, crocodile, fish and other animal features.  It is a water spirit and powerful fertility symbol that may have had its roots in early animist traditions.

Stone osa osa, early 20th century, Nias Island, Indonesia.  The osa osa was a seat of high honor for a noble man, noble woman or ancestor during the great feasts and festivals that were celebrated by the people of Nias. 

East Asia
This gallery gave insights on China and the role of emperor, scholar, peasant and merchant in Chinese society in ancient times.  Buddhist and Daoist deities gave the story of China's main religious ceremonies.

Who says museums are for old junks?  Well, let me prove you wrong.  The Asian Civilizations Museum has Explore Asia Zones (by J.P. Morgan).  These are interactive video portals with settings ranging from a Chinese tea house to a Turkish tent.  This facility helps in hands on learning and discovery of children and adults.

Wooden sculptures from the Northern Chinese Buddhist temples

Chinese shadow puppets

South Asia
This gallery explored India, the birthplace of Buddhism and Hinduism.  Its glorious 5,000 years cultural past narrated its history and diversity through themes such as religion, science and the performing arts.  It showed how ancient traditions are kept alive through customs that are still practiced today.

Explore Asia Zone in South Asia gallery

Sandstone Yogini, 11th century, Paramara, Bijamandal, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, India (on loan from government of India).  Yogini or a mother goddess is ten-armed and seated in the position of lalitasana, a pose of royal ease.  The now-missing arms would have held the weapons and attributes of the goddess. 

Stone Udumbara (threshold), 11th century, Madhya Pradesh, India.

Schist Nataraja - Dancing Shiva, 12th century, Halebid, Karnataka, India (on loan from government of India).

West Asia
This gallery showed the intricate calligraphy  that adorns Qu'rans from Turkey, Iran and China. I spent some time in the mosque-like setting gallery and learned how Islam's contributions to modern science and our society.

Sumatra Isle of Gold

Lastly, we went to the Sumatra Isle of Gallery but this time, we were not allowed to take photos as this is the newest attraction in the museum.  This exhibit explores how the various cultural influences contributed to the rich cultural heritage of Sumatra.  The gallery boasts of great finds such as the Crown of Sultan of Siak, an ancestor figure in Nias, a gold necklace from North Nias, bronze figures from Siak, Riau and many more. 

Fun at the Museum
Museum may sound too serious for many but for my friend and I, we can always inject the tour with fun! =D

This is what good in a trip like this, one can have fun and learn at the same time.  With this, I hope we somehow see the value of museum, as it houses our rich past so that we can understand our present and look forward to our future.  

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