The Asian Civilization Museum is the first of its kind in the region that depicts a broad collection of artefacts dating as far back as 2500 years from all across the region to tell the story of Asia. Situated beside the historic Singapore River, the museum complements the foundation of trade in Singapore, its development and multiethnic culture with its many galleries and artefacts giving significant importance to trade which was the catalyst that brought about an economic boom to create the city as it is seen today.
Its 11 galleries move away from the traditional chronological order and is designed in themes of different regions and their impact on Singaporean culture and people. It houses close to 1300 artefacts and divided among the Singapore River gallery, Southeast Asia, West Asia/Islamic, China and South Asia gallery. Trade brought wealth and sophistication to Singapore and the museum tells the less glamorous story of coolies’ that made up the backbone of trade, the Indian Chettiars; the first bankers, the indigenous Orang Laut followed by the later arrival of the Europeans. A stunning Pejeng style drum with stylized flowers in bronze and saw teeth, ceramic and bronze pieces from 600 BC, ritual objects from Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Southeast Asia and symbolic entrance to a Cambodian Kmeh Temple can be found at the Southeast Asia gallery. Being nations of agriculture, the next gallery is themed around the monsoons and objects from Javanese kingdom and objects of trade are on display. Southeast Asian jewellery and textile craft, designs and shapes fill another gallery followed by performing arts such as a Javanese gamelan orchestra, masks and puppets, dances and music.
With exotic good from the west also came Islam and the West Asia/Islamic galleries hold a collection of calligraphy and artefacts from traders, work of scientists from the 16th century that have had significant influence on the modern society of Singapore. Taking the winding shape of a dragon is the Chinese galleries with a stunning array of objects on display. A majestic Dragon robe of an emperor, calligraphy and paintings of Chinese scholars, beautiful ceramic pots sought out by many and white Dehua porcelain from the Ming and Qing periods are among them. Buddhist relics from as far back as the 7th century CE of gilt bronze and wood are placed in a cave like temple within the galleries. The South Asian galleries are devoted to the Indus valley civilization with its bronze sculptures, colourful parades and temples, performing arts, and photographs of Indian life in Singapore.
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