Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Baba House, Singapore - A little bit about the Peranakan history...

Amazingly, Singapore is just not about shopping and eating ;)   You can learn a bit about culture too. So, if you have an hour or two to spare, do venture down to the Baba House.  Nestled between the other shophouses, it's hard to missed as it's painted a lovely shade of blue.

Peranakan Chinese is mainly refered to the descendants of the Chinese immigrants who came from China and married local women and settled here in the British straits of Malaya.  They refer to themselves as Baba Nyoya (Baba for males and nyonya for females)  Their children were mostly English educated and are more loyal to the British than to Mainland China.  - Like my grandfather, who was always dressed like an English gentleman (in suits)  The nyonyas are famed for their cooking and sewing skills!

This was a Straits Chinese ancestral home to 19th Century shipping tycoon, Wee Bin and his family who originally came from Fujian, China.  Up to 6 generations of his family lived here before being it got donated to the National University of Singapore (NUS).  A 4 million donation was given to NUS by Ms Agnes Tan, the last surviving daughter of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) in 2005, which allowed them to acquire the shophouse, restore and maintain it.  The great thing is they have painstakingly made sure that all restorations were done as close to the original construction.. right down to the colour of the house.  From the tour, I gathered that the shophouse was in a horrid state, and a lot of work had to be done to get it up and running (the top floor had bat pooping right up to the calves of the leg, some of the wooden structure had termites eating through them.  Chinese workers from China were hired to re-carve some of the doors as well.. )

Although lots of their original decors have been moved to somewhere safe, you still get the feel of the rooms (formal room, everyday/family room, master bedroom, bedroom) as there's still lots of furnitures with intricate carvings, antique praying altars for the god and ancestors etc are still there, so, you'll get the feel of how they lived during those historical times)...

They will only allow up to 12 people to visit at each time, so an appointment is essential.  No photographs inside but you are allowed to take as many photos outside.  The tour guides were very knowledgable and were keen to answer any type of questions.

If you are keen to experience more of the Peranakan culture, I would suggest you venture up north, towards Malacca and Penang as they are full of Peranakan culture.

It does make me nostalgic when I was here, as it brought back a lot of memories of my mum's ancestral home in Penang.  I never did appreciate all the furniture and decors as I grew up there, visiting Penang every holiday and running around the gardens and the mansion with all the antique furniture.  Now that it's no more, I feel sad and wish I had remembered more or at least took more pictures...

Baba House
157 Neil Road
088883 Singapore

Outside Baba House

Peeking ...

When the lights start coming on

One of the two tour guides

I think the lights have the names of the surname of the original occupants in Chinese

Our main tour guide who took us around and explained everything to us

So much details in the carvings...

The beautiful door in black and gold

I'm so fascinated with the lamps

The first room is the formal living room, where the men of the house entertain guests

One of the ladies in our group

Outside the gates
Closing time..

Until next time, stay safe!