Looking to get a first-hand look into Peranakan culture? Katong Antique House on East Coast Road is the perfect place to experience life in a Peranakan family home. Something of a best-kept secret until now, this private gallery offers tours to help people learn about the unique cultural practices of the Peranakan Chinese. Curator and owner Peter Wee has spent decades collecting a wide range of items to reflect the unique facets of Peranakan daily life. I recently took a group of clients and students to look more closely into this fascinating culture.
Also known in the Peranakan community as Baba Wee, Peter inherited the some 100-year shophouse from his mother and has since successfully recreated a typical household setup reflective of a bygone era. Visitors will find a casual display of Batik Sarong, Kebaya blouses, Kasut Manek beaded slippers, Nyonya ware ceramics and Peranakan tiles. From the entrance hall to the kitchen, each room has been carefully restored to reflects the customs and practices of a typical Peranakan family at the turn of the century.
During the 45-minute tour, Peter explained that the Peranakans are descendants of Chinese traders who settled in Malacca and around the coastal areas of Java and Sumatra as early as the 15th century. In the early 20th century, many Peranakans were educated at missionary schools and some even converted to Catholicism. Due to this, common features of a Peranakan home included a Catholic home altar, Taoist deities and Buddhist religious decorations - all side by side!
The flexible outlook of the Peranakans and their interest in adopting and integrating a wide variety of elements from Indian, Malay and Western cultures is an admirable trait needed more than ever in our often-troubled world. The highlight of the tour was a spot of tea with Peter's quaint tea cups and some pineapple tarts - another reminded of the elegant, hospitable and intercultural nature of the Peranakans.
As President of the Peranakan Association of Singapore, Peter often has copies of the association's highly collectable and still free magazine, The Peranakan. If you're looking to enjoy this magazine, please join the association while they are still offering life-time membership! Specialist books on Peranakan culture, and out-of-stock copies of museum catalogues can also be found. You can also enjoy locally made kueh sweets and Peranakan inspired gifts including my original greeting cards. Be sure to check out this amazing spot by booking a visit!
Katong Antique House
208 East Coast Road, Singapore 428907
Phone: 6345 8544
Opening hours: 11:00am - 4:30pm (please make an appointment prior to visiting)