Asian Civilisations Museum - Singapore

Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore is truly one of a kind. It explores all of Asia, from Iran to Indonesia, and includes artifacts and collections from every Asian country. The word "Asian" is often mistaken with Chinese or mongoloid nations, but this museum includes all the Asian countries like India, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc. The museum is very large with multiple floors and has many thousands of items on display. If you are serious visitor, you could be here all day long, "trying" to finish seeing all the artifacts.
Front view of the Asian Civilizations Museum - Singapore
Visitor Information:
Phone: +65 6332 7798, +65 6332 3275
Fax: +65 6883 0732
Address: 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555 (5 minutes walk from Raffles place MRT station)
Opening hours: Daily 10 A.M - 7 P.M ; Fridays 10 A.M - 9 P.M
Parking: Available (on street)

Guided tours in English (Free):
Monday to Friday: 11:00 A.M, 2:00 P.M
Friday evening: 7:00 P.M
Saturday & Sunday: 11:00 A.M, 2:00 P.M, 3:00 P.M

Entrance Fee: 
Singapore citizens and permanent residents: Free
Kids aged 6 and below: Free
Full time students and visitors aged 60 and above: $4
All other visitors: $8
Photography : Allowed, free of charge (no flash)
Remember: Take your ID with you, they do verify your age, nationality, etc

Since it is impossible to show all the artifacts of this museum here, let us see a few interesting items below.
A human skull of an enemy with carvings - Dayak tribe
This is a human skull taken as a trophy by the Dayak tribe of Borneo. Until early 1900s the Dayak tribal warriors beheaded their enemies and kept the skulls as souvenirs. Carvings were made on the skull to identify who it belongs to, and other creative designs were also etched on it. Note that the practice of keeping human skulls as trophies were also followed by many other cultures, like the Naga tribes of Myanmar.
AvalokiteĊ›vara, a God with the maximum number of arms 
Sculpture of AvalokiteĊ›vara, with probably most number of arms carved on any God EVER! You have to count it a few times before getting the number of arms right (it's 34, by the way). This gilded bronze sculpture was made in the Dali kingdom (937-1253), an independent state in what is today Yunnan province, China. Each arm of this figure holds an important Buddhist symbol. If you look closer, the headdress contains many small Buddhas, with Amitabha (the Buddha of infinite light) at the center.
A Qibla compass from Iran to find the direction of Mecca
Qibla compass (Iran -1878 CE), a modified form of compass to show directions of different cities. Note the accurate divisions to show degrees on the circumference. It is important for Muslims to be able to determine the direction of Mecca (Qiblah) wherever they happen to be. Certain rituals like prayers are performed directed to Mecca. These special compasses were therefore developed to help determine the Qiblah. Even today, compasses are still used although visitors to hotels in Islamic countries will find the Qiblah indicated on the ceiling of their rooms.
An unidentified statue that depicts pure evil - Any idea who he is?
Here is a statue with no name to it, but sure looks scary. He holds a vertebral column in one of his right hands while holding a skull to the left of its face. He is trampling a human being underneath while stabbing him with a knife. It seems as though he is putting a finger to the lips and says SHH.. while mischievously smiling with his eyes closed. There are plenty of smaller figures around him, but none of them look at him. Looks like he could easily be the most gruesome God, if not for Periyachi Amman.
Hsun Ok, an offering bowl with a fancy lid from Myanmar (Burma)
An offering vessel (Hsun Ok) in the form of a Hintha bird from Mandalay, Myanmar. Made in the late 19th century, the bottom half was used to contain sacred liquid or powder. Burmese lacquer makers excelled in building up high relief with applied decoration, as seen on this wooden object. A lacquer putty mixture known as thayo (literally "flesh and bones") was modeled or molded, then stuck onto the surface and embellished with gilding. Semi-precious stones, glass, and mirror pieces were inlaid to add value, in accordance with the taste in Mandalay. Hintha bird is the Burmese version of the Indian goose called Hamsa which symbolizes perfect union. Vessels like these were donated to temples as merit-making gifts and would be placed flanking an image of Buddha.
Nias tribal statues possess something incredibly important 
These wooden statues are in fact, containers with headdress being the lids. What do they contain? The last breath of a dying family member! This unique tradition is followed by Nias people who live in Nias island, off the west coast of Sumatra. The people of Nias believed that by trapping the last breath of a dying person, their soul could be contained and transferred to the statue. Ancestor carvings like these were found in households throughout Nias. They served as reminders of the deceased, and as charms to protect the household. A new image was made just before a person's death, and this was bound together with the rest on the right wall of a house. This practice has almost become extinct today, since most of the Nias people have become Christians.
A flying Garuda, happily holding two snakes on either side 
This is a relief of Garuda made around 11th - 12th Century AD, in India. The Garuda is a flying Hindu God and was used as a vehicle by God Vishnu. He is depicted here in triumph over the naga (snake God), after the battle over the nectar of immortality. A fantastic depiction indeed, since he is flying with his wings spread, while grasping the tails of two snakes. He is shown wearing a tiered crown and wears jewels on ears, wrists and a necklace. Both Garuda and Naga are very mysterious in many ways, and are often thought of as alien races by ancient alien theorists. This relief too, shows an abnormally large head and an elongated mouth when compared to a shorter body.
Two silver strainers used to filter wine, from 1st century A.D
These are 2000 year old sieves from Gandhara (modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan). They were used to remove impurities from grape wine, made in Buddhist monasteries. Made of silver, these strainers have minute perforations to hold impurities while wine seeped into a container below. Superb paintings about wine making were present in the caves of Bamiyan Buddhas, before they were destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Tamil Gods, with interesting features and anecdotes attached to them
Tamil Gods have always come with fantastic history and you can see a few of them here. On the left is Pechi Amman, a Goddess who devours children, especially who are born prematurely. In the middle is Sappani Karuppan (Lame Karuppan) whose left leg is partly amputated.  His legs are bound with a chain, to prevent him from doing any mischief. On the right is the Muni, who is also called Muniyandi, Muniappan and Muneeswaran. Standing upright, he is holding a club in his right hand while trampling a cobra with his right feet. He can be identified by a bell (kandaamani) on his right shin, a symbol of heroism in Tamil Nadu.

The above pictures are only a small sample of what you can see in the Asian Civilizations Museum, but the entire building has multiple floors that cover all of Asia. Since Singapore has a major ethnic population of Chinese, Malay and Indians, those areas have been given special attention. Singapore also has separate ethnic museums like the Malay Heritage Center in Arab street, and Chinatown Heritage Museum in Chinatown. But this museum is certainly the best in the country.  Visiting this museum is definitely one of the best things you can do in Singapore.


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