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  The Heritage Journal, Volume 1, 2004    



Sawankoloke-Sukhothai Wares from the Empress Place Site, Singapore
Cheryl-Ann Low, Curator, Singapore History Museum

Textual records suggest that Singapore and Thailand had a political relationship in the 14th century. Wang Dayuan, a Chinese traveller who visited Singapore in the 14th century recorded an attack by the Siamese sometime before 1349. A 16th-century account records that a local ruler in Singapore was a relative and vassal of the Siamese king. The former was murdered and his position usurped by a renegade prince from Palembang. the Siamese consequently drove the usurper out of Singapore. An archaeological excavation was conducted at the Empress Place Building site in 1998. The discovery of ceramics produced by the kilns of Sawankoloke and Sukhothai in the 14th and 15th centuries adds another dimension to the knowledge about the trading relationship between Singapore (Temasek) and Thailand (Ayutthaya).

The European Musk Trade with Asia in the Early Modern Period
Peter Borschberg, Department of History, National University of Singapore

Musk, strictly speaking, is the odoriferous glandular secretion of the Asian musk deer. In the English language, the term has been loosely applied to a serious of potent odours (usually bodily fragrances) both of animalic and non-animalic origin. For much of the early 16th to the early 18th centuries, the origins of musk remained a mystery. This article examines a host of aspects relating to the early modern musk trade between Asia and Europe, including period beliefs on its animalic origin, price structure, networks of trade, transport, forgeries and use in daily life or as a substance in pharmacology.

The Cult and Festival of the Goddess of the Sea - a Maiden Encounter with Mazu
Szan Tan, Assistant Curator, Asian Civilisations Museum

The belief in the Goddess of the Sea is still very much alive in Taiwan today. During the annual celebration of her birthday, hundreds and thousands of devotees flock to greet and worship her. This essay is based largely on my personal experience during a Mazu birthday celebration in Taiwan. It provides a first-hand account of the goddess' continuing influence in modern day Taiwanese society. The Goddess of the Sea is known popularly as Mazu, Tianfei, Tianhou (Heavenly Concubine), Tianshang Shenmu (Empress of Heaven) and Tin Hau (also Heavenly Empress in Cantonese, used by the people in Hong Kong). Her influence can be attributed to the growth of coastal regions of China as trading and economic centres. Mazu's popularity began in the fishing communities of the southern coasts of China, especially in Fujian and Guandong. By the 19th century, the cult of Mazu had become deeply entrenched in Taiwan, Hong Kong and many Chinese communities in Southeast Asia such as Singapore, Malaysia (Malacca and Penang), and Indonesia (Semarang).


Notes and Reviews

Chasing India
Chung May Khuen, Singapore History Museum

Since 1996, the South Asia curatorial team of the Asian Civilisations Museum has been conscientiously documenting the art and culture of South Asians in India and Singapore. This paper highlights some of the lessons learnt by the team during a three week working visit to North India. Hopefully it will encourage and inspire more people to undertake similar projects in India.


Articles from the archives

Art and Industry (originally published in Heritage, 1978)
Joseph McNally, LASALLE-SIA College for the Arts

This article was written in 1978 by the late Brother Joseph McNally. Brother Joseph was an educator and artist, born in Ireland but a citizen of Singapore. For many years he played a key role in pushing for more investment in arts education in Singapore, an effort that culminated in the formation of the LASALLE-SIA College for the Arts. In this article Brother Joseph argues for the importance of arts education in design for industry. Interestingly his arguments are aimed as much as artists concerned with "a nineteenth century 'art for art's sake thinking'" as it is aimed at planners and administrators who downplay the importance of arts education. He also takes aim at the "spoon-feeding" approach of Singapore education at the time. His words have a great resonance in Singapore 25 years later, at a time when design and creativity in education are receiving new levels of attention.