Tour of Museums: Asian Civilizations Museum (A Photo Essay)

The Asian Civilizations Museum foyer

The National Heritage Board (NHB) of Singapore manages the country’s national and public museums,* Asian Civilizations Museum (ACM) being one of them. Located in 1 Empress Place,  this elegant building in beige joins other museums and places of interest conveniently clustered along the bank of the Singapore River, some of which are the Arts House, the Parliament House, and the National Art Gallery.

Standing guard at the ACM
Standing guard at the ACM

In fact, a walking tour of the country’s amazing museums is just surprisingly possible as they are a 5- to 15 minute-walk from one another they might well be the piece de resistance to your cultural visit of Singapore, as mine was.

In October, 2011, an interesting art installation by Justin Lee, entitled “Life After Death,” was staged outside the gallery doors on the second floor of ACM.

A laptop-toting maiden.
Arm and shoulder candy maidens

Maidens and terra cotta warriors amuse by making quirky fashion statements. Gawk as Ms Singapore dresses up in her winning sash, while another maiden shows off the latest arm candy! The power of Lee’s art lies in its ability to jolt the museum-goer with anachronisms, where the ethereal and the sublime are juxtaposed with the commercial and the modern.

On loan from the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center of the People’s Republic of China are the actual Terra Cotta Warriors, perhaps according to sources, the most important archaeological discovery made in this day and age. Dug up by farmers in 1974 near Xi’an province, the earthen figurines of soldiers and horses are said to have been buried near the tomb of the First Emperor of China to protect him in the afterlife. Sadly for me, I was able to view them only through glass doors as the exhibition in ACM lasted till the 16th of October, 2011 only.

Off to war in gaudy red neckerchiefs!
Terra Cotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy

Inside the ACM, one finds, laid out in thematic galleries corresponding to the cultural influences that make up modern-day Singapore, prized cultural pieces belonging to the civilizations of China, South, Southeast, and West Asia.

Galleries 3, 4 and 4A which deal with Southeast Asia begins with prehistoric influences, the Hindu Buddhist kingdoms, Javanese kingdoms, and capping off with the Malay influences.
Walk to your next museum! (Photo from I Love Museums!)


*It would interest you to know that under the NHB umbrella are six other museums, namely the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), Singapore Art Museum (including 8Q SAM), Singapore Philatelic Museum, Peranakan Museum, two World War II-themed museums, namely Memories at Old Ford Factory and Reflections at Bukit Chandu, and two heritage institutions, the Malay-themed Malay Heritage Centre and the Chinese-themed Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. Museum enthusiasts who are in Singapore for a limited time may make the most of their visit by purchasing a 3-Day Museum pass which allows unlimited entry to 8 museums that are under the NHB. Individual Pass for this special promo costs SG$ 20 while a Family Pass (for up to 5 persons) is cheaper at SG$ 50. Compare this with SG$5-6 for every museum you want to enter, SG$10 for NMS!


“Asian Civilizations Museum—What’s On.” I Love Museums. Singapore: National        Heritage Board, 2011. 18-19.


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