Friday, 28 February 2014

Baba House

157 Neil Road

Singapore 088883

Yesterday saw me visiting this Perankan Heritage house with a group of friends. 

157 Neil Road was built around 1860 and has been owned throughout this time by the Wee Bin family. Wee Bin was a Straits Chinese trader from Fujian province in China. He sadly died in his 40s his son in his 30s and grandson in his 20s.

In 2005 Ms Agnes Tan, daughter of Tun Tan Cheng Lock, a very well known businessman and political figure who fought for the rights of the chinese in the then Malaya and who also founded the Malaysian Chinese Association, donated a substantial figure to the NUS (National University of Singapore) allowing them to purchase the house and to conserve and restore it. This allows students and the public to study and appreciate the Peranakan heritage. Due to this donation 157 Neil Road was renamed in her fathers honour as Tan Cheng Lock Baba house (commonly known as the Baba House) After much conservation the house was opened to the public in 2008.

Much of the interior furniture belonged to the Wee Bin family whilst others have been sourced from Peranakan families in both Singapore and Malacca. The first 2 floors showcase how life would have been for a Peranakan family in the 1920s, wheres as the 3rd floor has had to be completely rebuilt. This was no thanks in part to a colony of bats that had lived there and with years upon years of guano had speeded the decaying process. As the top had been rebuilt and only one original roof beam remains, this floor now houses temporary art exhibitions. 

The house is set out as it would have been in the 1920s. As you would imagine the building is decorated in brightly coloured tiles so associated with Peranakans. The guide we had called Clara was so knowledgeable and, in a good way, didn't stop talking for over an hour as she showed us each room over the 3 floors. Explaining the meaning behind items, pointing out little quirks such as what she called the 19th century CCTV, floorboards that where cut away and were able to be removed to see who was at the front door and another in the master bedroom looking down into the main hall to view the visitors. For the young ladies that had reached puberty they weren't allowed to mix with males (not even their brothers) so they could watch above and see their prospective husbands! I won't begin to go into all the decorations that we saw, however if interested I strongly advise you to read about the Peranakans, and if in Singapore to visit here, the Peranakan museum and the area around Joo Chiat in the East where there are shops, restaurants and houses and to follow the Peranakan Heritage Trail.

Sadly I cannot provide photos of the interior as only those of the outside were permitted, but I would urge anyone to make the effort to book a tour here. We had many friends that didn't get a chance to visit this time due to the restrictions on numbers, but future bookings are already planned and indeed hubby will be visiting also. Its a great place to take visitors staying with you although tours book up fast so be prepared to book ahead!.

Tours are restricted to 12 people maximum and are free. Appointments times are Mondays 14:00. Tuesdays 18:30, Thursdays 10:00 and Saturdays 11:00. The tours last about an hour.

The nearest MRT station is Outram Park

The raised details were decorated by brightly coloured china cut from porcelain bowls. This meant that it didn't need to be constantly repainted - a clever idea!
Not very clear from this angle but here are the ever present phoenix and peony so important in Peranakan culture. The phoenix representing prosperity and peace and the Peace spring and marriage.