Asian Civilization Museum

February 12, 2015

Singapore at it stands today, is world class at nearly every level. But, of course some people prefer an urban setting and others suburban, others the mountains or the coast…so, it is all in the eye of the beholder. But, if you love a highly modernized urban setting with all the up-to-date features, then Singapore is your place.

One of the highlights of this trip was spending time at the Asian Civilization Museum. Based upon where you have grown up in the world, we tend to learn history in a vacuum that emphasizes some of the immediate roots but ignores highly significant aspects of the formation of civilization in other continental arenas. As we experience more interaction with other cultures and ethnicities, seems to be a good idea to get a base level understanding on what was taking place in other parts of the world while our own cultures were forming. Awareness of the simultaneous formations of civilization and societies can go a long way to developing a more global personality. So, when I saw the Asian Civilization Museum, I thought it highly pertinent to take a walk through.

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The exhibit on display is called the “Beginning of the Becoming”. I always find it interesting to compare the creation stories of the various civilizations. This one goes as:

“At the beginning of time nothing existed but the heavens above and the ocean below. The first god, Mula Jadi Na Bolon, whose name means “the beginning of the becoming”, lived in the highest reaches of heaven. Mula Jadi created three sons, and then three daughters to give to his sons as wives. He did not, however, create the earth. That was the work of his granddaughter, the goddess Si Boru Deak Parujar.

Si Boru descended from heaven on a thread she had spun in an effort to escape marrying the hideously ugly son of her uncle. Three times she tried to create the earth by flinging a handful of soil, given to her by Mula Jadi, upon the water below. Each time her creation was destroyed by the Naga padoha, the serpent who ruled the underworld. Finally, Si Boru succeeded in subduing the naga by pinning him between a sword and the land, which she piled upon his back. Till this day, the Naga Padoha’s struggle to free himself causes earthquakes.

The stubborn Si Boru eventually relented and married her suitor when he agreed to change his name and was transformed into a handsome young man. The couple settled at the base of a volcano to the west of Lake Toba, where they had many children. One of their grandsons was Si Raja Batak, and he became the father of all the Batak People.”

As you can see, women were the same in the beginning as they are now – stubborn and demanding!! Awwww…just teasing…interesting story of the beginning of the Batak People overall 🙂

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Walking through this museum, you immediately recognize the high quality of the presentations. It is replete with all the interactions with other civilizations that historically made Singapore what it is today. There are multiple exhibits that show the artifacts as well as historical interactions with the Chinese, Malays, Arabs, Portugese, Sultans, Dutch, Indians, Siths, and the British….not to mention all the religious interactions and how that embodies Singapore today. The presentations are not made simply in a matter that highlights cultural tension and wars, but show the contribution that each made to the ultimate development of an eclectic Singapore. Much of this, you can still see today. Very high quality displays, similar to what you would find at the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC. Tells a wonderful human story – a must see!!

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