Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Of Pintu Pagars and Ceramic Tiles: The Singapore Peranakan House.

Peranakan-style house #157 along Tembeling Road, Katong.

Detail of the ceramic tile featured on the columns
The Peranakan house stands out from other pre-war houses with the inclusion of the pintu-pagar (literally ‘fence door’). It allowed privacy to the home dwellers without interfering with the ventilation of the house. The Perankan house is also differentiated with its use of decorative ceramic tiles that are as intricately designed as their sarong kebaya blouses.

I spotted this particular house along Tembeling Road in Katong and was intrigued by the intricate carvings of the teakwood pintu-pagar. The ceramic tiles on the columns, discretely incorporating the yin-yang symbol (see left picture), also attracted me. The Peranakans (or at least the ones I know) are a traditional and superstitious tribe. It shouldn’t be surprising, if the original intention of the tiles also included those of the spiritual persuasion, apart from the obvious aesthetics ones.

Incidentally, I remember this area well. When I was a wee-bit, my dad used to bring to me to his friend’s place in Siglap for visits during the weekends. I usually end up playing in the huge garden at his friend’s bungalow. As I grew older, the beach at East Coast Park was also a regular venue for our family picnics. It was filled with memories of me trying to swim in the sea, my little brother getting really dark in the sun and of course, my mum’s delicious fried bee hoon for our picnic lunch. Those were the days of simple, joyous and fun.

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