Exhibits show Chinese were here 500 years before Raffles

An exhibition of archeological finds suggesting that a Chinese community had existed in Singapore as early as the 14th century opens at the Chinese Heritage Centre.

The show, From Danmaxi To Xinjiapo: Ceramics And The Chinese In Singapore, which has between 350 and 400 items of artefacts, such as broken pieces from ceramic bowls and vases, beads and bangles, and story boards spread over two exhibition rooms, also reveals that Singapore was perhaps already a market place and maritime port long before its founding by Sir Stamford Raffles five centuries later in 1819.

Danmaxi is the hanyu pinyin name for Temasek and Xinjiapo the hanyu pinyin name for Singapore.

The centre's outgoing director, Professor Leo Suryadinata, will be opening the show.

It will be followed by an appreciation dinner hosted by the centre and its governing board to honour Prof Leo, who is the centre's longest-serving director, having served between January 2006 and October 2013.

Prof Leo, 72, said the show is 20 years in the making as it displays the archeological finds by a team of historians and archeologists here led by Dr John Miksic from the South-east Asian Studies Department of the National University of Singapore.

Curated by Dr Goh Geok Yian, 41, a member of Dr Miksic's team who teaches history at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), it is probably also the first history exhibition involving academics from NUS and NTU.

Dr Goh said the exhibits are all from Dr Miksic's collection of archaeological finds in Singapore and the region since the early 1980s.

They were excavated from at least 15 sites in Singapore, including Fort Canning, Empress Place and Duxton Place, and in East and West Java in Indonesia.

In conjunction with the show's opening, there will be a soft launch of Prof Miksic's new book, Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea 1300-1800, which details his archeological work here over the past 30 years.

From Danmaxi To Xinjiapo, which is expected to run for six months to a year, is the third exhibition now on at the centre.

The other two permanent shows are Chinese More Or Less - an exhibition on overseas Chinese identity - and the Nanyang University Pictorial Exhibition.

All three shows are open free to the public from Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 5pm, and on Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 5pm.

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