Every Stone Tells A Story – I

I : Airlangga and Garuda

by Rose Gan

Back in the good old days when we could all still visit museums, the Lost Kingdoms exhibition at Muzium Negara offered us a fascinating journey around the early civilisations of South East Asia and Indo-China.  I was stopped in my tracks by a series of stones from Indonesia, personally very dear to my heart. It felt very much like a surprise visit from old friends.

The Museum Nasional Indonesia (MNI) is a vast repository for collections gathered from across the Indonesian archipelago since the earliest days of the V.O.C. Raffles himself once housed the ‘Cabinets of Curiosities’ in his own residence in Batavia; some of current exhibits were originally part of his personal collections. The present museum building (opened in 1868) is a graceful Graeco-Roman structure at the very heart of Jakarta. Two new modern buildings have since been added. The Museum is a cornucopia of delights, so vast that it is impossible to take in its riches in one visit; each huge hall alone hosts enough to fill an entire morning.

MNI exterior: Gedung Gajah (Museum National, Jakarta). Image:  © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

When I was guiding there, one section became my go-to place, sometimes simply as a getaway from the madding crowds of Central Jakarta, where traffic is so dense at any time of day that it is usually at a noisy standstill. In the Stone Courtyard, a serene peristyle garden surrounded by a shady portico, one could sit in silence, surrounded by hundreds of silent stones, a perfect place for contemplation. The sculptures, of many different types and styles, are randomly arranged higgle-piggle on different levels, some obscured behind others, some set above eye-level, and some only visible on one’s knees. Stones of astonishing importance are often relegated to hidden corners and easily missed, or jumbled in with broken roof ornamentation and water spouts. Commemorative statues, guardians, mythical beasts, gods, kings, and queens, countless lingga and yoni, obelisks and containers, peripih and prasasti: the list goes on and on. And at the centre of the peristyle lawn, a herd of Nandis lie contentedly chewing their cud.

Stone Courtyard, Museum National, Jakarta. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Gunawan Kartapranata (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Many of the significant pieces have been relocated to the modern wings next door, now set on raised plinths or behind glass, perfectly lit from above and with detailed vitrine notes, given their proper pride of place. But I still feel privileged to remember when they were almost forgotten, their loveliness buried away without any information to mark them. Then it was almost impossible for a visitor without a guide to understand their importance. This fired my curiosity and set me off on an obsession to learn more about them. The Lost Kingdoms exhibition brought my favourite pieces back to me in a wholly unexpected setting.

These stones fall into two main groups: Arca (statues) and Prasasti (inscribed stones). The former are more instantly appealing because of their undoubted aesthetic attraction and the stories that the figures and motifs describe. The Prasasti, however, are difficult to interpret: they are plainer and more obscure. Both conceal a wealth of information that unlocks many early events in the history of the archipelago that might otherwise be lost for ever. This series of blog posts aims to shed a little light on the perplexing subject should we be able to peek again inside the exhibition any time soon!

Airlangga and Garuda

The Airlangga statue, Lost Kingdoms exhibition. Image: © Maganjeet Kaur

This dramatic piece is arguably the highlight of the exhibition. Described as on loan from MNI, it is in fact currently at the Museum in Trowulan, the site of the great Majapahit capital. It was originally located at Belahan on nearby Mount Penanggungan where two famous bathing places from the 11th century were devoted to Airlangga, one of the most revered kings of East Java, who died in 1049. Such sites were erected as memorials to the ascension of a human ruler into his deified existence, and were often erected some years after the actual death. Mount Penanggungan is an idyllic place, cool, lush, green, and silent. A mystical aura of tranquillity and age-old knowledge hangs heavy in its forests, where devotees have worshipped since time immemorial.

Set amongst this scene, these ritual bathing places, an essential feature in the religious practices of the Hindu-Buddhist era, are astonishing stone constructions at one with the mountain itself. They contain niches for statuary and pools fed by water spouts in the shape of mythical beasts. This statue once held centre stage in such a grotto, where now only two female statues remain, at the base of the structure. Their naked breasts form twin spouts to feed the pool below.

The ritual bathing pool at Candi Belahan, Mount Penanggungan. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Anandajoti Bhikku ( Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Airlangga was the son of King Udayana of Bali and Princess Mahendradatta, the daughter of the great East Javanese ruler, Dharmawangsa Teguh. In 1016 during a palace coup, King Dharmawangsa and his entire family were killed; Prince Airlangga escaped, taking refuge with a group of hermit monks. Some years later, he returned and defeated the local princes, becoming the ruler of East Java, and establishing a new dynasty based at Kediri. During his long and peaceful reign, East Java enjoyed a flowering of art, learning, commerce and good governance.

This memorial depicts Airlangga as a young man in the prime of life, sitting on a lotus throne in a Hindu lalitasana posture: his left leg in half lotus and his right hanging down, to represent kingship. Airlangga’s hands form the Buddhist dhyanamudra, the gesture of meditation, also reflected in his serene countenance and lowered eyes. He is dressed as befits a king, replete with golden jewellery and clad in a long ornate sarong. It was customary in commemorative statuary for the face to be expressionless; this is not meant to be portraiture but implies spiritual awakening.

Close up of Vishnu/Airlangga at Lost Kingdoms exhibition. Image: © Rose Gan

The effigy, however, is about so much more than Airlangga’s human existence. On close observation, we become witnesses to his deification and ascension to immortality, illustrated in terms of allegory. Airlangga is Vishnu, the Preserver, one of the three deities of the Trimurti that holds the universe in balance. In his upper right hand, he spins the cakra (wheel), representing the power over life and death. In his upper left is the sankha (conch shell) a musical instrument that wards off demonic forces and signifies the creation of the universe. These motifs are particularly associated with Vishnu, whose cult was strong in Bali; Airlangga was known for his devotion to him. This Vishnu bears many divine symbols: the jatamakuta crown, reserved for deities, along with the caste cord and multiple arms.

The most dynamic aspect of the assembly, however, is the figure of Garuda, in his most fierce anthropomorphic manifestation, more deity than bird, an interesting counterpoint to the tranquil stillness of the god. Vishnu’s right foot rests on Garuda’s shoulder, signifying his authority, but Garuda is more than a mere vahana (vehicle) for the deity. This representation vividly depicts an episode from Garuda’s backstory, that of his great battle with his traditional enemies, the nagas, one of whom can be seen coiled around the base of the sculpture, vicious head raised in attack.

The Legend of Garuda

Garuda was born from an egg, a human boy with wings. His mother Vinata had been enslaved by her sister, Kadru, the mother of all serpents. Later the nagas promised Garuda that if he stole amrita, they would free his beloved mother from servitude. This seemed an impossible task. The elixir (amrita) was in the hands of the gods. They guarded it jealously for it was the source of their immortality and protected inside a great ring of fire where fierce rotating blades slaughtered anyone who tried to enter. Beyond were two giant poisonous snakes. Garuda was equal to the challenge. First, he defeated a host of gods, driving them in all directions. Next, he channelled water from the Great Ocean to extinguish the fire. Shrinking himself, he managed to evade the blades to reach the serpents, whom he destroyed. Holding the amrita in his mouth without swallowing, Garuda took to the air with the intention of delivering it to the nagas. On the way, however, he met Vishnu who promised him immortality if Garuda would become his mount. In return he would help Garuda in his quest to save his mother. Then he met Indra, the god of the sky, who promised to allow him to devour the nagas if he returned the amrita. So, Garuda flew to the kingdom of the nagas, placed the precious amrita on the ground and thus liberated Vinata. Then he informed the snakes that before consuming the elixir, they must ritually cleanse. This allowed time for Indra to sweep down and recover the amrita.  Garuda then battled the nagas, ultimately devouring them. From that day forward, Garuda became the implacable enemy of snakes, as well as the ally of the gods and the mount of Vishnu.

This legend is packed with allegory. Garuda’s attributes may be inspired by the Indian short-toed eagle which lives entirely on a diet of snakes. This made him protector against poison, or the devourer of evil. In early animist Indonesia, birds and nagas had always been worshipped as ancient spirits of the forest. In the Hindu-Buddhist period, this battle between sky and earth became a central theme of the duel between opposing cosmic forces. By the Majapahit period in East Java, Garuda underwent a further metamorphosis until his human characteristics disappeared, and he became a giant bird. He even acquired a phoenix-like appearance, adopted from Chinese influence, just as the naga later took on a dragon-like perspective.

It should be noted that although this statue is generally believed to represent Airlangga, this is largely conjecture and has been challenged by some historians. Another theory believes that Belahan was constructed in the century before Airlangga. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Vishnu and Garuda are depicted here and that the statue is in memory of a significant king of the region.

Bibliography

Kinney, Ann R. with Klokke, Marijke J, Kieven, Lydia (2003) Worshipping Siva and Buddha: The Temple Art of East Java, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Reichle, Natasha (2007), Violence and Serenity: Late Buddhist Sculpture from Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Resink, Th. A. (1968) Belahan or A Myth Dispelled. Indonesia 6 pp.2-37.

Gan, Rose, ed. (2011) Museum Nasional Training Materials, 3rd edition: Vol 4. Stones and Bronzes, MNI Jakarta.

King Tutankhamun

TREASURES OF THE GOLDEN PHARAOH EXHIBITION

SAATCHI GALLERY LONDON

by V. Jegatheesan

For a long time now, I have been interested in the history of Egypt, its associated pyramids, the discoveries, and of course King Tutankhamun. Why I have never visited Egypt is a question I have yet to answer myself.

Hence, when I read a newspaper article last November about an exhibition in London on artefacts of King Tutankhamun (or King Tut as he is affectionately known), I decided to make the trip for mid-March this year. The exhibition was to have closed on 3 May 2020. Then came the virus scare, but the exhibition was to be the last tour and I had to see it, so I had to go, and so I did. A few days after I visited, the exhibition closed indefinitely.

The exhibition is at the Saatchi Gallery and if you read the website, you would have been fascinated as well.

Tutankhamun’s Priceless Treasures to Make Final London Appearance

TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh Celebrates the Centenary of Howard Carter’s Discovery; Unprecedented Collection Coming to Saatchi Gallery in November

Produced by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and IMG, and presented by Viking Cruises

The words ‘Final London Appearance’ struck me. The exhibition was to have gone on to Boston and Sydney and finally to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo where the artefacts will be placed and never to go on tour again. I chose London, as I had other plans such as visiting relatives, British Museum etc. But two days after my Saatchi Gallery visit, I cut short my trip and returned home.

This description is only of my visit and of the artefacts with some explanations. It is not a detailed study of King Tutankhamun and Egyptology.

Access was scheduled in batches each half hour and so you bought the ticket according to when you want to go. You could spend any length of time and so could be passed over by crowds of later batches.

There are 150 artefacts on display in vitrines over two floors. Of these, more than 50 artefacts are travelling out of Egypt for the first and last time. Each artefact was described on a panel below. The exhibition is really of objects involved in the journey of King Tut to the afterlife and immortality. I had ordered an audio guide and when I asked, the Reception staff were kind enough to lend me a file of the script after I showed them my MV Pass! They also allowed me to scan the pages before I returned the file!

Doctor Tarek El Awady is the curator of this exhibition. His comments are also heard in the audio guide, together with comments made by Howard Carter who led the expedition to King Tut’s tomb, sponsored by Lord Carnarvon. My descriptions include comments from both Tarek and Carter. As a background, Lord Carnarvon was among other things, an Egyptologist and had sponsored other digs as well; he was also a collector of Egyptian antiquities. In 1918, he got a concession to dig in the Valley of Kings. Howard Carter was an archaeologist and worked for him; Alfred Lucas did the restorations.

After a short introductory video, we enter the exhibition hall. As mentioned, the contents of the tomb connected the world the King was leaving behind with everything he would need on the journey and in the afterlife. These were cosmetic boxes, painted trunks, and carrying cases – all filled with beautiful items and a lot of other equipment and weapons.

On the walls are posters quoting spells from the Book of the Dead. This book is a collection of funerary texts consisting of magic spells. These spells are a guide for the spirit of the deceased through the netherworld, or underworld, as it journeys to the afterlife. There is no one Book for all, as each person can have one prepared for him or herself. In the earliest days, it was only royalty who had one but, later, others could also afford to prepare one for themselves.

Below is an example of a spell. It is Spell 144 from the Book of the Dead and tells of the Power of Words. Words are magic and repeatedly speaking the name of the deceased ensures immortality.

Spell 144 from the Book of the Dead

The journey of King Tut to the afterlife is really the journey of his Ba, the spirit that travels to the afterlife, while his Ka, the soul, remains with the body. The body is mummified to stay intact for when the Ba returns as a bird, to merge with the Ka for the magic of rebirth. To quote Tarek…….. ‘for the ancient Egyptians, death is not the end, it is a beginning of a journey to an eternal afterlife. That is why there are so many things made for him. He is a traveller. He needed to be well equipped with all he needs for the journey, a mysterious journey as no one knew what it is like. Each artefact has a purpose’.

The entire philosophy and theory is vast and too complicated for a quick study, and I will not go into the details. Furthermore, there are so many artefacts to show and describe, so I will just give a few interesting samples. The ambience in the galleries was dark with low lighting and the artefacts had lights shone on them. Taking pictures was a challenge but I managed by taking my time. At one point, someone politely whispered to me…’you are not the only one here taking pictures you know, excuse me’! I only gave a smile in return.

There is a display of vases as you enter. In the one on the left, there was residue of perfumed oil, oils being important in their rituals. The vase on the right has inscriptions about King Tut and his wife Ankhesenamun. She is actually his half-sister, and her mother was the renowned Queen Nefertiti. It was normal tradition in Egyptian Royalty for marriages between siblings.

A display of vases

Next is a collection of painted wooden containers for food for the Ka, or the soul of King Tut. Since the Ka is said to remain in the tomb, it needs to be fed. Food would include breads, meats, grains, spices and fruits.

Food Containers

The red box below has ebony, gold leaf, and bronze on it, as well as cartouches of King Tut. A cartouche is an inscribed oval on an item with the name of the pharaoh to which it belongs. The box is among 50 elaborate boxes serving as luggage for King Tut’s journey.

And you thought only Australian Aborigines had Boomerangs?

Below is the wooden armchair for King Tut. He was King at the age of 19 years, so the furniture made for him was smaller than usual. The footstool is of ebony and ivory from sub-Saharan Africa and the wood is probably cedar from the Middle East. Such was the stretch of their influence. The chair is also ebony and ivory with gold leaf. The gilded wooden bed next to it is ebony covered in gold leaf.

An interesting ritual, not shown of course, is the weighing of the heart. The deceased’s heart is placed on a scale and countered with a feather from the goddess Maat. If the scales balance, the heart was deemed sin-free by Osiris. Osiris is the Egyptian Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the Dead. If not, the heart would be eaten by the goddess Ammit who is part crocodile, hippopotamus, and lion. The heart is very important and is left behind in the mummy while other organs are removed. It was believed to be the centre of intelligence as well as feelings and was needed in the rebirth.

Below is a statuette of Amenhotep III, the grandfather of King Tut. Interestingly, a lock of hair belonging to his wife, Queen Tiye, was found together with this statuette. The lock of hair thus dates to 3400 years ago!

Amenhotep, grandfather of King Tut

This truly beautiful artefact is a canopic coffin (coffinette). It stands 10 inches (25.4 cm) tall and contained King Tut’s liver. Designed as a replica of his sarcophagus, it consists of a lid and box. There are four coffinettes inlaid with gold, coloured glass, and carnelian, and they contained the viscera of the pharaoh. The viscera are the liver, stomach, lungs, and the intestines. The four coffinettes are each placed in a jar closed with a calcite stopper. The jars were then placed in an elaborate canopic shrine (not displayed). The coffinettes bear the likeness of the King so that his Ba will be able to recognise him.

This gilded wooden shrine-shaped box shows scenes of King Tut and his wife Ankhesenamum, and it is made of wood encased with thick sheet gold. The scenes are of various episodes in the life of the King and Queen. Such life-experience scenes make it feel as if it were yesterday. Being in the tomb, King Tut wishes that such an afterlife with his Queen would await him.

Please click on ‘Page 2’ below to continue to the next page or click here. Coming up next page: Curse of the Trumpet.

Some Islamic Artefacts at Muzium Negara

by Afidah Zuliana binti Abdul Rahim

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) 20th Anniversary Curators’ Sharing Sessions enhanced my appreciation of the Islamic artefacts on display at Muzium Negara. Here is an opportunity to highlight the artefacts in Gallery B based on information gleaned from the IAMM curators and publications.

The Malay world began to accept Islam from the 13th century onwards, with evidence first found in northern Sumatra. This early phase was characterized by a superficial understanding of the faith. From the 1400s, the Malays increased their understanding on living as Muslims. Eventually, from the 18th century onwards, there was an even deeper understanding of Islam, through the emergence of Islamic scholars such as Syeikh Daud al-Fatani and Raja Ali Haji.

Intellectual centres in the Malay archipelago included Palembang, Aceh, Batavia, Riau-Lingga, and Patani. These centres became Malay scriptoria where scribes and illuminators copied religious and literature manuscripts.

The Holy Quran on display at Gallery B originates from Terengganu, on the East Coast of the Peninsula. It is a sample manuscript from an area distinguished for its Islamic scholarship and calligraphic expertise. This Quran is a 19th century specimen in Naskh script – a calligraphy style valued for its clarity in assisting non-Arabic speakers recite the Quran accurately. Its arabesque design with floral motifs and vegetal scrolls reflect the natural Malay world. Red and green, colours also seen in woodcarving, echo the decorative traditions of this region. The use of gold suggests that this Quran was made for a royal patron.

Nakula (1980) wrote about the relationship between Islam and the Malay arts. One’s faith in the oneness of Allah can be manifested in the creation of artworks. In modern Malaysia, apprentices of master carver Adiguru Norhaiza Nordin are required to sit in nature so that they may realise the cosmic dimension and have the vision of multiplicity in oneness and oneness in multiplicity. With this understanding, the woodcarvers may then integrate all elements of their being into its proper centre, thus attaining purity and wholeness when executing their art.

The soul of Malay woodcarving is influenced by the moral ethical values connected with Malay worldviews. The poem below illustrates the Malay philosophy on woodcarving:

Tumbuh berpunca   
Punca penuh rahsia
Tajam tidak menikam lawan
Lilit tidak memaut kawan

Growth from a source
A source full of secrets
Sharp does not stab foe
Twines do not tie friend

The first two lines allude to Divinity – the starting point of life (God) is not seen. The other two lines indicate Community – the bowing leaves signify respect for one another and that there is harmony even in conflict.

The motifs carved contain underlying messages and sometimes act as a reminder. The door panel on display combines calligraphy and floral motifs, which reminds one of the Creator. Some motifs remain from pre-Islamic days, for example the lotus but these are given a new interpretation to fit the teachings of Islam. Woodcarvings are only displayed in clean or sacred places.

Calligraphy is also used for protection as shown by our red vest with verses. This talismanic vest would have been worn as an undershirt to safeguard its wearer in battle. A similar-looking 19th century silk vest from the Malay Peninsula with Quranic verses displayed at IAMM is made from the underside of the Kiswah – the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca.

A distinctive sample of calligraphy from the Malay world is found on the tombstone of Sultan Mansur Shah. Batu Aceh tombstones are usually found in pairs – one for the head and the other for the foot of the grave. This tombstone has been moved from its original site, which probably explains why only one remains. In true Batu Aceh style, it has a Sufi couplet inscription referring to the transience of life. The calligraphy on this tombstone is challenging to read due to its overlapping nature. Recently, the IAMM curators have deciphered and translated the inscriptions for Muzium Negara. Look out for the new description on display.

A noteworthy artefact in Gallery B is the 16th century ceramic plate from the Ming Dynasty inscribed with Quranic verses. The Aceh-style Swatow dish was a more affordable plate for the middle-class Acehnese who aspired to own Chinese ceramics. Its calligraphy may not be fine or accurate as it was mass-produced for the export market. The back of a similar plate at IAMM shows the crude finish with sandy grits on its base. It is likely that the piece at Muzium Negara has a similar base, albeit hidden from sight.

Islamic metalwork was once highly sought after in Europe. Such metal items made for the European market were known as Veneto Saracenic. Iran was renowned for fine metalwork as exemplified by the 17th century Isfahan copper bowl in Gallery B. Safavid Iran metalwork emphasized steel and copper, usually finished with tin. Isfahan was then its capital city. The use of figural motifs was allowed in the arts, with the understanding that such items were not displayed in sacred places. The copper bowl has calligraphic inscriptions and scenes of daily life – characteristic of Shia Islam.

Aceh-style Swatow dish (top right) and Isfahan copper bowl (left)

References

Abdullah Mohamed @Nakula (1980) Falsafah dan pemikiran orang-orang Melayu: hubungan dengan Islam dan Kesenian, Kuala Lumpur: Kementerian Kebudayaan Belia dan Sukan.

Introduction to Islamic Arts – Calligraphy: The collection of the IAMM (2016)

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia Guide Book (2014)

A Bronze Frog Drum

by Maganjeet Kaur

The solitary bronze drum standing exposed at the Lost Kingdoms exhibition (ongoing until April 2020) at Muzium Negara is an intriguing representation of an ancient drum-casting tradition from Vietnam. Its shape identifies it as a Type III in the Heger I-IV bronze drum classification system. This classification was developed by Franz Heger, an Austrian ethnographer, in an attempt to categorise the diversity of bronze drums derived from the Dong Son culture in northern Vietnam.

‘Dong Son’ is the name given to the bronze-age culture extending across the Red, Ca, and Ma river valleys in northern Vietnam from around 500 BCE to the third century CE. The intricate mushroom-shaped drums produced by this culture have been found distributed widely in Southeast Asia and in southern China. They were regalia of power, gifted to local chieftains to seal trade agreements. All the drums manufactured at Dong Son fall into the Heger Type I category; they are simply known as Dong Son drums. Both the bronze drums on display in Gallery A, National Museum of Malaysia, are of Heger Type 1.

Drums in the Types II to IV categories were local adaptations of Dong Son drums. Their distributions were therefore limited; the Heger Type III drums were found only in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. In terms of shape, the Heger Type III drums are smaller and less bulbous. Unlike Dong Son drums, their tympanums (beating surface) extend over the top, resembling a lid.

The Karen and their Drums

The majority of Heger Type III drums were found in Myanmar, the prized processions of the Karen, a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group inhabiting the highlands between Myanmar and Thailand. According to Karen legends, their homeland was in the upper reaches of the Yellow River in China; they migrated southwards via Yunnan, China, and reached Myanmar around 600-700 CE. In Yunnan, they became acquainted with the bronze drum and its associated culture. Dong Son drums imported into Yunnan gave rise to a local tradition known as the Dian drum. Compared to the Dong Son drum, the upper segment of the Dian drum is cup shaped. The Karen prototype drum probably developed in Yunnan, its shape adopted from the Dian drum.

The Karens have continued to use their drums into the historical period and they may have thus preserved the ancient cultural practices of Dong Son and, especially, Yunnan. The drums served many functions, not least in instilling fear in an enemy and during celebrations after a victory in war. Reverberating in the hills, the pleasing tones emanating from the drums placated Nat spirits residing in trees, streams, rocks and other objects in the natural environment, thus ensuring these spirits would look kindly on the Karens and help them in times of need. The drums were also beaten to invite ancestor spirits to partake in feasts as well as to witness important ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. It was important to conciliate ancestor spirits as they could intercede with Nat spirits on behalf of the Karen.

The Karens practised dry-rice farming and the drums were beaten in agricultural rituals during the planting and harvesting seasons. Their basic slash-and-burn farming methods made them dependent on heavy rainfall and the drums accompanied a ritual dance to summon rain. It is thought that the low-frequency pitch produced by the beaten drum induces frogs to crock and croaking frogs are a harbinger of rain. Thus, Heger Type III drums are also known as rain drums or frog drums. All Karen drums have three-dimensional frogs embedded on their tympanum, an indication of the usage of these drums.

A drawing of a Karen frog drum being played. The drum is suspended by a rope, which is passed through one set of handles. This allows the drum to hang freely just above the ground. The musician, sitting on the ground, keeps the drum steady by inserting his big toe in the handle near the ground. He plays the drum by beating the tympanum with a padded stick and the body of the drum with thin pieces of bamboo. Image: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

By the 19th century, the Karens had lost the knowledge to manufacture bronze drums and the drums were cast for them by Shan craftsmen, who were noted for their metalsmithing work. These craftsmen were based at Ngwe Taung, a small town located about 14 kilometres south of Loikaw. By this time, Karen culture had influenced other tribal groups such as the Lamets and Khmu in Laos and they too adopted the frog drum into their rituals. Annually, in October-November, at the end of the rainy season, all the various tribal groups would converge at Ngwe Taung to purchase these drums. On estimate, a hundred drums were produced and sold at Ngwe Taung annually.

Designs on the Drum

Tympanum of the exhibited drum

The rain drum displayed at the Lost Kingdoms exhibition has a 12-ray star at the centre of its tympanum. A star in this space is common to all Heger drums with the only difference being in the number of rays. Generally, for Heger Type III drums, the older drums have eight rays while the newer ones twelve. The symbology behind the star is unknown although many theories abound. The star is the location where most of the drumming takes place and hence it is raised to strengthen the area. Heger Type III drums commonly have a butterfly motif between the rays of the star. This appears to be missing on the drum exhibited, another indication this drum is of later manufacture.

There are 21 decorative panels of varying broadness around the central star; each panel is separated by a pair of concentric rings. Majority of the designs on the panels are common geometrical motifs – dots, ‘S’ shapes and circles with a dot. The design on the fourth panel from the star is however unique. It looks like a stubby tree and it has few parallels on other drums. Another unique design is the motif on the 2nd, 10th and 16th panels, which also resemble trees; the repeating motif faces clockwise in the second panel and anti-clockwise in the other two. This drum is lacking the typical motifs that decorated older drums – ducks, fishes and rice grains.

Four pairs of three-dimensional frogs have been placed in an anti-clockwise direction around the edge of the tympanum, straddling four decorative panels. In each pair, a smaller frog sits atop a larger one. Such superimposed frogs are a distinctive feature of Karen drums; some drums even have three superimposed frogs.

Drawing of a possible Wanjiaba drum, found in Myanmar. The design on the body resembles the tree-like motif (albeit more slender) on the fourth panel of the exhibited drum. Wanjiaba is a burial site located in Yunnan where a number of bronze drums were found. The history of these drums is disputed; they are classified as pre-Heger in the Chinese classification system and as Dong Son-derived in the Vietnamese classification. Image: Calo, Ambra (2014, figure 2.57).

The body of the drum can be divided into two segments – a bulging upper segment and a conical lower. The decorations on the upper segment are made up of the same geometric patterns as on the tympanum. This segment also contains two pairs of handles, decorated by vertical lines. Unusually, each pair of handles is placed directly under a pair of frogs; their usual position is between the frogs.

The conical lower segment is divided into three sections. The top and bottom sections have the geometrical patterns seen on the tympanum while the middle section is plain. An interesting depiction on the bottom-most section is a procession of three elephants and two snails walking towards the base of the drum. This is common on Karen drums but not present on Dong Son drums. However, unlike on the exhibited drum, the animals are usually placed under a pair of handles. Elephants were a symbol of wealth while snails are another iconography of rain – snails come out into the open when it is raining.

The middle section is seemingly plain but it does have some enigmatic symbols. Art historian Richard Cooler has likened the Karen frog drum to a ‘magic pond’; the middle section does have symbols that could indicate a pond-like environment. Straight vertical lines separate the ‘pond’ from the lower section and the chevron-like pattern above the lines can be seen as representing eddies in the pond. Notice that the snails are in the pond section of the drum. Additionally, there are two taro leaves (daun keladi in Malay) in the pond section; the taro is a tropical plant that thrives in a wet environment and hence is common around ponds and lakes.

Undecorated section of the drum

In summary, the Heger Type III drum on display at the Lost Kingdoms exhibition is believed to be a later drum based on features such as 12 rays of the central star, missing motifs between the rays of the star and elephants/snails walking on a plant (the plant is not present on older drums). Although originating from the Karen tradition, this drum has a number of unique features. Designs on the tympanum does not include the conventional aquatic animals and rice grain motifs but instead includes tree-like motifs. Other atypical features are its placement of handles and inclusion of taro leaves. The drum may have been cast for a different tribal group.

Three other bronze drums at the exhibition, displayed in glass cabinets, are also from the Karen tradition. Two of these drums are much smaller compared to the one discussed in this article but their shapes are typical of Karen drums. The third drum has an atypical cylindrical shape. However, this third drum has the designs, especially the fish and duck motifs, typical of Karen drums. It also has some enigmatic inscriptions and is deserving of an article of its own. All four drums belong to the collection of the Department of Museums, Malaysia.

References

Adnan Jusoh and Yunus Sauman Sabin (2019) ‘Motif hiasan tiga (3) buah Gendang Gangsa di Muzium Matang, Perak’, ResearchGate.

Calo, Ambra (2014) Trails of Bronze Drums Across Early Southeast Asia: Exchange Routes and Connected Cultural Spheres, Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Cooler, Richard M (1995 ) The Magical Bronze Pond: The Classification, Authentication and Significance of a Late Karen Bronze Drum

Cooler, Richard M (1995 ) The Karen Bronze Drums of Burma: Types, Iconography, Manufacture, and Use. Leiden: Brill.

Fraser-Lu, Sylvia (1983) ‘Frog Drums and their Importance in Karen Culture’, Arts of Asia.

Siti Munirah Kasim and Nasrul Azam (2020), email communications.

An MV’s report on ANMA7

by Afidah Zuliana binti Abdul Rahim

Social Unity through Culture, Art and History: The Museum Challenge

This gripping theme prompted me to sign up for the first conference of its kind in Malaysia. I was excited to hear and learn from the experiences of National Museums across Asia. Luckily, Jega said he would hold up the fort for training the new volunteers so thanks to my fellow Tuesday trainers for releasing me.

Premiera Hotel was a bustling place on the morning of October 29th. Around 10MVs were dotted around the conference hall. I met some Korean representatives from ICHCAP, UNESCO whom I quickly introduced to Angela Oh, our Korean MV trainer.

The opening ceremony was grand with a spectacular cultural performance by our tourism dancers. The Deputy Minister of Tourism graced the occasion and delivered the keynote address. He acknowledged the challenges to the role of museums in promoting social unity considering the competition from other forms of entertainment available.

Subsequently, session one began. The representative from Mongolia shared a list of overseas exhibitions they had run since 1989, mainly with the Genghis Khan tagline. The most notable development he mentioned was the barcode inventory project they undertook between 2017-18, which has greatly eased storage and retrieval of their massive artefact collection.

The Japanese rep focused on the Asian Gallery at the Tokyo National Museum which houses 20% of their total collection. They connect viewers with artworks through exhibitions and related events. The goal is to provide the experience of different cultures towards a greater understanding of cultures. They hold multi-faceted events on unique themes eg. special tours by curators and Indonesian wayang kulit performance on the theme of love. Also, yoga sessions were held at the museum for better appreciation of Buddhist artefacts.

Our Penang State Museum rep shared her cross-cultural project, ‘Silang Budaya’ which redefines the museum perspectives through the interpretation of artefacts by young people. For example, students had used a tiffin box as inspiration for creating a multi-level phone accessories carrier. The project has instilled a love of history amongst polytechnic students, whose core subjects would be more technical. Museum staff supported the students to set up and curate their exhibition. She welcomed collaborations with other museums for future projects.

A cultural performance at the start of the conference

Next, the Philippines rep shared the experience of heritage building restoration at their National Museum. Even though there were many challenges, the restoration has brought recognition and appreciation of museums by the public through partnerships and donations. She also shared how they disseminated their national hero stories via a tour for school teachers, who could then translate their passion for the hero on to their students. So many ideas shared in just one morning!

Lunch time was networking time again. We sat with a gentleman from UiTM who has initiated the survey on Muzium Negara; and also, with some police officers who are now administering the Police Museum in KL.

Session 2 was moderated by a well-spoken Malaysian lady. In fact, we were impressed by all 3 moderators who were of retirement age. Next, China astounded us with its exponential growth of museum visitors. Customer service is at the top of their agenda. We were treated to a video on their Joint Asian Civilisation exhibition.

The Indonesian reps showed how their culturally diverse 700 ethnic groups considered themselves “different but still one”. Museums feature traditional games, batik workshops and theatre stories to engage their audience. There are dance performances every Sunday and university students play traditional musical instruments. Their outreach programme allows the blind to touch artefacts with gloves.

Social inclusion through multi-disciplinary aspects are echoed at the National Museum of Nepal. Homestays are offered to enhance their cultural experience.

The Malaysian Ministry of Tourism held a “keretapi sarong” movement, which encouraged millenials to wear their sarongs on the train to a secret destination– a nod to traditional wear in a fun environment.

The annual Sabah Craft Exotica programme has been running since 2005. It features local handicraft by Sabah’s 35 ethnic groups. The Korean rep was impressed by the bottom-up approach to culture-sharing in Sabah. With 115 sub-ethnic groups, Sabahans are eager to demonstrate their particular crafts, enabled by Craft Exotica. This programme also helps to preserve ethnic crafts.

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups, unified in diversity. Their museum connects communities in order to build a cultural identity and to preserve national cultural values. However, they face difficulties in approaching the public in terms of budget for IT since young people would connect better with ancient objects through technology. Also, their staff needs training to obtain professional skills and to overcome language barriers. They are keen to cooperate with foreign museums and to combine museum with other social and cultural activities.

In session 3, the rep from Thailand introduced us to the ancient city of U Thong, located in central Thailand. With 20 sites found along with many Dvaravati (Indian-influenced) artefacts, U Thong museum is now a cultural hub. The museum serves as a learning centre, which develops critical thinking skills, encourages innovation and instils a love for history amongst the public, especially children. They organise family activities on Sundays and integrate efforts with the local government in experiential learning. Also, their museum places importance on social media presence.

Personally, I found the final presentation by South Korea most impressive. In an increasingly multi-cultural Korea, museums have increased their role in diversity education. They have embraced these changes by offering targeted activities for immigrant workers, marriage immigrants and members of the international community. Also, to encourage mutual understanding and respect, their folk museum has culture discovery boxes for children, which can be loaned to schools, libraries and kindergartens. The National Museum of Korea has many exhibition exchanges with numerous countries around the world, bringing a myriad of cultural diversity experience to its people.

We left the conference with plenty of food for thought. There is no doubt that the ANMA executive closed-door meeting can build on the conference proceedings. Hearty congratulations to Department of Museums, Malaysia (JMM) for a successful conference!

Speakers and officials

Malaya at War (part 2)

by V. Jegatheesan

For Part 1, which covers days 1 and 2 of the tour, please visit https://museumvolunteersjmm.com/2019/09/02/malaya-at-war-part-1/

Tour – Day 3

This was a long day. The first stop was the Army Museum Port Dickson. It is a small museum but filled with interesting displays and exhibitions. For airplane buffs, there is an armed Canadair CL-41G, locally renamed Tebuan, the first fighter jet of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. There is also a de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou transporter and an A4 Skyhawk. For artillery gun buffs, there is a good display of artillery guns.

Among the many displays, there were exhibition halls portraying the Melaka Sultanate, the British era and some others. However, the main attraction is a full replica of a communist tunnel system. As you walk along inside, you can see the medical supplies they had, the various arms used, a diorama of a surgery and a meeting room. This is very impressive but you must be cautious if you have a problem in closed spaces.

The tunnel

We then had a long drive to Kampar and a lunch pack to nourish us on the way. Kampar is along the old trunk road south of Ipoh and it is the first real location where the British forces put up a reasonable defence against the Japanese advance. The British plan was to stop or delay the advance and the Japanese plan was to seize it for the Emperor as a New Year’s gift. However, the Emperor only got his gift on 2nd January 1942.

The town has hills opposite overlooking the town and this provided a good place for an attack on the Japanese from high ground. Here we had the assistance of Encik Shaharom Ahmad, a Malaysian Military Historian and Researcher and his colleague, Hisham, dressed in period uniform. Also assisting was Mr. Santokh Singh, a retired teacher and another enthusiast in present day casuals. Shaharom, Hisham and Rizal are members of the Malaysian Historical Group. Though members are not academics, their keen interest and knowledge is a credit to them all. With metal detectors, they have found artefacts and have also spent money to buy the period uniforms.

The ridges are not very high, about 120m as we were told. There are three ridges i.e. Thomson Ridge, which is now a housing estate; Cemetery Ridge, which remains as such; and the Green Ridge, which has been left alone, so far. On 30th December 1941, the Japanese arrived and the battle started. Ultimately, the Japanese suffered heavy losses of about 500 or an unknown number. At one point, they even had to withdraw but the British pulled back because of Japanese reinforcements coming in from Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan). This was considered a success for the British as the advance was delayed but the British still had to retreat to Slim River.

We climbed the Green Ridge and saw the trenches that remain, though overgrown. There the remnants of the artillery gun positions and trenches leading higher up to a larger area where the headquarters was set up. From here supplies were sent down to the positions. Now looking so serene and quiet, it must have been hell on those four days in the past.

A trench, now shallow

Shaharom explaining the gun pit together with Santokh

Take away the vegetation and that is how it was

A section of Kampar, now such a peaceful place

After Kampar we made another ‘Quantum Leap’ and proceeded to the Sungai Siput Estate, formerly known as the Phin Soon Estate, now well known as the spot where two of three British Planters were shot sparking the Emergency. The bungalow is no more but a monument and a gallery have been erected. The gallery had many posters and pictures. We were assisted by Mr. Harchand Singh Bedi, a Military Historian Researcher, with his immense knowledge. The monument was placed by the Malaysian Palm Oil Association. The estate is owned by the National Land Finance Cooperative Society, which is maintaining the gallery.

The gallery at Sungai Siput Estate

It was already late evening and on the way we stopped at the entrance of Elphil Estate now owned by Sime Darby. This was the scene of the first shooting of the British Planter and now there is only a board at the entrance marking the area. Unfortunately, the name on the board is Walter instead of Walker. This board was put up by the Army Museum Port Dickson and I am making attempts to contact them to correct this error.

It was a long day and we checked into the Weil Hotel just after 9pm. At Kampar we had been joined by 4 officials from Tourism Malaysia and the Director of the Northern Region Tourism Malaysia. They accompanied us for the same earlier reason to get to know the various sites so that they can create memorials or plaques to permanently recognise and remember these historical sites.

Tour – Day 4

The next day saw us at the nearby Ipoh Railway Station, which the older locals will remember for the lamb chops in its first class ‘dress for dinner type’ restaurant and later on, in ‘casuals allowed’.

In front of the station, there is the Cenotaph erected in 1927 commemorating Remembrance Day in honour of the fallen in World War 1, but now including those fallen in the World War 2, the Malayan Emergency and the Confrontation. We then moved nearby, Ipoh being a small city, to the Saint John’s Anglican Church. This place suffered some damage in Japanese aerial bombing meant for the railway station, intending to destroy the trains carrying ammunition of the retreating British forces. The church also has a small air raid shelter.

The Cenotaph

The St. Michael’s Institution in Ipoh also has a place in the war. Retreating from Jitra downwards, the British 11th Indian Infantry division suffered heavy losses. Within this this division the 2nd East Surrey and the 1st Leicestershire Regiment were so badly reduced that they had to be amalgamated to form the British Battalion. This unit remained till the end in Singapore. This amalgamation was done at St. Michael’s and later the school became a Japanese Prisoner of War camp.

We then travelled to Batu Gajah where the famous cemetery known as God’s Little Acre is situated. Here are graves of the three planters who were killed during the Emergency, as well as graves of many civilians, military and police who fell during the Emergency. This is a very old cemetery and there are also many graves of very early residents of Batu Gajah; the oldest that I saw was dated 1886.

At the entrance of God’s Little Acre
The Roll of Honour

Next stop was a town called Papan where the Malayan heroine, Sybil Karthigasu, lived during World War 2. She helped the communist soldiers of the Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army and was tortured for it by the Japanese. After the war she was sent to England for medical treatment where she died after some years. Later she was reburied in the cemetery next to the St. Michael’s Church. She was awarded the George Medal for Bravery. The house is sadly in total disrepair and Mr. Law Siak Hong, President of the Ipoh Heritage Society, has taken a great interest to restore the house to a decent form. Nothing belonging to the family remains and the only reminder is the hole under the staircase where they hid the radio set, radios being banned then with serious consequences if found. Later on Sybil’s daughter donated a cabinet.

Sybil’s house in Papan
Hole under the staircase in which the radio set was hidden
Mr. Law Siak Hong giving a tour

After lunch in a nearby Pusing, we left for Taiping. Passing the well-known beautiful Lake Gardens, still peaceful despite very large crowds of people, we arrived at the Taiping War Cemetery. Here are the graves of those killed in action during the war, the Japanese Occupation and those posted here after the war but before the Emergency. Among some 800 graves, about 500 are unidentified. The Christian and non-Christian graves are in two separate sections; they are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Some members of the Taiping Heritage Society were at hand to meet us, led by their President Mr. Yeap.

A formal ceremony was held at the Cross of Freedom with a prayer and a short sermon by Reverend Dr. Philip Mathius. This was followed by the Oath by Lt. Col. John Morrison accompanied by the Last Post by three buglers of a local Scout Troup. A wreath was laid by Commodore (Rtd.)  Arasaratnam of the Royal Malaysian Navy accompanied by Colonel Dr. Robert Likeman.

The Taiping Heritage Society then hosted us to tea at the New Club, which had been founded in 1892 by members of the Perak Club (founded in 1885) in protest of the Perak Club’s rule of restrictive membership to high-ranking officials. We returned at night for our dinner here.

Tour – Day 5

The next morning was a mix of history and places of general interest. We started at the Spritzer Plant, in case you did not realise, a Malaysian company producing natural mineral water. Water is pumped from an aquifer 400 feet below, purified and bottled. The Plant is situated just below the hills, which are behind it.

We stopped at the Matang Museum, a historical building built by Orang Kaya Menteri Ngah Ibrahim, the son of Cek Long Jaffar who is credited for opening up the Larut district for tin mining. The building has variously been a Teachers College, Japanese Army headquarters, a Malay school and now a museum.

The Matang Museum

This museum is off the beaten track and is well worth a visit. One side of the perimeter wall was damaged when a Japanese fighter plane crashed into it. There are many displays and artefacts including about tin. But at the back are stone pillars, or stele, which is a Japanese memorial to their soldiers killed in the invasion at the Thai Malayan border.

We stopped at a charcoal factory in Kuala Sepetang, or once known as Port Weld. Mr. Chuah from the factory gave us a tour. This factory produces high quality charcoal from bakau, a swamp wood. Much of it is exported to Japan. The bakau is cut from the surrounding swamps. But it is well controlled with replanting and is monitored by the forestry department. Incidentally, making charcoal is not just burning the bakau. It’s a much longer and involved process. Another blog another day.

Mr. Chuah explaining how charcoal is made
Inside the empty oven

We then travelled on to Penang and checked into the Royale Chulan Georgetown. This is in the old Boustead building, which were once offices and warehouses by the quay.

Tour – Day 6

On this day, we went to the Convent Light Street. Here we observed in a classroom the names of Prisoners of War from the American submarine USS Grenadier. This submarine was sunk near Phuket and some of the prisoners were interned for 108 days in this school, which was then the Japanese Naval Headquarters. The names were etched using their belt buckles on the door and walls of a classroom. The school has preserved these by putting a glass casing over them. A plaque has also been installed.

This school was not always a school. It was built around the bungalow of Sir Francis Light, the Founder of modern Penang. It was later the Government House and the offices of the early Penang Government. There is even a well in the compound used for Francis Light and another for the public.

Francis Light’s personal well in the school compound

The next stop was the Cenotaph at the Penang Esplanade. This is placed by the Penang Veterans Association in honour of the fallen in the wars from the First World War to the Communist Re-Insurgency.

The Cenotaph at the Esplanade Penang

Fort Cornwallis was not to be missed. Exhibits are sparse and only a part of the wall exists. But it is well maintained and conservation works promise new discoveries.

The final stop was the Penang War Museum in Batu Maung. Having lived in Penang in the early sixties, this place was for me and I am sure many other Penangites, a total surprise, not having known of its existence all this time. Located in the south east corner of Penang, it was built in the early 1930’s and was equipped with anti-aircraft guns, cannons, barracks, pillboxes, tunnels and facilities for the occupants. It was evacuated by the British in their retreat in December 1941. It was taken over and used by the Japanese to protect shipping, as well as a prison. After the war, it was abandoned and disappeared in the overgrowth.

However, in the 1990s, an entrepreneur, Johari Shafie, started a company and with the Penang State Government restored the fort and created a war museum. It was opened in 2002. I personally found it to be an interesting place and spent quite some time such that I was the last back on the bus.

Lunch was at the Queensbay Mall where we separately wandered in the food court for a variety of not just Penang fare. We returned to the hotel and gathered again for dinner. This was at the TOP View Restaurant Lounge on the top (of course), 59th floor of the KOMTAR Penang. Participants were given a Certificate of Participation. One of the group, Colonel Dr. Robert Likeman, was inducted as a member of the Council of Fellows of the War History Institute. There was Malaysian Cultural dance by four dancers organised by the Tourism Malaysia.

We boarded the bus back to the hotel with farewells to mark the end of a very well planned and enjoyable tour of the Malayan battle sites. An eye opener even to me as a Malaysian with a keen interest in our history.

For Part 1 of this report, please follow the link below. https://museumvolunteersjmm.com/2019/09/02/malaya-at-war-part-1/

Malaya at War (part 1)

by V. Jegatheesan

‘Malaya at War’ was the title of a conference held in Kuala Lumpur on 10th and 11th August 2019. It was organised by the War History Institute, Holiday Tours & Travel Sdn. Bhd. and the Malaysian British Society. As the Research Director of the War History Institute, Mr. Seumas Tan, mentioned, there should be more stories about local war heroes as this would lead to more interest in Malaysia’s war history and consequently more visits to places associated with it. This will, in turn, generate military history tourism.

The Conference

The Keynote Address was by our first Royal Malaysian Navy Chief, Rear Admiral Tan Sri Dato’ Seri (Dr) K. Thanabalasingam. This was followed by Professor Brian P. Farrell of the National University of Singapore on the Defence of Malaya 1941-1942. An interesting first person account of the sinking of the Repulse was given by a survivor – Rear Admiral Guy Richmond Griffiths AO DSO DSC RAN (Rtd.). He is currently the Patron of the HMS Repulse Survivors Association. Kuala Lumpur at War 1939-1945 was covered by Andrew Barber, a Military History Researcher.

Most distinguished (looks belie their age):                                                      
L- R: Tan Sri J. J. Raj Jr,
Rear Admiral Tan Sri Dato’ Seri (Dr) K. Thanabalasingam
Rear Admiral Guy Richmond Griffiths AO DSO DSC RAN (Rtd.
The participants

Malaysian speakers were next starting with Mr. Harchand Singh Bedi, a Military History Researcher, who spoke on the Battle of Kampar 1941-1942. The story of Sybil Karthigasu was presented by Mr. Law Siak Hong, President Ipoh Heritage Society. War leaves behind a trail of wreckages and relics and Encik Shaharom Ahmad, a Malaysian Military Historian and Researcher, gave an illustrated description of airplane wreckages, bridges and pillboxes. A panel of speakers then gave their viewpoints on battlefield tourism and their involvement in promoting this. The panel comprised of Seumas Tan, Research Director War History Institute Sydney Australia, who acted as the moderator; George Yong and Zafrani Arifin, Malaysian Battlefield Guides; Henry Ong, Head Business Development Holiday Tours & Travel Sdn. Bhd.; and Dennis Weatherall, Australian Military Historian and Accredited Battlefield Guide.

The next day began with the topic on the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) which was very much a war but for various reasons called an emergency. This was covered by Mr. Christopher Hale who is a documentary producer and non-fiction writer. The famous Bukit Kepong Incident was described by Tan Sri J. J. Raj Jr., a Retired Commissioner of Royal Malaysian Police. He was the Officer in Charge of the Police District and was involved in the incident. From the Nanyang Technological University Singapore, Associated Professor Dr. Kumar Ramakrishna spoke on the Role of British Propaganda during the Emergency. The Conference was closed with a skit describing how a couple of Communists pressured a local couple for food. However, they were ambushed and killed. This skit was by the Malaya Historical Group all in period dress and uniform.

Tan Sri J. J. Raj Jr

The Tour

The Conference was followed immediately by a 6-day tour of the battle sites and memorials as well as a few other places of interest. The group comprised organisers Seumas Tan and Henry Ong, guide Zafrani Arifin and 2 officers from Tourism Malaysia. There were fourteen other participants, of which five were Malaysians. The remainder nine participants were Australians including one who had been here during the Emergency and another during the Confrontation.

The following is a description of the tour and a brief explanation of the battlefields, the battles and memorials. It is not meant to be a detailed description of the various battles as this will be too lengthy. The description also follows the tour route and not the specific battle routes as this involved a lot of criss-crossing and backtracking; it was not a straightforward fall back. These intricate details can be read from numerous books and the internet.

The route for the first day follows the start of the Australian forces’ involvement against the advancing Japanese army. As Australian Lieutenant General Gordon Bennet wrote in his book Why Singapore Fell, “Australians go in to bat”, a cricketing term. Their objective was to stop this advance and even drive the Japanese back, if not to delay the onslaught. The Japanese had been rapidly advancing down south largely on the west coast road with forces spread out on the fringes of the road, in the rubber estates and in the jungle, in fact everywhere in a broad sweep. They also had air cover in many places operating from occupied airports. Surprisingly, they also seized boats in Penang and Muar to get ahead and behind the British lines. The Forces, i.e. British Army, may have delayed the Japanese slightly and caused some losses, inflicted heavy damage, but they ultimately had to retreat into Singapore.

While this is where the Australian forces joined the war, the entire army here comprised of Australian, Indian and British units. Many units have been retreating from up north and were exhausted. Units had to be regrouped as each suffered losses.

Tour – Day 1

On the first day, we set off for Sungai Kelamah War Memorial in Gemencheh. This is along the old road south and close to Gemas. The Japanese, who had rumbled down at speed, arrived here on 14 January 1942. An Australian ambush party had already laid explosives under the bridge and awaited the Japanese. Bridges were routinely destroyed in war to stop or delay the advancing enemy forces.

The memorial at Gemencheh

At 4.10 pm, after some 300 Japanese troops had crossed, the Australians blew up the bridge killing about 30 Japanese on the bridge. Australians were also ranged along hillsides further back and fired on Japanese who had crossed. It is estimated that nearly 500 to 700 were killed with minimal losses for the allied troops. As far as they were concerned, the ambush was a success.

Remnants of the bridge. A new bridge can be seen in the background.

Nevertheless, in due course, the Japanese had gotten ahead behind them as the Australian ambush party withdrew towards Gemas, continuously avoiding Japanese advance parties who got behind Australian lines. Generally, withdrawal was not a simple matter in war as they were constantly harassed and fought with by the Japanese behind the lines and by heavy aerial bombings. Many units or soldiers become lost or trapped and had to find their way to their units or other units. The bridge was quickly rebuilt by the Japanese using timber from a local sawmill. Retreating forces destroyed the machinery but did not think the timber would be useful. In war, fuel, machinery, vehicles even street signs or anything that will give an advantage to the enemy is removed or destroyed.

Today we see a memorial site and the remnants of the bridge. Further away we also saw anti-tank cylindrical concrete blocks intended to halt advancing tanks.

Anti-tank blocks and us

A local enthusiast, Rizal, showed us around dressed in the Commonwealth Forces uniform. This uniform was worn by Australian soldiers on the way to the Middle East and when they were diverted to Malaya, they fought in this uniform. Over time Rizal has collected many artefacts, all rusted with time.

Today, the road has been realigned and a new bridge built.

We proceeded to the Gemas Railway Station. We were shown a photo of Japanese troops crawling along the lines anticipating enemy attacks.

The Gemas Railway Station – then and now

The next stop was the Gemas Broken Bridge. Today you can still see the remnants as seen in the photo below while a new bridge has been built nearby.

Gemas Broken Bridge

Next was the Buloh Kasap Bridge, which shared the same fate as the other bridges. A then and now photo shows how the bridge was rebuilt at speed by the Japanese. The ends of the bridge are still intact today. On one side damage from artillery shells can be seen. Markings on the concrete pillars below show that the bridge was built in March 1926.

Photo of the Japanese rebuilding Buloh Kasap Bridge

Both these unusable bridges seem to be painted and maintained by the local Council, but attempts to contact the Council to confirm this is still ongoing. Before the next bridge, we stopped for lunch at the VIP Hotel, a small yet beautiful hotel.

The Segamat Railway Bridge was also blasted and quickly rebuilt. Any advancing army will expect bridges to be blown up and are therefore prepared to rebuild them. It is a matter of speed to get it up and let the forces cross onward. Materials are usually sourced locally as in Gemencheh.

The photo shows the Japanese rebuilding the Segamat Railway Bridge

It is fortunate to have the then and now photos as it helps in imagining the various happenings. Unlike other bridges that have been replaced with realigned roads and new bridges, the Segamat Railway Bridge was repaired after the war and it is still in use. Our night stop was at the Ramada in Melaka.

Tour – Day 2

The second day saw us in Muar town. The local Tourism Officer boarded the bus and gave us a tour of the town. Of interest was the remains of the bombed out building behind the present Streetview Hotel.

We then got on the road, headed southeast and after 5kms arrived outside of Bakri. This is the location of the famous photo of 2 gunners with the anti-tank gun. They managed to do damage to the advancing tanks. Below I quote the caption to the photo from the Australian War Memorial website. (https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/040367/). This caption and the photo say it all.

BAKRI, MALAYA, 1942-01-15 (actually 1942-01-18). GUNNERS OF 13TH AUSTRALIAN ANTI-TANK BATTERY USING A 2 PDR (pounder) ANTI-TANK GUN ACTION AGAINST JAPANESE TYPE 94 LIGHT TANKS AT A ROAD BLOCK. THE FORWARD TANK HAS BEEN SET ON FIRE WHILST OTHER TANKS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF ROAD BLOCK, WHICH IS A FELLED RUBBER TREE, HAVE BEEN DISABLED.

The caption to this photo in Wikipedia reads “Australian 2 pounder gun of 13th Battery, 4th Anti-Tank Regiment, firing on Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks of the 14th Tank Regiment on the Muar-Parit Sulong road on 18 January 1942. [1] Sergeant Charles Parsons and his crew were credited with destroying six of the nine tanks in this engagement.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Muar).

The hillock on the right is all that remains of the original as in the photo. A huge swath of land has been cleared behind this for a large industrial estate. We hope this location will at least be marked. This was the purpose of having the two officers from the Tourism Malaysia so they will appreciate the locations and provide feedback on the importance of this and other locations and place a memorial or a plaque.

Interestingly, the gunner, Sergeant Charlie Parsons, mentioned is connected to the family of the daughter-in-law of one of our participants on tour. He found this out when he posted pictures of the tour in his Facebook and she informed him!!

Further south at Parit Sulong, which was taken by the Japanese on the 21st January 1942, we stopped at the Parit Sulong Memorial. A memorial ceremony was held and the following oath recited by Colonel Dr. Robert Likeman, who was one of our group. This is always recited at Australian memorial services.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

(A Verse from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon)

Small Australian flags were placed on the memorial. We then crossed the road to an area that contained abandoned JKR quarters. It was in this area that some 150 prisoners and wounded Australian and Indian soldiers were held captive and then massacred. The Japanese General Takuma Nishimura was later sentenced to death for this.

The Oath by Colonel Dr. Robert Likeman
Placing of flags

After Parit Sulong and many other small battles, the British forces had to withdraw to Singapore.

The plaque on the bridge at Parit Sulong

It is a simple to read about battle sites. It can be another matter to visit them and see the actual spots where it all happened. War is a terrible thing in itself. Being at the sites can evoke emotions though it all happened in the past. We see and we move away.

Parit Sulong – how many know the past of this town

Then we made a “Quantum Leap” (refer old TV series) from the War to the Emergency – to Bukit Kepong, the scene of the annihilation of the wooden riverside police station by the communists on 23rd February 1950. Bukit Kepong is about 60km from Muar town. From the hillside across the station about 180 communists led by Muhammad Indera, looked down on the police station. In the police station were 25 policemen led by Sergeant Jamil Mohd. Shah. At 4.15am, the firing started. The police stood their ground, refusing surrender despite their families being killed as well. The station was set on fire and through all this the police defended the station. After 5 hours, it was over and the communists left leaving only four policemen and nine family members as survivors. This story as with the others is overwhelming.

Today, unfortunately the station has not been rebuilt. However, a gallery has been set up – Galeri Darurat Bukit Kepong or Emergency Gallery Bukit Kepong. On display are pictures and videos not just about the incident but also a lot more about the emergency, the independence, guns etc. There are also personal artefacts of the policemen and their families on display such as the household items of cups and saucers etc. etc.

The police at Bukit Kepong before the attack. Sergeant Jamil Mohd. Shah is seated third from left.

The day finished with our travel back to the Ramada and a good night’s rest before the next day’s events.

This report continues to Part 2 covering days 3-6. It can be viewed at https://museumvolunteersjmm.com/2019/09/02/malaya-at-war-part-2/

Visiting Sapporo Beer Museum

by Eric Lim

Tourists visiting Japan have been increasing on a yearly basis. Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) in an earlier posting mentioned that approximately 2.7 million foreigners visited Japan in January 2019, an increase of 7.5% year on year. Come 2020, one can expect a record number of tourists to Japan as Tokyo will play host to the summer Olympics.

July is the start of summer time in Japan and they have a full line up of events around the country like the Kyoto Gion Festival held at the Gion area in Kyoto; the Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival a.k.a Star Festival at Kanagawa Prefecture, outside Tokyo and Tenjin Festival in Osaka. There are also numerous Music Festivals, Fireworks Festivals and beer gardens. It is also time to hit the beaches and to go hiking.

Over in Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan, tourists congregate at Furano City, situated in the central part of the island, to enjoy the scenic rolling hills of colourful flowers, especially the lavender flowers. Then off to Hokuryu, to see the Sunflower field before reaching the capital city of Sapporo. I have mentioned earlier of the coming summer Olympics in Tokyo, so it is fair for me to inform that Sapporo was the venue for the winter Olympics in 1972. My family of four visited these popular destinations plus a few more, during our recent holiday here in Hokkaido.

The popular attractions in Sapporo include Nijo Market (a seafood market), Tanukikoji Shopping Street (walk from Street 1 to Street 7; full of game arcades, F&B outlets, hotels, drug stores that open for 24 hours); Sapporo TV Tower (height of 147.2 metres / 483 ft) and Odori Park, which is right in the heart of the city and when we arrived here, it was the first day of Sapporo Odori Beer Garden Festival. It is dubbed as the nation’s largest beer garden as it stretches for a distance of 1 km and has a capacity to provide 13,000 seats! And talking about beer, I looked forward to visiting the Sapporo Beer Museum on day two of our stay in the city.

Sapporo Beer Museum (SBM) or Sapporo Biru Hakubutsukan is located at Sapporo Garden Park. Besides the museum, the park also encompasses several dining halls and restaurants, a shopping complex and an indoor practice field for the city’s baseball team. SBM was officially opened in July 1987 and was registered as one of the Hokkaido Heritage sites on October 22, 2004.

The history of brewing of beer in Japan began at a time when Japan was embarking on its modernisation journey. It was at the start of the Meiji Empire and Edo was renamed as Tokyo, which became Japan’s new capital. Japan opened its doors to Western cultures and customs. The Hokkaido Development Commission, Kaitakushi, initially wanted to build a new brewery facility in Tokyo in 1875 but the plan was shelved and instead moved to Sapporo. Two key personnel were given the credits for the move to Sapporo – 1) Seibei Nakagawa who was appointed as the Chief Engineer. He left Japan at a tender age of 17 and studied the brewing of beer in Germany. Upon his return to Japan and through a recommendation from a high ranking Government officer whom he met in Germany, he was appointed to the post. He made it known that ice was required for the fermentation and aging of beer. 2) Hisanari Murahashi was employed as the manager and he petitioned for the move to Sapporo where ice and snow were readily available. The petition was approved.

At the inauguration of Kaitakushi Beer Brewery. Beer barrels stacked up on the right.

A two-storey wooden brewery was completed within three months and it was to be the first brewery in Hokkaido. It was named Kaitakushi Beer Brewery and the year was 1876. At its inauguration, piles of beer barrels were stacked up in front of the brewery and the following words were written in white text “Ceremony : combining barley and hops yields a spirit called beer”. The replica beer barrels are now stacked next to SBM. This marked the start of Sapporo Beer and it went on sale in September 1877 in Tokyo. The Kaitakushi logo of the North Star was featured in the label and it became the logo of Sapporo Beer until today. The North Star symbol was also used on the Clock Tower and the former Hokkaido Government office building which the local called Akarenga which mean “red brick”, two landmarks in Sapporo. Today, the Sapporo Museum is housed in Akarenga.

In 1886, the brewery turned from state-owned to private enterprise when Kihachiro Okura took over and called it Okuragumi Sapporo Beer Brewery. Shortly after, it was transferred to two entrepreneurs namely Eiichi Shibuzawa and Soichiro Asano – Sapporo Beer Company (Sapporo Bakushu Kaisha) was established and later, it became known as Sapporo Breweries. From then on, the company started modernizing beer brewing and further boosted manufacturing capacity to deal with intense price wars between the major players: Nippon Beer, Japan Brewery Company (Kirin Beer) and Osaka Beer (Asahi Beer). In 1903, Sapporo Breweries made its foray into Tokyo and became the biggest brewery in Japan. In the month of May the same year, it acquired the Sapporo Sugar Company (Sapporo Seito Kaisha), a sugar mill and converted it into a plant for the malting of barley used in beer; it used the building until 1965. The current SBM is housed in this building.

Today, SBM is the one and only beer museum in Japan. Upon entry into the red brick building, visitors are greeted by a sign on how to approach the facility. For the Premium Tour, a Brand Communicator will guide your through in Japanese and the duration is about 50 minutes. The fee is Yen 500, inclusive of premium theater and special beer tasting at the end of the tour. We had no choice but to explore the museum on our own, on our own pace and of course, it’s free-of-charge but we have to buy our own beer at the end of the tour.

Both tour starts at the third floor. As we were walking down the slope, we could see a huge copper kettle for boiling beer wort which was still in use until 2003. The gallery is on the second floor. There are altogether 12 panels displaying the history of the beer industry in Japan. Information is in Japanese but they do provide translation sheets in Chinese, English and Korean, placed at the side of the panel. The panels are well placed and allows for plenty of walking space. As we approached the centre of the gallery, we could see an additional long panel on the left side, and this highlights the collection of advertisements and original posters of Sapporo Beer, used over the years. This panel also provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the fashion and design that was popular in Japan during those days. A collection of advertisements and original posters are shown below.

We are then led to a staircase to the first floor, to the Star Hall. And there is no better way to end the tour than by tasting freshly brewed beer shipped directly from the brewery. For me, this part of the tour was definitely the highlight. Back home, l would call it “Happy Hour” but since we are in The Land of the Rising Sun, it’s “Kanpai time”. For a fee of Yen 800, we could get a 3-variety Beer Flight, consisting of Sapporo Draft Beer Black Label, Sapporo Classic and Sapporo Kaitakushi Brewery Pilsner. Meantime, for the Premium Tour, participant is given Sapporo Beer, brewed by strictly following the original recipe used way back in 1881. As in any good museums, there is a Museum Shop. Here, one could buy unique and original merchandise, also Kaitakushi Beer which is only available in Sapporo.

The Star Hall

It was a wonderful family trip and more so for yours truly as it was my first time visiting a beer museum and also my first time tasting fresh Japanese beer. It was a wonderful experience. How I wish to be drinking Sapporo Beer now, on a hot and hazy afternoon in Kajang.

Visit to the Malaysian Chinese Museum (27 March 2019)

by Janet Wong and Margaret Yeo

30 Museum Volunteers from the National Museum visiting the Malaysian Chinese Museum on 27th March 2019, photo by Mona Tan.

Established by the Federation of Chinese Associations of Malaysia (Hua Zong), the Malaysian Chinese Museum at Wisma Huazong in Seri Kembangan, Kuala Lumpur opened its doors to the public in 2018. The museum tells the story of the Chinese in Malaysia through a delightful mix of text, graphics and historical reconstruction.

In the 15th century and possibly earlier, there were diplomatic relations between China and Malacca. During the Ming Dynasty, Admiral Zheng He made no less than five grand voyages to Malacca. The Malaccan rulers also travelled to China to pay tribute in the Imperial Court.

Statue of Admiral Zheng He. Photo by Margaret Yeo.
Part of a Chinese map showing the Malay Archipelago. Photo by Janet Wong.

During the late Qing Dynasty, unrest and famine in China and the promise of greener pastures abroad led the Chinese to make their way to South East Asia. However, life here after a tempestuous journey was almost always harsh (especially for those in bondage), and often migrants resorted to opium and alcohol to block out their pitiful existence.

An opium user. Photo by Margaret Yeo.

The Chinese migrants were grouped based on their place of origin in China, and many formed triads to protect their interests. The triads fought over control of resources such as the mines, and this sometimes led to wars eg. Perang Larut, fought between the Hai San Society and Ghee Hin Society.

A fight between triad members. Photo by Margaret Yeo.

There were also migrants who became successful businessmen, such as Tan Kah Kee. In 1860, Tan Kah Kee travelled from Xiamen, Fujian to Singapore (then part of the Straits Settlements) to help his father with the family business (rice trading). Eventually, he built a business empire stretching across sectors such as rubber, manufacturing, canneries, real estate and rice trading. The museum has statues of Tan Kah Kee and his son-in-law, Lee Kong Chian, also a prominent businessman.

Besides that, along with the people came their culture and naturally the industries to support that culture. In the museum, there are reconstructions of several shopfronts.

During the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945), the Chinese here suffered grave casualties and cruel treatment. Some joined the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), which fought hard against the Japanese invaders. After the war, eight MPAJA members received awards for their anti-Japanese efforts.

An MPAJA member awarded the Star of Burma by Lord Mountbatten. Photo by Margaret Yeo.

After World War II, many of the MPAJA members joined the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), which became embroiled in armed conflict against the British colonial government. This eventually led to the declaration of the Malayan Emergency, during which measures such as the introduction of identity cards and creation of New Villages were implemented. A diorama at the museum reconstructs the situation during the Emergency, which officially ended in 1960 with the victory of the Malayan forces.

After independence in 1957, the Chinese have gradually integrated into Malaysian society without sacrificing their cultural identity, as can be seen from the reconstructions of Chinese markers of culture such as the religion, cuisine and forms of entertainment.

Lion dance. Photo by Margaret Yeo.
Offerings to the Jade Emperor on his birthday. Photo by Ong Li Ling.

Furthermore, Chinese education continues to be upheld. The museum traces the development of the Chinese education system in Malaysia. It is to be noted that outside China and Taiwan, Malaysia is the only country that provides Chinese education from primary to tertiary level. The groups of Chinese educationalists responsible for this achievement, amongst them Jiao Zong and Dong Zong, are acknowledged in the museum.

Last but not least, the museum has a breathtaking miniature display of a bustling marketplace where the different races in Malaysia can be seen working together for the betterment of the nation, in a depiction of the present and hopefully, the future as well.

A bustling marketplace. Photo by Janet Wong.

All in all, while the museum occupies a mere 10,550 square feet, the space has been very cleverly used and the museum is well worth a visit.

At the conclusion of the guided tour, the museum presented our library with a book entitled “A Journey Through History: The Chinese and Nation-Building in Malaysia”. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the hospitality and the special gift. We would also like to thank Mona Tan for organising this trip.

Three Museums

by Eric Lim

The first quarter of 2019 was very eventful for me. I made two overseas trips, the first to Guangzhou, China, in January followed by an 18-day sojourn to the North Island of New Zealand, between February and March. Taking these excellent opportunities, I visited the local museums and I would like to share my experiences with you.

1. Archaeological Site Museum of Nanyue Palace in Guangzhou

The history of Guangzhou started more than 2,000 years ago. Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Empire succeeded in unifying the Lingnan Region, which comprised 3 prefectures namely Nanhai, Guilin and Xiang.

The Qin dynasty ended when military captains staged revolts causing great upheavals in the Central Plains of China. Zhao Tuo took over and established the Nanyue Kingdom with Panyu (original name of Guangzhou) as its capital. The Nanyue Kingdom was ruled successively by 5 kings and endured 93 years until it was obliterated by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty in 111 BC. Since then, Guangzhou was further developed by another 10 cultural strata, right up to the Republic of China.

The museum sits between shops fronting the Beijing Road and dwellings on the other side, with the main entrance located at Zhongshan 4th Road. As the name suggests, the focus is on the historic site of the palace and garden of the Nanyue Kingdom. The royal garden consists of a large stone pond and a crooked stone brook. The latter was discovered in 1997 and it meanders from the north to south, a distance of 160 metres. It is the earliest and the best-preserved royal garden discovered so far in China.

The palace of the Nanyue Kingdom

During the excavation of the pond, a large quantity of the remains of turtles was found at the bottom, implying the animals might have been kept as pets in the royal garden. Chinese authorities also found that stone structures used in the construction of the royal garden were built with materials similar to those of Western stone structures, thus testifying to the meeting of East and West in Guangzhou in ancient times.

Exchanges between the Chinese and Western cultures

Besides the site of the palace and garden of the Nanyue Kingdom, there is also the palace site of the Nanhan Kingdom, which includes the Nanhan courtyard paved with fabulous butterfly peony square bricks. At the exhibition building for Guangzhou’s ancient wells, visitors can see over 500 wells built during the different dynasties. During excavations at this site, many valuable artefacts were found. Over 100 pottery jars were unearthed from the wells constructed by the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-20 BCE).

(Left) Well of Eastern Han Dynasty 25-220 BC (Right) Well of Qing Dynasty 1644 – 1911

Towards the end of 2004, hundreds of inscribed wooden slips were excavated from the wells built during the Nanyue Kingdom. These are the very first of such artefacts ever discovered in the region that provide great value for academic research.

There is no admission fee to visit the museum but visitors must get tickets at the main entrance by showing personal ID cards or, in the case of foreigners, by showing passports.

2. Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland

The Auckland Domain is Auckland’s oldest park and it is located just outside Auckland’s CBD. This spacious 75 hectares park is also one of the largest parks in the city and it has been developed around the cone of the extinct Pukekawa volcano. Sitting proudly atop it is the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Auckland War Memorial Museum

The museum is housed in a large neo-classical styled building and is considered as one of the finest heritage buildings. It was opened in 1929 to commemorate the loss of 18,166 New Zealanders who died in the First World War. Today, AWMM is one of the top tourist attractions. The museum is divided into 3 levels:

Ground Level – This level examines the diversity of Maori and Pacific Island cultures. It also talks about the movement of people from South East Asia to the islands in “Near Oceania” 5,000 years ago, then progressing further to the distant island groups in “Remote Oceania” such as New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa between 3,500 – 3,000 years ago. By then, these people were known as the Lapita people, the immediate ancestors of the Polynesians. Then after “The Long Pause”, a period of over 1,000 years, they started sailing again after the development of larger ocean-going canoes reaching as far North as the Hawaiian islands and as far South as Aotearoa New Zealand 800 years ago. It was believed that the Polynesians have sailed as far as South America and brought back kumara and gourd.

Movement of people from SEA to the Pacific Islands and New Zealand

Level One – Talks about the Natural History of New Zealand, from geological origins to its ancient flora and fauna. The Moa was the tallest bird known and the female grew as tall as 3 metres, measured in an upright standing position. This level also highlights the uniqueness of many New Zealand birds, which are flightless, large, dull or dark in colour and slow breeders. Of course, there is mention of the Kiwi, national pride of New Zealand.

The Moa

Level Two – This gallery is named Scars on the Heart. It is a war memorial centered mainly on the First and Second World Wars. There is also a section that talks about Kiwis being called into action in Asia, namely in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam.

The first New Zealanders that fought in Asia were based at the Changi Air Base in Singapore from 1949 to 1951, during the time of the Malayan Emergency, and they remained in the country until 1989. Their engagement grew larger during the time of the Confrontation over Borneo in 1964. In the 1960’s, pressured by the American government, New Zealand committed resources to the Vietnam War.

We were again given the spotlight, this time on the stained glass ceiling above the main foyer, which depicts the Coat of Arms of all British Dominions and Colonies during the First World War. The Coat of Arms of Malaya and Straits Settlements are proudly displayed on this glass ceiling.

Coat of Arms of Malaya and Straits Settlements on glass ceiling (extreme left and second left)

A portrait of Sir Edmund Hillary, who was born in Auckland, is also on display. On 29 May 1953, Sir Edmund and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first climbers to reach the peak of Mount Everest.

The general admission fee to this museum is NZ $25.00 and the highlights guided tour is an additional NZ $15.00.

3. Navy Museum in Devonport

Still in Auckland, I also visited the Navy Museum in the village of Devonport. Here, visitors can learn about New Zealand’s contribution at sea in the major conflicts of the 20th century and as well as during peace-time. Again, the Malayan Emergency and Confrontation are highlighted. The museum is open seven days a week, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and admission is free.

Malaysian Medals awarded to British Commonwealth personnels who served during the Malayan Emergency and Confrontation
%d bloggers like this: