A gem of a find in the heart of Joo Chiat

17 04 2012

Set in the heart of an area that is synonymous with the Chinese Peranakan community in Singapore, Joo Chiat, is a little gem of a place that awaits discovery – The Intan, which in Malay translates to ‘rose-cut diamond’. The Intan is a Peranakan home-museum which is owned by an antique collector, Alvin Yapp and is set in a somewhat nondescript house that is typical of the area. It is only in stepping through the door that the pure delight of the place becomes evident as one sets foot in a world where the rich culture of a forgotten time awaits discovery.

The Intan is a home-museum owned by an antique collector, Mr Alvin Yapp, located in the heart of the Joo Chiat area.

The entrance of The Intan as seen from the loft.

The ancestral altar is one of three altars usually found in a Peranakan house.

The house that The Intan is set in, is typical of houses that are associated with the community. It is long and narrow – an architectural feature that takes one back to a time when taxes to be paid were determined based on the number of windows a house had. Once inside, the soft light that filters through its narrow openings and skylights reveals the wealth of what The Intan holds – a superb collection of all things unmistakably Peranakan. This includes larger items of furniture, very distinctly coloured Peranakan pieces of porcelain, as well as personal items that include jewellery, embroidery and kasut manek (beaded slippers).

The long and narrow showcase of all things Peranakan that is The Intan.

A view of the loft.

Beaded slippers or kasut manek.

Old tiffin carriers form part of the collection - the trophy is a personal item on which Alvin has an interesting story to share.

The collection and the acquisition of knowledge of the culture for Alvin started when back as a teenager, watching a play triggered an increased awareness of his cultural background. This brought about a quest to understand a sub-culture that was fast being diluted by the gravitation towards a common Chinese identity. With requests received from friends first to view his collection which extended to requests to sample food from the kitchen, the idea to convert his home – then a flat in Marine Parade, into a museum. The Intan itself was started in 2003 and today hosts visits (by appointment only for a minimum of eight persons) for tea or dinner which includes a guided tour of the house, a sharing of insights into the Peranakan culture as well as a sharing of some fascinating personal stories. The Intan also hosts private functions, art sales and small concerts. More information on The Intan, which was invited to become a member of the Museum Roundtable and won the Best Overall Experience Award at the Museum Roundtable Awards 2011, is available at their website www.the-intan.com. Appointments can be made by calling +65 6440 1148.

Alvin Yapp shares his passion for all things Peranakan.

The Intan is open for visits by appointment which include either tea or dinner (for a minimum of eight).

Porcelain pieces on the ancestral altar. The Peranakans commissioned uniquely and very distinctly coloured porcelain to be made in Jiangxi, China. Colours displayed also have a significance - with the blue and white pieces displayed during periods of mourning.

A wedding altar from Penang.

The collection includes quite a few pieces of Peranakan furniture which features intricately carved floral and phoenix motifs.

Furniture details.

Bead work on display on the altar.