Digging into Singapore's colourful past with 14th century Fort Canning discoveries

Professor John Miksic holding up fragments of a rare 14th century Chinese ceramic compass he unearthed on Fort Canning Hill. The compass could have been used for fengshui divination. Other items found were a gold armlet (above) and a bust of a man po
Professor John Miksic holding up fragments of a rare 14th century Chinese ceramic compass he unearthed on Fort Canning Hill. The compass could have been used for fengshui divination. PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIANHE ZAOBAO, COURTESY OF JOHN MIKSIC
Professor John Miksic holding up fragments of a rare 14th century Chinese ceramic compass he unearthed on Fort Canning Hill. The compass could have been used for fengshui divination. Other items found were a gold armlet (above) and a bust of a man po
Other items found were a gold armlet (above) and a bust of a man possibly of Persian or Arab origin with a turban.PHOTOS: ST FILE, LIANHE ZAOBAO, COURTESY OF JOHN MIKSIC

This is the first of six weekly articles covering the Singapore History Series - Seven Centuries In Six Episodes, organised as part of the SkillsFuture Festival in collaboration with the Singapore Bicentennial Office.

Porcelain pillows elaborately sculpted to depict Chinese opera scenes were such rare status symbols in 13th century China that they were owned only by a small number of elites there.

Archaeologist John Miksic was therefore surprised when fragments of one were found on Fort Canning Hill, as no other examples are known to have been exported.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Digging into S'pore's colourful past'. Print Edition | Subscribe