Heritage lesson in Chinatown mouse hunt

Chinatown Heritage Centre staff Tan Ching Ying, 22, and Muhammad Luthfil Hady, 21, with the ink stamps and journals which visitors can buy to collect the stamps.
Chinatown Heritage Centre staff Tan Ching Ying, 22, and Muhammad Luthfil Hady, 21, with the ink stamps and journals which visitors can buy to collect the stamps.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
During the Festive Mouse Hunt, visitors can look for tiny, handmade baskets, such as this one behind the sewing machine. Each basket contains an ink stamp with a design inspired by Chinatown's history.
During the Festive Mouse Hunt, visitors can look for tiny, handmade baskets, such as this one behind the sewing machine. Each basket contains an ink stamp with a design inspired by Chinatown's history.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Year-long event by heritage centre aims to inject element of fun for visitors

As Singaporeans prepare to usher in the Year of the Rat, the mice have come out to play and celebrate their year as leader of the pack on the Chinese zodiac cycle, at Chinatown Heritage Centre (CHC).

The centre, which offers visitors a look at how early immigrants in Chinatown lived in cramped conditions, will have "mice" scattered throughout its galleries for visitors to hunt, reminiscent of how the early settlers had to fend off mice almost daily.

The Festive Mouse Hunt was launched last Friday as part of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Visitors can look for tiny, handmade baskets adorned with pink flowers and an image of a mouse carrying a Chinese cultural symbol of fortune, like gold ingots.

Inside each basket is an ink stamp, each with a different design inspired by Chinatown's history.

Established in 2002, the CHC occupies three three-storey shophouses and within them are six galleries documenting Chinatown's history. After a revamp in 2016, its interactive and immersive features include ambient soundscapes and olfactory displays of opium and hand-rolled cigarettes, traditional Chinese medicine and spices.

The centre hopes the mouse hunt will add another element of fun for visitors as they wander through its galleries and discover the life, culture and traditions of Chinatown's residents from the 1950s till today.

Explaining the decision to use an old-school game rather than digital technology, CHC director Margaret Zhang said: "We want to create a special place and experience at the Chinatown Heritage Centre where time slows down and even stands still, for people to reminisce the good old days, enjoy the simple joys in life and bond with family and friends."

Currently, there are 48 ink stamps, but as the year progresses, the CHC will add more stamps with new designs, in conjunction with Chinatown's events.

These include well-known occasions like the Mid-Autumn Festival, as well as lesser-known ones like the Five-Footway Festival, which celebrates the rich heritage of the Chinatown Street Market in March.

The CHC has also designed journals in two unique styles for visitors to collect the ink stamps. Last Friday, the journals were given to visitors for free but for the rest of the year, they can be bought for $1 at the CHC's museum shop.


Home-grown artist Glacy Soh (above) has collaborated with cheongsam designer Audrey See to create these three wearable pieces of art, in the form of cheongsams. ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

The Festive Mouse Hunt ends on Dec 31.

There is another project honouring a new year tradition from the past when buying new clothes was a luxury not many in Chinatown could afford.

The CHC has collaborated with cheongsam designer Audrey See, 37, from cheongsam boutique The Girl's Kaksh, as well as home-grown artist Glacy Soh, 57, to create three unique and wearable pieces of art, in the form of cheongsams.

Each pink and blue cheongsam was made from Japanese cotton by Ms See, and was hand-painted with gold paint and studded with tiny Swarovski crystals by Ms Soh.

The project took two weeks to complete and cost more than $800.

The three cheongsams will be on display at the CHC's museum shop until Feb 29. Each cheongsam will then be packaged with 20 complimentary CHC admission tickets and 20 Festive Mouse Hunt journals for a silent auction.

 
 
 
 

The money collected will be donated to the Yong-en Care Centre, which supports disadvantaged individuals and families in Chinatown.

The care centre's executive director Beryl Ng praised the collaboration, adding: "This is such a heart-warming gift."

The public can submit a bid via a form available at the museum shop, or via an online form on the CHC website. The minimum bid is $500 per set.

Said Ms Zhang: "We hope to bring out the rich heritage of Chinatown through such new initiatives, and will be collaborating with stakeholders in the Chinatown community to roll out more of such integrated initiatives in 2020."

One of the stakeholders is Tong Heng Delicacies, which has been around since 1935 and specialises in traditional Chinese pastries, especially its famed egg tarts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2020, with the headline 'Heritage lesson in Chinatown mouse hunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe