At the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), Asia is viewed through the lens of Singapore. The museum is dedicated to cultivating an understanding of Singapore’s maritime and multicultural heritage by situating it within the broader context of the archaeological, historical, and art historical developments of Asia and the world. The ACM opened at the former Tao Nan School Building on Armenian Street on 21 April 1997.
Myanmar served as a significant ‘hub’ in the cross-cultural transfer of objects, traditions, techniques and artistic influences that flowed from China through Central Asia, Western Asia as far as Europe (and vice versa) – both by land and maritime routes. The reasons for this were Myanmar’s geographical location, long coastline with many ports and its river access to China.
From the 9th to the 15th century AD, Quanzhou was China’s major seaport for international trade. China entertained extensive relations with the Muslim world, and many Islamic monuments can still be found in Quanzhou. Among the Arabic and Persian inscriptions which were excavated in the city, 28 “nisbâs” (adjectives indicating a person’s place of origin or ancestry) were found.
Ancient Arabic poetry used two elaborated structures that acquired considerable prestige and became recognized as classic structures of Arabic poetry: one reserved strictly for the funeral elegy, the marthiya, and the second one, the qasida (the ode) serving as the framework for all thematic developments.
The island of Sri Lanka was a popular stopover for merchants because of its strategically advantageous position on various oceanic trade routes, its beautiful scenery and the valuable goods that could be found there, such as pearls and precious stones. It was also a meeting place for sailors, adventurers and pilgrims from different cultural backgrounds. Arab merchants came to Sri Lanka even in pre-Christian times, and their influence became more and more important after the birth of Islam, when Arab settlements spread all over the island.
Archaeological findings suggest that several sites on the Malay Peninsula were trading centres already from prehistoric times. The earliest trading centres, situated both on the East and West coast, were mainly collecting centres from where local products were sold. They probably traded with Mainland Southeast Asia.
The Malaysian region acted as a land bridge between the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea, linking mainland Southeast Asia with the rest of the islands. Archaeological data records prehistoric trade before and after the Pleistocene era. During this period coastal prehistoric sites developed into ports of trade and exchange, both intra-regionally as well as with mainland Southeast China. The abundant supply of minerals, such as tin and gold on the Peninsula, led to early settlements, including Hinduized Indonesian settlers, and to extended trading relations.
The art of healing was very important in Buddhism, since the Buddha himself emphasized that health is among the most precious goods a person can possess. Hospitals were established in the Sri Lankan capital Anuradhapura from the 4th century BC onwards, and several Sri Lankan kings had medical knowledge. A large number of hospitals for different diseases were subsequently set up in the country, which were used both by the people and by Buddhist monks.