Fire Breathing Dragon

November 30, 2016 at 12:30 am | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Itchyfingers first heard of this many moons ago when she was still a college student. Still remember visiting one with fellow classmates and our art teacher at one of the ulu (translates as “out-of-place”) parts of Singapore. There, we saw the “Dragon”. But when we visited it, it was still “sleeping”….

Itchyfingers is talking about the Dragon Kiln – a kiln built with bricks and earth, and originated from China. It is called the Dragon Kiln as it is very long and has a “head” and a “tail”.

Like the sleeping Dragon, Itchyfingers‘ memory on the Dragon Kiln soon went to sleep and has only been awaken recently when, out of the moon, on one fine day, I pestered Tisu Boy to bring me to visit the only of the two surviving Dragon Kilns in Singapore. I have passed by the road with a big pottery pointing to the direction of the Kiln quite a number of times for the past few years, but just never find the time to go and check it out…

So this day, Itchyfingers finally found our way to Thow Kwan Pottery Jungle in the western part of Singapore. A pity it is really a bit out-of-the-way, as you still have to walk a distance if you take a bus there. For direction, see here.

Didn’t expect to see it the moment we stepped in….

dragon
The “head” or fire box of the dragon…This Dragon was built in 1940 and bought over by the Tan Family in 1965.

head
During the 1900s, Dragon Kilns were used for mass production of functional household and industrial wares like cups, jars and pots. The front portion (the head or fire box) is situated at the lower ground level and is the first point where firewood is fed in into the kiln at the start of the firing process.

size
I thought the one we visited at Ang Mo Kio was much longer and bigger…Didn’t have a camera then…what a waste!

stoke
The entire kiln is built on a gentle slope with a gradient of between 15 to 22 degrees. This is the “body”, a long and symmetrical structure made of joining semi-circular chambers. This elevated and semi-circular structure ensures a continuous cycle of heat within each section as the heat travels up the kiln. 

model
A miniature model of the Dragon Kiln. These openings, called the stoke holes or “eyes”, are located at designated spots in each chamber along the kiln body for fueling purposes. Wood fuel is fed through these stoke holes sequentially in stages to achieve an even distribution of heat throughout the kiln. Temperature inside the kiln is gauged by observing the colour of the flames through the stoke holes.

how-it-works
A poster on the wall explains how it works…

entrance2
One of the entrances into the kiln body…

tail
The heat and smoke from the firing escapes through a chimney, or “tail” of the Dragon, located at the highest point of the inclined ground, which is partially seen here…

entrance
Careful of your head! The entrance is quite low…

tunnel
The interior of the “body”…

Today, the Dragon Kiln provides a platform for artists and potters in fueling an understanding and appreciation of the disappearing art of wood-firing. To create awareness of the traditions, heritage and cultural aspect of the Dragon Kiln and promote interest in the art of pottery, Thow Kwang holds regular tours, talks and workshops in their premises.

pig
There is a large shop area where you can find lots of traditional and contemporary pottery, ceramic wares and cute bronze sculptures like this one!

house
A peek at the old house at the back…Really feel like going back in time to the 60s!

For Itchyfingers, we were so lucky to visit at the right time to find out about the next firing of the Dragon Kiln!!!!

fire
The Dragon shall be awaken and breathing fire again come this December 16-17! There will be free guided tour on 17 Dec at 2pm and 7pm. Walk-ins are welcome according to the leaflet! Itchyfingers definitely would love to witness this! 

A Peek Into the Past – Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

April 28, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Last week, Itchyfingers were among some of those who were invited to a special preview of the new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum prior to its official opening today, 28 April, in appreciation of our little contribution. The museum has come a long way – possibly dating back to when Singapore was founded. It was last known as the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research (RMBR), which only had a small gallery nestled in one of the obscure Science Block at the University, and was greatly in need of an overhaul and expansion. So it was indeed a good news to finally have a brand new building to house a proper viewing gallery, as well as facilities for its scientists and researchers.

Once you entered the new building at the National University of Singapore, visitors were welcomed by a huge wall mural made from photo collage of the specimens on exhibit…

mural
Part of the mural. Very nice, colourful and vibrant – injecting some life into the otherwise ‘dead’ exhibits…

The highlights of the museum are three much talked-about diplodocid sauropod skeletons, nicknamed “Prince”, “Apollonia” and “Twinky”. Each of them is about 80% complete, making them a rarity in dinosaur discoveries. They were the first thing you would see once you entered the gallery behind a glass wall. But you would have to maneuver your way through the plants section before you could come close to them.

rafflesia
A model of the Rafflesia flower, something Itchyfingers are dying to see in the wild…The unisexual flower may reach over a meter in diameter and weigh over 10kg! 

titan-arum
Another smelly flower that we want to see too! This is a model of the Titan Arum, the “largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, reaching over 3meters in height. The inflorescence blooms at night, releasing an odour of rotting meat that attracts carrion-eating beetles and flies to pollinate it”. Few years back, our Botanical Garden had one, but it kinda withered prematurely, hence we didn’t have the chance to experience the rotting smell…

plants
Some well-preserved Herbarium sheets

black-poplar-mushroom
Some interesting fungi on display. These are Black Poplar Mushroom

From the ground floor main gallery, we could see the dinosaur skeletons, which are considered a rarity for sauropod dinosaurs fossils as two of them come with skulls. These three skeletons were found between 2007 and 2010 in a quarry in a small town of Ten Sleep in the United States and are believed to be part of a herd or even a family. According to reports, the “American sellers had asked for $8 million but the Museum would not say what the final deal was”.

dinos
These dinosaurs, acquired through donated funds, are to be the main attraction of the main gallery – to showcase the diversity and history of life on Earth

dinos2
The museum believes that, “as one of the largest animals ever to live on the planet, they are an excellent showpiece to demonstrate extinction events and how life has evolved.”

Not a great fan of dinosaurs, I wasn’t really excited to see the trios though… :p Despite having a new building, somehow, the space available for displaying the trio still feels very small and cramp. I was expecting to be able to really stand further to look at the sheer size of them. To make up for the lack of space, visitors can still view them from the second floor though. There is a light show at regular intervals but personally I thought it was a bit meaningless and doesn’t add any value to the exhibit. :p

dodo
Model of the Dodo – sadly hunted to extinction

display
What attracted Tisu Boy’s attention? I love this display!

turtle-anatomy
Oh my goodness!!! A cut up Reeve’s Turtle!

frog
This Bornean Frogs looks like it’s dancing….Are those eggs on the tummy?

nesting-birds
Unidentified nestling birds…

mud-lobster
Ahhhh…finally see a real Mud Lobster….albeit a dead one…Well…it was once alive! :O

basket-star
Beautiful Basket Star….This specimen has a “100” icon next to the name. Does that mean it is 100 or more years old? Can’t find the legend to the icon…

venus's-flower-basket
Beautiful Venus’s Flower Basket

I like the way they displayed these specimens in nice glass jars and arranged neatly on the shelf. But the names of the specimen were put too far at the extreme left, so whenever you need to find out the name, you have to walk all the way to the left. Why don’t they just label it below? It’s easier to change single labels if they want to change the exhibits, rather than to change the whole panel right? I also don’t really like the tv screen in the middle. Don’t think it is interactive cos no one seems to be touching it…

bobtail-squid
The squids and octopuses specimens were a letdown after looking at the beautiful set ups earlier. This Bobtail Squid could have been made more attractive if only they could spread out the tentacles and make it look as it was floating in the jar, like the frog above…

shells
So nice. Rare-spined Murex (26), Branched Murex (27) and Venus Comb Murex (28)

heart-cockle
Heart Cockles. I have seen photos of them that are brighter in colour…

whip-spider
Whip Spider

horseshoe-crabs
Horsehoe Crabs are actually related to spiders and scorpions, that’s why they are put together

butterflies
Moths and butterflies

lantern-bug
Lantern Bug! Tisu Boy love them!

lantern-bug2
Gorgeous!

green-flying-stick-necroscia-inflata
I prefer the stick insect – so pretty like wearing a dress!

sticks
From left: Cantor’s Stick Insects – bigger female and smaller male (8) and their eggs (9). Right: Malayan Jungle Nymph (10) – fatter green female and male with wings opened; and their bigger eggs

dead-leaf-mantis
Dead Leaf Mantis! So evil-looking yet so intriguing! 😀

cicada
Many kinds of cicadas too!

crustaceans
For prawn lovers…The huge one is the Tiger Prawn, widely reared for food

red-frog-crab
Red Frog Crab. Funny looking. The live one is really red in colour!

urchin
Check out the many sea urchin skeletons….look like a pin cushion….

grouper
How can I missed this Orange-spotted Grouper! Such a big fish! But luckily I saw it at an earlier exhibition some time ago

turtles
Turtles! 

impressed-tortoise
This small one is called Impressed Tortoise! Impressive or not? 😀

black-marsh-turtle
Black Marsh Turtle

reptile
An overview of the reptilian section

reptiles1
Reptiles….The snakes in jars look like those medicinal snake wine from some Asian countries…hahaha

croc
Croc hatchling…

lizard-embryo
Lizard embryo…wonder which species….

fossil
Cast of Archaeopteryx “Berlin Specimen”. Discovered around 1875, it was the second one found and first with a complete head

birds
The birds specimen were quite a disappointment as most of them were in the “satay stick” form and not preserved in standing or flying position

orang
A sad-looking Orangutan…

orangs
A family of Orangutans with a skeleton reflection on the glass

skeleton
Skeletons of a human and a Bornean Orangutan

sun-bear
Some of the mammal specimens like the Sun Bear family was quite nicely presented, showing the way they live

wild-boars
And showed the colour and pattern variation between the young and adult, like this Wild Boar family

tapir
And this Malayan Tapir family

malayan-tapir
Skull of the tapir

koala
The marsupial that Australia loaned to the Singapore Zoo – Koala

dolphin
The Humpbacked Dolphin skull looked so funny

The Heritage Gallery is located at the upper floor with five exhibit zones that pay homage to the museum heritage. The gallery presents an account of the museum’s development and traces the relationship between Singapore’s development and natural history.

toger
Close up of a tiger skin

leatherback
Leatherback Turtle

The Heritage Gallery’s layout is intentionally styled like an old-school museum with specimens on display in dark wooden cabinets.

bear
Don’t be scared by some of them….wahahah

You can check out the cabinets and drawers for more exhibits and information

bird-of-paradise
Nice display of the Bird-of-Paradise and the Babirusa with illustrations

cream-squirrel
Tisu Boy’s contribution – a printed copy of his painting of this Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel sits in one of the cabinets

Itchyfingers spent less than 2 hours in the museum, a rather short time for our liking cos our free and easy tour started about 3.50 pm. Our tummies were beginning to make noise so we had to cut short our visit. Was a little disappointed that they didn’t put up more specimens for exhibit. Hopefully there will either be rotating exhibits or new ones will be added later, or even better still, new gallery space will be created in the 7-storey building. There are many more interesting specimens not featured here and if you are really interested in plants, animals and natural history, a visit to the new the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum is definitely highly recommended! Check their website for ticketing details, as you can’t just pop by any time you wish and get tickets on the spot! A little inconvenient, but let’s see if they will adjust this later on.

whale
Nice way of presenting the founding benefactors

Also see related posts:
> The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity and Research
> Hunters & Collectors – The Origins of the SouthEast Asian Collection

Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda

April 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
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The capital of Tang China (618-907), Chang’an (present day Xi’an), was a hub for economic and cultural exchange. One of the most revered Buddhist sites in China was the Famen Temple. But for more than 1000 years, a finger relic of the Buddha and many gold, silver, ceramic pieces from the Tang dynasty lied forgotten within an underground crypt in the temple, only to be rediscovered in 1987 when the temple pagoda was being repaired.

camel
China at that time not only became prosperous and powerful, but also culturally diverse. This was mainly due to trade with foreign lands through the Silk Route to Central Asia. Camels were highly valuable in these arid lands, transporting goods and food

camel2
Ceramic camels excavated from Tang tombs are usually the Two-humped Bactrians, known to be resistant to cold weather. They are often accompanied by figures of foreigners

horse
Nice horse figurine…

Tang tombs were supplied with objects thought to be of use to the deceased, with ceramic figures being a key feature

guardian
A lion tomb guardian. Pairs of guardian beasts were typically placed outside the tomb chamber or in niches along the entrance passageway

guardian2
Figures dating to the earlier Tang period are generally simpler in form, and one of the pair often has a clearly distinguishable human face…Wow…this looks a bit scary and forbidding….more so than the lion….It actually reminded me of the Egyptian Sphinx…

zodiac
An interesting set of figurines depicting the 12 zodiac animals….but some of them a bit tough to decipher…wahahah….

I like these four miniature Buddhist figures made with gilded bronze…

figure
These collections of small statues were very likely buried to save them from being melted down during the intermittent periods of Buddhist persecutions during the Northern Dynasties and Tang periods….

figure2
I find this cute…hahahah…

figure3
The third one

figure4
Wow, he has three more little figures above him..nice…hahaha

But this has to be my favourite piece….It was what attracted me to the exhibition…. :p

turtle
A beautiful turtle-shaped container! This is featured on the promotional leaflet…The shell is the lid and it is probably used to store tea powder

emboss
Oh while you are at the gallery hall, do pick up this activity sheet and try embossing the various designs on it…I love the turtle one! So much details! 🙂 Oh, remember to press hard enough to get the full picture…hahaha

turtle2
The most beautiful feature of this pitcher is the tortoise-shaped rivet on the handle, which rotates…

coffin
A coffin-shaped reliquary carved from a single block of jade. It is thought to have held the genuine finger bone relic of the Buddha. Er, that’s up to you to believe…but I thought only a grasshopper or cricket can fit into the little casket …so small….wahahahah…. 😀 There is another made from bronze on exhibit

jug-w-faces
I find this jug with faces unique. The silk routes brought traders, pilgrims and envoys from near and far. The Chang’an capital during the Tang dynasty became a cosmopolitan city. “This cast bronze jug is one of the most enigmatic objects excavated in China in recent years. It relates to pottery of Iran and of Khotan, a city in southwestern China. Both areas were on the Silk Route, connecting Tang China to Central Asian and beyond.”

hairpin
The fanciful and complex hairdos of Tang women often involved the use of wigs, which made hairpins a vital accessory. Hairpins also served as status symbols. So the higher one social’s rank, the more hairpins one was entitled to wear….Er, of course lah, poor people how to buy so many gold hairpins like this? Wahahahahah….

beauty2
Ahhh…the Tang beauty….er…no hairpin leh!?! Wahahah….But there is this tiny hole on her bun which might be where the hairpin was supposed to be….

beauty
Tang women are so lucky….they are considered beauties when they are so chubby with slits for eyes and look of a certain Asia leader…wahahah….This looks like the bee-hive hairstyle from the 60s…hahhaah….

bun
Some women have double bun….

beauty3
She looks like she has a snake head on her….hahah….

fan
You can pick up a paper fan and doll up your own Tang beauty! Wahahah….

The Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda – Treasures from Famen Temple and the Tang Court is ongoing at the Asian Cilivisation Museum until the 4 May. Admission is $8.

Also see related post:
Tales from the Tomb – Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy

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