Beadwork and Embroidery



10.00 AM- 7.00 PM

10.00 AM- 9.00 PM

General Admission

Free for Singaporeans & PRs. Ticketing charges for foreign residents and tourists apply.

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Getting Here

We are a 10 minute walk from City Hall or Bras Basah MRT Station.

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Beadwork and Embroidery in Peranakan Weddings

The Peranakans are particularly well known for their beadwork. Large pieces of Peranakan beadwork from the early 20th century are regarded as some of the best beadwork in the world, because of the composition of motifs, colour and skill in the execution of these motifs. Many motifs were inspired by English embroidery or cross stitch patterns.

Beadwork and embroidery amongst the Peranakan Chinese probably grew out of the Chinese tradition of what was the expected behaviour of daughters-in-law. Young girls from wealthy Peranakan families were likewise expected to possess skills in needlecraft. Like many aspects of Peranakan culture, their long history in the region allowed Peranakans to draw on Chinese, European and local arts to create something that was uniquely theirs.

The best examples of Peranakan beadwork and embroidery that have survived are those associated with weddings and other auspicious occasions.

Chrita Dulu Kala
Beadwork tablecloth

Penang, early 20th century
Glass beads, cotton
Restoration sponsored by BNP Paribas Foundation and BNP Paribas Singapore Branch

Over a million glass beads make up this tablecloth, the largest known example of Peranakan beadwork. It was probably used on a round table because of the circular arrangement of motifs in the centre. The design shows many European and South American birds and flowers, with only a few Asian species. Parrots and macaws stand on branches with butterflies and dragonflies hovering nearby. The tropical hibiscus and pineapple can be seen, along with the many European flowers.

The combination of pink and yellow on a turquoise ground is characteristic of Penang Peranakan beadwork. During the traditional Peranakan wedding, the family would decorate the table with prized pieces of silver and porcelain, as well as gifts and food. Although the beads used are from Europe, this cloth could habe been commissioned from professional beadworkers in the region or in China.