Monday, March 16, 2015

DragonFire Singapore: The free app featuring traditional wood firing in one of Singapore's dragon kilns

Look at the photo below. What do you see?

Yes, you saw ceramics. They could serve as our tea cups, our bowls and more. Ceramics are all around us.

Ceramics are everywhere
When I did a search on the definition of ceramics, one site stated "ceramics are classified as inorganic and nonmetallic materials that are essential to our daily lifestyle".

Ceramics are "generally made by taking mixture of clay, earthen elements, powders and water and shaping them into desired forms. Once the ceramic has been shaped, it is fired in a high temperature oven known as kiln." (Source:

One of the last surviving dragon kilns in Singapore.
Image credit: Carolyn Lim

If ceramics are so ubiquitous in our lives, are you aware of the processes involved in making a piece of ceramic? Are you aware of how a piece of ceramic is being fired in a kiln? Do you know that in Singapore, there is now a very limited number of surviving dragon kilns that can be used for traditional wood firing of ceramics?

Does the above-mentioned questions piqued your curiosity?

There is now an app that could fill all of us in with many of the answers!

DragonFire Singapore that has been downloaded onto an iPad (iOS8).

Free download of an app, DragonFire Singapore
If you are an iPad (iOS 8) user or have access to one, you can enjoy a FREE download of the interactive multimedia app, DragonFire Singapore, at iTunes app store. This app is the first to feature a traditional wood firing in one of the last surviving dragon kilns in Singapore. It is not an e-book. It is an app that provides an interactive multimedia experience. Users of this app can experience the process of a wood firing of ceramics through videos and stunning images.

DragonFire Singapore. The process of pottery making.

Triggering personal memories
I do not have an iPad and I was very lucky to be offered an opportunity to use this app on someone else's iPad so as to learn more about traditional wood firing in Singapore and about the local dragon kilns. Using the DragonFire Singapore app made me reminisce two positive experiences visiting two of the last surviving dragon kilns in Singapore on two separate occasions.

My first visit to one of Singapore's last surviving dragon kilns was in 2011, during a firing event at Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd. Then in the year 2012, I have had the pleasure to visit another dragon kiln located at 97L Lorong Tawas to participate in one of the Awaken the Dragon workshops to make a piece of ceramic art.

Wood firing at Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd, 2011.

At 97L Lorong Tawas. One of the facilitator's ceramic works.

These are what I like about the DragonFire Singapore app:
- The photographs that were beautifully taken.
- Enjoy 360 degrees view of four completed ceramics works.
- Time-lapsed videos to demonstrate the process of making a piece of ceramic work. (e.g. throwing a pot)
- Photographs to trace the journey of a piece of ceramics
- It is free for iPad (iOS8) users thanks to the generosity of the team who has developed this app. This app is made possible with partial funding from the National Heritage Board.
- The content was accessible. Members of the general public will find the content relatively easy to read.

If you have access to an iPad (iOS8), please get your free download of this app, DragonFire Singapore, now at iTunes app store:

Thanks to the generosity of the team that develops this app and puts it up for free download!

Please spread the love around by sharing this app with your friends and family members who are likely to be interested and has access to an iPad.

Credits and acknowledgments for this app:
This application is supported by the National Heritage Board.

Writers: Marcus Bussey (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia), Chia Hua Hoong, Carolyn Lim, Tan Tuan Yong.

Photographer: Carolyn Lim

Graphics and Videos: Mitchell Koh, Neo Anngee, Qyisti Qusyairi, Wong Zhen Hai, Wong Zhen Jiang.

Editors: Marcus Bussey, John Keeble, Elizabeth Rowe, Jim Warthman.

App created by: DW (
Jeanette Lau Li Ling, Xavier Lee Chong Kwok, Gary Lim, Supapon Pucknavin.

Copyright 2015, Carolyn Lim.

You may also like to view the following links:
Fired by Passion: Dragon Kiln Firing - A Journal (A 40-minute video of a traditional dragon kiln wood firing in Singapore which took place in 2003 at Thow Kwang dragon kiln.)
Unpacking the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln (video)

A visit to the Thow Kwang Dragon Kiln Firing event in 2011
Participating in Awaken the Dragon Project
Awaken the Dragon Festival 2013: The exhibition

Sunday, March 15, 2015

OH! Open House, Joo Chat (2015)

No Man's Land. Beside 136 Tembeling Road.

A charming neighbourhood, a curious mind, an interest to view artworks in the private spaces that are usually otherwise out-of-bounds, a physical body that is ready to walk for two hours under any weather condition and a heart that is open to start their journey from the No Man's Land - all these qualities are what will attract anyone to join any one of this year's OH! Open House art walkabouts!

A Golden Class Ticket
I began my journey of this year's OH! Open House with a Golden Class Ticket. This ticket brought me to an exclusive visit to a private house that others with the usual ticket will not get to see. It includes a Golden Class Lounge experience, a Golden Treasure Box, a Golden Guide, other companions and a OH! 2015 journal. I am thankful to be the lucky ones who have ordered one of the Golden Class Tickets before they were fully sold out. In the meantime, I understand that there will still be the regular tickets to OH! Joo Chiat available for sale at door.

The holding area?

This week marks the first week of the OH! Open House tours. After the exclusive visit to a private house and enjoying what was referred to as the "Director's Cut", the tour began like all the regular OH! Joo Chiat tours at No Man's Land, beside 136 Tembeling Road. I recommend that the serious-minded participants get a copy of the OH! 2015 journal to read the curator's note by Alan Oei, the artistic director of OH! Joo Chiat. He weaved some of his personal stories of growing up in Joo Chiat into his curator's note.

One of the OH! Journals hidden in a box that triggered a sense of nostalgia.

To keep the element of surprise for everyone else who has not gone for the tour, I shall not attempt to document my experience of OH! Joo Chiat in this post. Instead, I will share a few highlights of this tour from my personal perspective.

My favourite stopping point: 106 Joo Chiat Place
The most nostalgic stopping point for me from the OH! Joo Chiat art walkabout tour was 106 Joo Chiat Place. I have not been visiting the area for more than a year, and now the new development at 106 Joo Chiat Place stands at the site that used to be Studio 106, the art studio of the late local sculptor, Ng Eng Teng. Admittedly, the previous house has more character and appeal to me.

Studio 106, in year 2008.

106 Joo Chiat Place, in year 2013. 14 Mar 2015.

It was a pleasure to see Ng Eng Teng's Sultan of Pahang and another of his works (I do not know the title of this work) plus a replica of the double-heart shaped water feature that used to stand at the site of Ng Eng Teng's art studio.

Ng Eng Teng's Sultan of Pahang stood prominently against the other works.

Admittedly, Ng Eng Teng's works were so overpowering that I overlooked the beauty of Kum Chee Kin and Kum Chee Kiong's works Fragments (2015) and Old Logs (2015). Reflecting after the tour, their works which were made from fragments retrieved from the former Ng Eng Teng's art studio at 106 Joo Chiat Place helped to connect visitors to a glimpse of the past of that very site. It was at 106 Joo Chiat Place that the late Ng Eng Teng had created many of his masterpieces and works of art.

The sculpture with a tear drop and a replica of the water feature.

Fragments, 2015. CK Kum.

The bigger it is, the more it sticks.
The work that struck most in my mind was S.S. Nimby (2015) put together by Randy Chan, Fiona tan and Zenas Deng. The artists added various objects into a lifeboat which one of the volunteers, Boon, had offered to OH! Joo Chiat for use for the art installation. This boat represented his lifetime of longing. In the meantime, in the work, S.S. Nimby, the artists evoked Noah's Ark. A very personal piece of art work in many ways. I suppose the bigger the work is, the more it sticks in our memories?

My brief conclusion
This tour triggered memories. It got me thinking about what development is. It got me acquainted with the community spirit of the Joo Chiat neighbourhood. I was surprised, not, to walk past pubs and even stepped into two hotel rooms! I am thankful to the dedicated golden guide, the hosts who have generously opened up their private realms to host OH! Joo Chiat and the team who has made the event possible.

A pretty interesting art walkabout to spend a weekend away exploring with strangers and other companions. In life, there are no strangers, perhaps like one quote says, "only friends we have not met".

Was Sold Out! Thankfully, more tickets have been released!
At the time of writing, although the tickets to this year's OH! Open House had been sold out previously. I learnt that the organizer will be releasing 80 MORE TICKETS. This translates to five more slots for every door. The tickets will be sold at the door for anyone who is willing to queue for the tickets. Even if you cannot get your ticket, you can explore the neighbourhood and enjoy the charms of the Joo Chiat area.

136 Tembeling Road. Near Koon Seng Road.

OH! Open House, Joo Chiat
Starting Point: No Man's Land, beside 136 Tembeling Road.
Bus services nearby: 33, 16.
(Consider taking these bus services from the bus-stop nearest to Dakota MRT station. Exit by Exit A, on the side leading to Jalan Satu)

Language: OH! Joo Chiat will be conducted in English. 
Tours in other languages can be conducted (subject to availability) upon prior special request, with a minimum of 15 pax.

Tour dates:
14 Mar 2015, Sat
15 Mar 2015, Sun
21 Mar 2015, Sat
22 Mar 2015, Sun
28 Mar 2015, Sat
29 Mar 2015, Sun

Tour timings: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. (Last tour leaves at 7.45 p.m.)
Ticket pricing: $25 (excludes booking fee).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Celebrate Monuments! At Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple was recently gazetted as a National Monument. On 11 January 2015, I have had the great pleasure to attend one of the guided tours at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple organized by the Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division of the National Heritage Board.

Located at 15 Tank Road, the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple was built in the year 1859 C.E. by Nattukkottai Chettiars. The main deity of this temple is Lord Sri Thendayuthapani who is also known as Lord Murugan.

Ringing the bells to inform the Gods of one's arrival to the temple.

During the tour, I was particularly attentive to learn why the Nattukkottai Chettiars build Murugan Temples wherever they settle. I learnt that the rituals performed in Sivan Temples require Brahmin priests. In the past, before the third quarter of the 19th century, Brahmin priests were prohibited from crossing the seas. The establishment of a Thendaythapani Temple wherever the Nattukkottai Chettirs settled outside India provided a good solution because non-Brahmin priests could be engaged for the rituals in the Thendaythapani Temples.

Our dear tour-guide was Arlane. She offered us a very interesting perspective to the design and architecture of the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple as well as the history of the temple. I have to thank her for a thoroughly well-prepared and interesting guided tour.

The tour aside, I observed many interesting moments in the temple. I was particularly thankful for the beautiful music that the musicians provided during one of the prayer rituals. The music felt like sacred gift of sounds from heaven.

Throughout the guided tour, I listened to stories after stories about Lord Murugan. Through the stories, we learn about important values for humanity to be mindful of. Admittedly, there was an information overload and I cannot recall every single story. I do remember Lord Murugan is the younger brother of Lord Sri Vinayagar, more commonly known as Ganesha.

Statue of Lord Murugan with the Vel.

We were lucky people. During the tour, we have had the privilege to catch a glimpse of the Silver Chariot. This Silver Chariot is one of the rare three of its kind in the world. The other two silver chariots are found in Rangoon and Vietnam. This silver chariot would be used during the Silver Chariot procession the day before Thaipusam.

At the end of the Celebrate Monuments! guided tour, we were granted special access to a part of the temple whereby we could get a special view of the temple. The tour concluded with an unexpected yet welcomed treat to light refreshments. Many thanks to the people from Sri Thendayuthapani Temple for their generosity and hospitality.

Located in a spacious area and picturesque location, Sri Thendayuthapani Temple is also listed as a tourist attraction by the Singapore Tourism Board. I personally think that attending a guided tour of the temple will be a wonderful choice, at least for folks like myself who are not familiar with both the temple's architectural design and the religion, Hinduism.

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (also known as the Chettiars' Temple)
15 Tank Road
Singapore 238065
Tel: 67379393
Nearest MRT: Dhoby Ghaut MRT station (5 minutes walk away)
Bus services available: 54, 64, 123, 139, 143.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My second time onboard: Secrets of the Red Lantern

Many years ago, I have attended the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour by one of my favourite local tour-providers, Journeys. When I learnt that this tour of the same title now includes a bus ride to the red light districts in Geylang, and a walk through the streets and alleys of Geylang, it was simply a matter of finding the time to fit this tour into my schedule.

The content of this tour, Secrets of the Red Lantern, may not be appropriate for those below 18 years of age. Therefore, only people ages 18 years and above are allowed on this tour.

My motivation to attend this tour is to get a sneak peek into the world of vices that had and could happen right in Singapore and to get a glimpse of one of the sides of humanity.

It was a bit challenging to find local friends who could find the time to check this tour out with me on a Friday evening at 6 p.m. Thankfully, I have a friend who is a resident here who took precious time out of her busy schedule to join the tour with me.

The meeting point of this tour is at Chinatown MRT station, outside Exit A, at the side of the escalator facing Pagoda Street. As I was attending the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour in the month of Jan 2015 and it was nearing the Chinese New Year period, I was greeting by lots of festive decorations that were preparing to usher in the Chinese New Year.

What were the secrets of the red lantern?

Admittedly, I was possibly too engrossed with all the anecdotes and tales that our dearest tour-guide was sharing that I lost count of the total numbers of secrets of the red lantern that had been revealed to me. There were about eight secrets, I recalled. If you wish to be find out what the secrets were, how about join one of the Secrets of the Red Lantern tours?

Anyway, the tour began while everyone in the tour group was preoccupied with finding our bearings about the busy streets of Chinatown. We were very excited about what the tour would entail, at least I was.

A sculpture that we saw along the way that paid tribute to the Samsui Women.

The tour is a rather experiential tour that may not fit your usual idea of walking along the clean streets of Singapore. The tour brought me to the back alleys of Chinatown. I realized that thanks to advancements in our society's sanitary facilities, we no longer have to use the night-soil bucket system that used to be pretty common in the early days of Singapore. Out of sheer curiosity of a past that I have no recollection of, simply because I did not experience it, way after the tour, I did some search on Google and found an online article by Uncle 'Thimbuktu' titled Memories of Smell - Sewerage. My friend and I wondered why the honey-carts were designed in that particular manner with 32 doors?

Back alley of Chinatown.

Now the truth is, if I write too much about my experiences onboard this tour, you may lose the element of surprise when you go for this tour. If I write too little about what makes this tour so fascinating and worth going for even though it costs a considerable amount of $55 per adult (because it includes rides on a chartered bus to-and-fro Chinatown and Geylang), it will be challenging to convince you that this is a tour that I would recommend. So I shall err on writing too little because I think this tour is so interesting that it shall speak for itself?

Whatever it is, any adult who is open-minded enough to find out more about a time in history when vices were common in Chinatown, or just learn something new about Singapore, will find this tour interesting. In the meantime, I shall keep the secrets of the red lantern as secrets then.

Red Lanterns in Chinatown to usher in the Chinese New Year.

Chinatown Food Street.

After an interesting time learning about the days in the past when Chinatown was also referred to as "Bu Ye Tian" (The place of night-less days), a comfortable air-conditioned bus took us to Geylang.

If you know the kind of sightings that we could encounter while walking through the streets and alleys of the red light district in Geylang, you would probably be understanding enough not to expect any photograph taken in Geylang. I was busy paying attention to what went on in real life to bother about taking photographs. Anyway, our tour guide has specifically asked us not to take photographs while we were in Geylang.

Be prepared for some surprise, and remember to stay close together as a group. My friend and I were rather amused when a middle-age gentleman came forward to us to introduce himself. We knew he just meant to be hospitable and friendly.

Friday evening is quite a good time to be out for the Secrets of the Red Lantern tour. If you think you are an open-minded adult with a healthy sense of curiosity, this will be a tour that you will find interesting enough not to be missed.

South Bridge Road.

Secrets of the Red Lantern:
A Chinatown and Geylang Night Tour
Every Friday, 6.00 p.m. - 8.30 p.m.
Meeting point: Chinatown MRT station, outside Exit A (Side of the escalator facing Pagoda Street)

Reservation is recommended for this tour. Please phone Tel: 6325 1631/6 214 2451) or email by 5 p.m. on the day before the tour. Otherwise, places to the tour will be on a first come first served basis.
For more details, please visit: