I’m doing a tour tomorrow and I’m always nervous the night before. Then I walk through those pretty double doors of The Peranakan Museum, past the blue eagles (high-flyers, protectors of the elite, just the job for taking care of the schoolboys who once went in and out of the place), and I’m fine.
Guiding aside, I knew there was a reason for me taking that docent-training course last year and it came to me yesterday, on a trip to a dusty junk shop. Tucked down the side of one cavernous room was a low red chest with metal decorations. I loved it, as did my friends, and we spent a long time fondling the gorgeous thing, wondering what it had been used for. Some symbols gave clues as to its story.
For starters, the dresser had bat handles – bats are signs of good luck because the Chinese word for ‘luck’, ‘Fu’, sounds like the word for bat, and very often the bat character is portrayed upside down, emptying its luck out on those below. There were two birds on the front – parrots or maybe pairs of phoenixes, queen of the birds and another emblem for good luck in marriage. There was the colour itself, lucky red – trademark pantone choice for auspicious events. Finally, right on the top, was the giveaway side-by-side symbol for ‘double happiness’. I looked for another chest because if there were two, then… and yes, tucked away deep in the next room was the matching twin: a pair of lucky double happiness wedding chests no doubt given as a wedding present. Douze points and smugface.