Saturday, 21 March 2009

Manchu Munchies and Copper Calculators

It been what I might describe as a typical "Singapore Saturday" After some online work and house keeping we took the MRT to see one of the special exhibitions staged by the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Five stops from our station brought us to Raffles Place and then it was a pleasant stroll across the river to the Museum. The exhibition in question is entitled " The Kangxi Emperor - Treasures from the Forbidden City".

I have always enjoyed these mini-blockbusters that show off the culture and opulence of the Imperial Court.

The Emperor was no slug - a man of intellect, a warrior of some distinction and clearly a diplomat par excellence, at a time when the minority Manchu were greatly outnumbered by the ethnic Han Chinese. He ascended to the throne at the tender age of 14 and was the longest reigning of all the Emperors.

Interestingly, the influence of Western culture was encouraged under his reign. A twelve digit copper calculator from the imperial collections was modelled on the 15th century invention of a Frenchman, Pascal.

He had three wives who all predeceased him and according to the headcount, some 64 consorts in total (if one counts his concubines). He fathered 36 children. This number is probably higher as many of his offspring died early.

Despite all of this conjugal activity has still had time for the finer things of life and was the first Emperor to play a western instrument - the piano.

After viewing the exhibition we adjourned to the attached Indochine restaurant for a lunch of duck curry (my favourite at this eatery) and beef ragout.

To walk off the dietary effects of the lunch we strolled down the Esplanade Walk towards the "Durian" the Esplanade's theatre and convention centre. In so doing, we had to run a gauntlet of Falun Gong activists who were staging a mini-exhibit and protest against China, under the traffic overpass.

I found this rather surprising as the authorities don't take kindly to unauthorised activities of this kind.

Next we scaled the steps into the Marina Mall and walked across to SunTec, which last week was filled with IT bargain hunters.

This week it is the turn of the "foodies" as it is the Singapore Food fair that is drawing the crowds. One can nibble one's way around the exhibits, sampling many of the delicacies from this part of the world. Unfortunately being filled with curry and ragout I was not overly inclined to do so.

We did however buy something back for an evening snack. Here I must give an enthusiastic thumbs up for Pie-Kia's product. There small pies are only one dollar apiece and generous in their filling, with a good buttery crust to boot (not to be confuded with tasting like an old boot).

They are part of the Old Chang Kee Group which is renowned in Singapore for their curry puffs, fried sotong (squid) on a stick and similar delights. So far I have only tried Pie-Kia's savoury pies but given the chance I wouldn't mind nibbling on a jackfruit or mango version!

I have a feeling that such fare would not have been acceptable in Kangxi's court, even if he suffered an attack of the 'Manchu munchies' following strenuous evening exercise and was craving for western sustenance.

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