Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Book Launch of "100 Masterpieces of the Asian Civilisations Museum" on 7 June 2022.
亚博 中文义务导览员 连文思博士
Asia and the World through 100 Masterpieces
Let me now continue in English.
We are fortunate to be living in a region that is brimming with diversity.
In Southeast Asia alone, there are more than 100 ethnic groups and 650 million people speaking more than 1,000 languages and dialects.
But it is not just about the diversity within Asia. Since ancient times, our region has also benefited from the exchange of goods, cultures and ideas with the rest of the world.
The Tang Shipwreck exhibition in the ACM shows this vividly. It illustrates the vibrant maritime trading network that existed for centuries between China and Southeast Asia, and between our region and the world.
In Singapore, this diversity and openness is core to who we are. We are a multicultural, multireligious, and multiracial society.
This has offered us a unique vantage point to understand the connections between cultures and civilisations in Asia, and between Asia and the world.
Many of the masterpieces in your book illustrate these cross-cultural influences.
For example, there is the beautiful mounted incense burner in the shape of a horse, made in Europe in the 18th century. It combines materials from all over the world – Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquer, gilt bronze from Europe, and even a piece of red coral from under the sea.
Or take the head of a bodhisattva from Gandhara, made in the 4th century. Interestingly, it has Greco-Roman features that are reminiscent of the Western sculptures that you see in Western museums!
There is also the magnificent green-glazed ceramic ewer, from the Tang Shipwreck Collection. While the piece was made in China in the 9th century, it has design elements from Iran, suggesting that it was made for the Middle Eastern market.
And there are many more examples in this book, and also beyond this book.
At a time when there is increasing divisiveness in the world, such perspectives are all the more valuable.
The masterpieces are magnificent works of art, but their value is not just in their beauty.
Just as important, they help to illustrate the power of connections and openness.
They are a timely reminder that openness is critical in helping us form a deeper understanding of the diverse traditions and heritage of all civilisations, and enriches all of our lives.
So let us continue to remain open, build on our diversity, and create an even more vibrant and prosperous region in the years ahead.
Finally, I would like to thank the ACM and Lianhe Zaobao for organising this book launch.
I also want to thank the Mandarin guides, and indeed all our volunteer guides across the various languages, for playing an important role in helping people enjoy and access the treasures in our museums.
Our museums are valuable community spaces, where we can come together to explore our heritage and understand our past.
In so doing, it is my hope that we expand what we have in common – not just within Singapore, but with the region and the world.
With COVID safe management measures now eased and more physical events returning to our museums, I hope that Singaporeans and their families can also take the time to enjoy our museums and these activities.
Thank you very much.
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