Traditional Craftsmanship


Traditional crafts and ways of making products by hand, using the knowledge and skills passed down through the generations.





Firing of Dragon Kiln at Thow Kwang. Courtesy of Yeo Kirk Siang

Making of Wood-Fired Pottery

The making of traditional wood-fired pottery using the dragon kilns drew on millennia of pottery traditions in China.



A songkok made of velvet from mid to late 20th century

Making and Wearing of Songkok

Songkok is a traditional headgear commonly associated with and worn by males from the Malay community.



Making of Gold Jewellery by Indian Goldsmiths

Making of Gold Jewellery by Indian Goldsmiths

The knowledge of hand-crafting gold jewellery is traditionally passed down from generation to generation within Indian goldsmith families, known as "achari" or "kammalar" in Tamil Nadu.



Purple and green floral cheongsam with cap sleeves

Cheongsam Tailoring

Cheongsams were popular among Chinese women in Singapore up to the 1960s. Today, they are mostly worn on special occasions such as Chinese New Year or for weddings.



Baju Kurong at Geylang Serai

Making and Wearing of the Baju Kurong

The traditional Malay clothing is called the baju kurong, and it is worn both for formal occasions such as weddings and as informal, everyday wear.



Peranakan beaded slippers

Nyonya Beadwork and Embroidery

Nyonya beadwork and embroidery are craft forms associated with the Peranakan community, and are found in decorations for everyday household items, as well as more ornamental pieces for special occasions such as weddings.



We are currently conducting documentation work on the following elements. If you wish to contribute information on these elements, please visit this page.

  • Making of Chinese Musical Instruments
    The craft of making musical instruments such as the Chinese flute (dizi, 笛子) and the Chinese violin (erhu, 二胡) is a rare skill as they have to be hand-crafted from materials like bamboo and redwood. The craftsmen are also required to balance out the tone and range of individual instruments to ensure good acoustics.

  • Making of Joss Sticks
    Joss sticks are made by grinding cinnamon bark into a fine powder and mixing the powder with water to form dough. A typical joss stick consists of two layers of joss dough, which each take about two weeks to dry. Additional designs like dragons, deities and temple motifs, which may be carved on the sticks after the dough has dried, can take from 30 minutes to 10 hours to craft depending on their complexity. While many businesses have switched to using machines to produce joss sticks, some businesses still continue to make them by hand.

  • Making of Traditional Chinese Lanterns
    Chinese lanterns can be divided into two broad categories, the Teochew lantern and the Fuzhou lantern. The Teochew lantern’s frame is made by criss-crossing bamboo splints while the frame of the Fuzhou lantern is made out of parallel bamboo splints held in place by the top and bottom bases. Both lanterns are decorated by sticking strips of cloth onto the frame using glue, then painted over with drawings of phoenixes or dragons, auspicious words or family names.

  • Making of Paper Offerings
    Paper offerings, also known as kim zua (gold paper in Hokkien), are burnt by Buddhists and Taoists to their ancestors during Zhong Yuan Jie, Qing Ming Jie and Chinese funerals in the belief that they will be able to use these items in the afterlife. In keeping with the times, shops that sell paper offerings are increasingly making modern items such as handphones, iPads and cars.

  • Making of Kavadis
    The kavadi is a frame made out of metal or wood, carried by male devotees as part of Thaipusam. It is carried as a symbol of gratitude to the gods for answering their prayers. Some kavadis have spikes in order to attach them to the skin of the person, while non-spiked versions are also available. There are kavadi makers in Singapore who offer customised commissions, and the process of sourcing for materials and making kavadis can take up to three months.

  • Traditional Indian Beautification Practices
    There are a variety of traditional Indian beautification practices, and henna art and eyebrow threading are two of the more common practices. Henna dye is obtained from the leaves of the henna tree, and contains a pigment that leaves a dark stain on the skin. Henna art is usually drawn on the hands and feet of Indian women before their wedding ceremony. Eyebrow threading is a practice originating from India where cotton threads are used to remove excess hair on various parts of the face, such as the upper lip, chin, sideburns and cheeks. It has become a popular method of hair removal among women in recent years.

The inventory will be a growing inventory where we will continue to add more intangible cultural heritage elements as well as more research and documentation materials over time.

As at April 2018, the inventory consists of research on 50 elements and more will be added progressively.