Esplanade Presents


Talk: Theatrical Roofscapes: Ceramic shards ornamentation of traditional Chinese architecture in Singapore

Dr Yeo Kang Shua

29 Jan 2023, Sun, 3pm

1hr 30mins

(Intermission: None)


This event is over.

Photo Credit: Lim Shao Bin

The roof ridges of historic Chinese temples in Singapore are typically adorned with colourful ceramic shards ornamentation in the form of figurines, fauna, and flora. Such ornamentations are known as qiàncí (嵌瓷) or “embedded ceramics”, and can be seen in both Teochew and Hokkien architecture, albeit with subtle differences. The more contemporary term jiǎnnián (剪黏) or “cut and paste”, popularised by Taiwanese authors on the subject, is also often used to describe the craft.


Teochew ceramic shards ornamentation, in particular, is characterised by its theatrics and flamboyance which gave rise to the colloquial saying: 厝角头有戏出 (Teochew: cu3 gag4 tao5 u6 hi3 cug4; English: There is a play at the corner of the house), in reference to the lively figurative ornamentation on the roofs of Teochew buildings that are akin to opera performances. In Singapore, the roof of Wak Hai Cheng Bio (粤海清庙,Yueh Hai Ching Temple) is known for the extensive use of such ornamentation to create a lively, bustling scene. Beyond temples, this craft can also be seen in Haw Par Villa’s sculptures, as well as the façade decoration on shophouses.


In this talk, Dr Yeo Kang Shua will provide a broad overview of the craft, its development and gradual demise in Singapore.


Mask-wearing is optional. However, audiences are encouraged to continue to exercise responsibility and caution, such as wearing masks when in crowded places.

Admission Age:
13 and above
Language: English
Things to Note:
Accessibility Advisory: We provide a range of access services and relaxed performances for patrons with access needs. For wheelchair-accessible seats, please call Esplanade Customer Experience at 6828 8377 for assistance. Concessions for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and up to one accompanying companion are available. | View our accessibility guide
Artist Information

Dr Yeo Kang Shua

Dr Yeo Kang Shua is an Associate Professor of Architectural History, Theory and Criticism at Singapore University of Technology and Design. He is also the Associate Head of Pillar (Research/Practice/Industry) at the pillar (department).

Date & Time

29 Jan 2023, Sun



Become a member

Three membership cards depicting each membership tier, Discover, White and Black.

Great arts experiences begin with Esplanade&Me. Join this membership to enjoy ticket specials on shows at Esplanade, early bird specials, promotions at Esplanade Mall, unlimited access to Offstage and more.

Never miss a show again. Get on our mailing list.