Singapore Heritage Society was a client organisation for the Policy Analysis Exercise of the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, completed in December 2017. The full report can be downloaded here.
Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Chinatown: Threats & Strategies
by Alisa Toh Qian Wen, Chee Wei Jia, Lai Jian Qin, Norman Maswari Aziz-Boey, Chester Matthias Tan Han Feng, Vanessa Chiam Hui Ting (Master in Public Policy, 2018)
Chinatown, like other historical districts in Singapore such as Kampong Glam, Little India and Boat Quay, has a rich history and cultural identity. These districts have been the subject of conservation efforts by the Government, but they primarily extend to the physical conservation of buildings and structures. In recent times, there has been commentary from certain segments of the public that Chinatown has lost much of its social fabric and is increasingly catering to the tastes of tourists. Also, it has been reported that property investors have been buying up conservation shophouses such as those in Kreta Ayer due to their perceived potential to appreciate in value, resulting in tenancy changes. All of this has led to a sense that Chinatown is gradually losing the character and vibrancy that it once had. This raises the question of whether conservation policy should go further to also protect other intangible aspects of Chinatown’s heritage and culture, such as practices, trades, knowledge and cultural spaces.
In the course of our research, a refrain that often emerged was that the intangible cultural heritage of Chinatown was under threat due to 1) a perceived loss of community spirit, 2) a perceived loss of authenticity, and 3) a highly competitive real estate market in Chinatown which has resulted in the displacement of some traditional trades and businesses. With respect to the last factor, we were unable to obtain sufficiently representative quantitative data to make specific conclusions about the property market and the displacement of traditional trades in particular. Nevertheless, our qualitative research shows that this has been experienced at least by some business owners in Kreta Ayer. In addition, it has also been pointed out that interactions between government agencies and other stakeholders such as business owners need to be improved. To address these issues, there needs to be, in the long term, a revival of interest from the general Singaporean community in Chinatown not just as a space, but as a place. Without an interest in the heritage of Chinatown, there is no demand generated for the goods,services and experiences in Chinatown, which not only affects the level of community participation in Chinatown, but also the survivability and renewal of businesses there. In the shorter term, there is a need to help traditional businesses remain relevant so that they can enhance their competitiveness and continue to thrive in Chinatown.
To this end, we propose three broad policy measures to be taken by the relevant agencies:
1) Setting up a dedicated statutory heritage trust (by the Government, spearheaded by Chinatown’s lead agency, the Singapore Tourism Board);
2) Improving the commercial viability of traditional trades and businesses (by the Singapore Tourism Board and the National Heritage Board, with the involvement of business owners and the Chinatown Business Association);
3) Revitalising Chinatown to attract the interest of youths (by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens’ Consultative Committee, or the statutory heritage trust proposed above, with the involvement of the Ministry of Education, private organisations and others).
While we consider that the setting up of a heritage trust would be the most comprehensive proposal, we recognise that its successful implementation would likely require extensive consultations and feasibility studies, making it the least likely option to be implemented within the short-term. Thus, our other proposals for improving the commercial viability of traditional businesses and making Chinatown more attractive to youths, are measures that the relevant agencies could embark on simultaneously or alternatively.
Singapore Heritage Society was a client organisation for the Policy Analysis Exercise of the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, completed in December 2015. The full report can be downloaded here.
Striking the balance between heritage conservation and urban renewal in Singapore: Advocating for a mandatory Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) Regime
by Trent Ng (Master of Public Policy, 2016)
The rapid redevelopment of the urban landscape in Singapore since independence ha had a major impact on many sites of cultural and heritage value in Singapore. There is currently no regulatory or legal requirement for the government, private developers or individuals to conduct Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) on such sites before attempting to redevelop it or modify its land use. Consequently to date, many historical sites, buildings and monuments rich in culture and history have been razed in the name of modernisation and development without a proper assessment of the resulting loss of culture and heritage.
A mandatory HIA regime in Singapore would require an assessment of the impact on both tangible and intangible heritage whenever a site of heritage value is considered for redevelopment or change in land use. While this practice would lead to a greater awareness of objects of national heritage and enable better-informed decisions to be made regarding redevelopment, the corollary of a mandatory HIA regime would also mean higher public accountability and compromises, leading to potential delays, a drop in optimum economic efficiency, and potentially even sacrificing whole redevelopment projects in the protection of national heritage.
How can an autochthonous HIA regime be tailored for the Singapore context, such as to balance the need for heritage protection with Singapore’s insatiable obsession with urban renewal and redevelopment; a balancing act which has almost always been heavily tilted by national ideologies of pragmatism and economic rationalism?Surveying the standards and best practices of HIA as it is practiced around the world before focusing on the Hong Kong HIA model as one which Singapore can emulate, this PAE advocates the implementation of a mandatory HIA regime in Singapore, detailing recommendations for a comprehensive HIA.
For Pesta Ubin 2017, the Singapore Heritage Society conducted a a special tour curated by Dr Vivienne Wee, our expert anthropologist, to the island’s little-seen heritage sites – including kampung houses, an old cemetery and a mangrove swamp. At each stop, villagers shared with us recollections from their past, their stories of their present, and their hopes for the future.
Download our tour handbook for a brief introduction to the tour stops.
Check out the microsite for our Bukit Brown Wayfinder, launched on 18 Nov 2017
The Wayfinder is a self-guided trail along 25 tombs in Blocks 1 and 3 of the Bukit Brown Cemetery. Uncover the history and heritage buried in one of Singapore’s largest and last-remaining cemeteries.
More on Bukit Brown can be found here
This collection of stories, essays and poems looks at the impact of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in the Second World War (1942-1945) from the perspective of those interred at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The highlights of the book are stories shared by descendants from family oral archives and albums of their ancestors, some of whom survived and others who perished, during the darkest chapters of Singapore’s history.
Bukit Brown remains the largest cemetery in Singapore for the war dead in situ, and buried with them are many untold stories of bravery, resilience, tragedy, survival and, amid the darkness, hope. The book offers new material and insights into the human tragedy of war as an act of commemoration, thereby adding another layer to the already vast literature available on WWII in Singapore.
“The stories have taken us to the Endau Settlement in Johor, to Taiping (Malaysia) and to the battlefields of Europe in ways so unexpected they took our breath away,” said Claire Leow and Catherine Lim, the co-editors of the book. “It is a slow and at times painful unraveling of family history, lost in memory but for the persistence of descendants. It has taken seven decades for some of these fragments to be pulled together, and we see this not as a one-off book but a first step in the difficult journey of “re-discovery” and “re-membering”. The narratives also re-affirm to us Singapore’s place in regional and global historical narratives. We hope it serves as a curtain raiser to 2017, the 75 Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.”
The stories are nested around essays— which provide context and background—written by the community of volunteers, who have come to be known as brownies under the banner of All Things Bukit Brown. They are neither historians nor academics but the editorial team conduct regular guided walks on site, which in themselves are learning journeys as they expand on their body of knowledge from engaging with descendants and a myriad web of networks including academics and historians.
“Bukit Brown has unexpectedly turned out to be a touchstone about the loss of heritage— tangible and intangible— in a Singapore eager to modernise and develop,” Chua Ai Lin, President of Singapore Heritage Society. “The book is an important evolution of the civil society movement to uphold Bukit Brown as a site of national significance, and illuminate one of its more fragile narrative threads. It brings together at once the strategic and personal importance of the site.”
About the Editors
Claire Leow, works in corporate communications with a background in journalism, both local and international. Claire was instrumental in co-curating with Jon Cooper—a war archaeologist who has been based in Singapore since 2011—“The Battlefield at Bukit Brown” guided walk, which has become a monthly staple in WW II history in Singapore. She has contributed chapters on the Railway Corridor and Bukit Brown in “Public Spaces in Urban Asia” (February 2014). Her CV includes more than two decades in journalism as correspondent and editor, principally at Business Times and Bloomberg news bureau chief for Bloomberg in Jakarta, and managing editor of the flagship Global-is-Asian magazine at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy where she edited a 12-chapter book as Associate Director of Research Dissemination.
Catherine Lim works freelance in broadcast media and the flexibility of her job allowed her to kickstart the blog with the first posts and function as the main editor. She co-ordinates requests for learning journeys for guided walks in Bukit Brown. In 2012, she produced, and was co-researcher and co-writer of an 8 part documentary series on Bukit Brown called “History from the Hills”. She is the co-ordinator for All Things Bukit Brown in a working committee representing civil society in discussions with the Ministry of National Development on curating artefacts from exhumed tombs within the grounds of Bukit Brown.
• • •
Dimension: 166mm x 240mm
Extent: 212 pages
Published by Ethos Books and Singapore Heritage Society
In conjunction with Pesta Ubin, the Singapore Heritage Society has produced this information guide to help visitors understand the Tua Pek Kong temple & festival on Pulau Ubin, which is organised annually by the Pulau Ubin Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple. This guide was first produced in 2016, and updated in 2017 and 2018.
Download the PDF: Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Temple & Festival Guide 2018
Facebook Event Page:
Pulau Ubin Tua Pek Kong Festival 2018
A book launch in conjunction with the exhibition opening of
Moderns In Our Midst: A Photographic Tribute to Singapore’s Modern Architectural Heritage
Date: Friday, 17 April 2015
Time: 6:30pm to 9pm
Venue: Concourse, National Museum of Singapore. 93, Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
Please RSVP by 7 April 2015.
About the Book
It is not obvious to many that Singapore boasts an exemplary Modernist architectural legacy. Built during the mid 20th century, these structures were the result of progressive, even utopic impulses to shape a new society — a vision of the future, built to last. But the future turned out to be startlingly short-lived. Relentless development is rapidly depleting the built heritage of the nation-building period in particular, which is relatively less well studied or protected. Recipient of the URA AUDE Grant and the NHB Heritage Project Grant, the Singapore Heritage Society’s decade-long ‘Our Modern Past’ project constitutes a sustained effort to document the city-state’s Modern heritage, promote appreciation of this architecture, and present a case for its selective conservation.
The first of two volumes, Our Modern Past: A Visual Survey of Singapore Architecture 1920s–1970s by Ho Weng Hin, Dinesh Naidu, Tan Kar Lin and photography by Jeremy San, provides a photographic guide organised into three sections: the Interwar Period (1919–1942), the Post-War Years (1945–1965), and Post-Independence Years (1966–1970s). Each section begins with a survey of that period’s architectural Elements, illustrating how locally typical Modern expressions of form, type, materiality, and detail have been shaped by their contexts. Feature Buildings then complete each section, providing a closer look at definitive works that capture the times. The book contains a total of 1,500 photographs illustrating 35 design elements and 44 feature buildings, including several that have since been demolished.
Guest of Honour: Associate Professor Kwok Kian Woon. Associate Provost, NTU and Past President, Singapore Heritage Society.
6.30 pm Guest arrival and registration
7.00 pm Welcome Address by SHS President
7.10 pm Speech by co-publisher SIA Press Director
7.20 pm Special Dedication by Dr Kevin Tan in memory of Jeremy San
7.30 pm Speech by the Guest of Honour
7.45 pm Launch of book, photo-taking & refreshments
9.00 pm End of event
A 25% discount on the book will apply (U.P is $120) at this event.
Please feel free to click and download digitised copies of the Society’s newsletter, Roots, which was published from 1988 to 1997. You will need Adobe Reader, or another PDF viewer, in order to read each issue. Each PDF file is about 2 MB in size.
Seen primarily as final resting places, cemeteries are increasingly under threat from urban redevelopment in land-scarce Singapore. Regarded as ‘excess space’ by state planners, and as ‘taboo places’ by the local populace, the rich historical and cultural heritage of our cemeteries have remained largely unappreciated and hidden. Today, there are about less than a dozen cemeteries left in Singapore. With the recent exhumation of major cemeteries like Bidadari Cemetery and Kong How Shua Cemetery, concerns have been raised about the status of cemeteries in Singapore.
Spaces of the Dead: A Case from the Living brings together various authors concerned with the need for conservation of cemeteries in Singapore. This book showcases cemeteries as spaces of historical, architectural and social merit through the writings and photo-journals of the authors. We hope it will serve as an initial step in generating greater interest in and awareness of Singapore’s cemeteries.
by Loh Kah Seng & Liew Kai Khiun (eds.)
In exploring the past, researchers labour in the present: to locate the archival document which is located somewhere behind a gate with its keeper; or to find that elusive participant who will throw light on a gap in our knowledge, and convince them to speak. The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History meditates on this relationship between past and present in a developmental city-state. The articles discusse how researchers seek to gain entry to archives and memories, in endeavours which crucially shape the imagination of Singapore as a nation and the identity of its people as citizens.
Gedung Kuning or the Yellow Mansion was home to the family of Haji Yusoff ‘Tali Pinggang’ from 1912 to 1999. It was acquired by the Singapore government in August 1999 under the Land Acquisition Act. What used to house six families is now preserved as a historic building under the Malay Heritage Centre.
Hidayah Amin, one of Haji Yusoff’s great-granddaughters, revisits her childhood home and takes readers beyond the gate guarded by stone eagles, through rooms with big mirrors and marble floors, and shares interesting anecdotes growing up in Gedung Kuning. Through 28 short stories, readers get a historical narrative detailing the lives of people living in Gedung Kuning and the Malays of Singapore from 1850s to 1999.
This volume collects together and reprints two groundbreaking publications from the 1950s by Dr Leon Comber: Introduction to Secret Societies; and Traditional Mysteries of Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya. The volumes were written to initiate laypersons to the mysterious world of Chinese secret societies. Secret societies were originally founded on the bedrock of blood ties, kinship, mutual help and rebellion against repressive regimes and especially relevant to the immigrant communities of the Nanyang (overseas) Chinese as they integrated into new homelands. To that extent, many of their rituals, codes of conduct and history held true to original ideals.
Over time however, many secret societies later turned to crime and have become synonymous with criminal organizations serving their leaders and gang members purposes rather than the wider community. Now republished in one paperback volume with new setting and design, The Triads provides a new readership with a fascinating glimpse into a world which continues to capture the imagination for both older and younger generations of students of an overseas Chinese community in Asia.
This volume collects together and reprints four classic books written in the 1950s by Dr Leon Comber: Chinese Ancestral Worship; Chinese Festivals in Malaya (with Dorothy Lo); Chinese Magic & Superstition in Malaya; and Chinese Temples in Singapore. These books on Chinese life and customs were reprinted many times but have long been out of print. Written for the layperson, the style is simple and unpretentious, yet Comber’s meticulously presents a veritable cornucopia of a culture still relevant and present in modern Southeast Asia Completely reset and attractively designed this new publication addresses the rich heritage of the overseas Chinese community’s roots and practices, and for those reading about or visiting Southeast will find it a ready source of information and knowledge of ancient and classic Chinese culture in all its glory.
About This Book
The rich diversity of Singapore’s heritage in postage stamps may be something of a surprise! This finely illustrated softback written for children and adults gives details and stories about the significance of the buildings and objects depicted. These include official buildings, places of worship, rivers and bridges, nature parks, and monuments, including now-dismantled Japanese shrines. This book opens many windows onto Singapore’s history.
Format: Paper Back, 96 pages
Published: 2007, Singapore, 1st Edition
This book is the first of its kind. It brings together over 300 fascinating ‘firsts’ in Singapore. Do you know who owned the first car brought into Singapore? Or who the first woman doctor was? What about the first ‘skyscraper’ or the first court house? Authors Kay Gillis and Kevin Tan have compiled a personal collection of interesting and intriguing ‘firsts’ in an A-Z encyclopaedia. Most of the listings include extensive write-ups and histories.
This catalogue accompanied the 2006 exhibition of photographs by the celebrated and pioneer Singapore photographer Yip Cheong Fun (1903-1989). In these remarkable photo studies, the National Library Board and the Singapore Heritage Society have presented many aspects of both the physical fabric and the human life and emotions of Singapore in the 20th century. With biographical and professional summaries and over a hundred photographs with many smaller insets. Partly in Chinese.
This book tells how a serious-minded young man became one of Singapore’s most respected politicians and, ultimately, President of the Republic. Based on extensive research, including interviews with family, friends and colleagues, this account traces the rise to eminence of Ong Teng Cheong, as he becomes first, Member of Parliament for the Kim Keat constituency, then a government minister and Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). The climax of the story comes when, in 1993, he relinquishes his position in the Cabinet, resigns from the PAP, leaves the NTUC, and presents himself as a candidate to be the first elected president of Singapore.
The book assesses Ong’s legacy: his contribution to the economic well-being of the workforce, his role in shaping the physical appearance of Singapore, his part in the development of the MRT system, among other projects, and his tireless patronage of the arts. Included here are the recollections of many distinguished public figures of his generation—including President S. R. Nathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; here, too, are the words of many others whose lives were touched by Ong Teng Cheong.
by Kwok Kian Woon, Ho Weng Hin and Tan Kar Lin (eds.)
The Singapore Heritage Society has undertaken this compilation of articles and letters that appeared in the local press over the controversial decision by the government to demolish the National Library building at Stamford Road. Earmarked as the new site for a management university, the centrally-located area has since 1960 evoked a host of sentiments for thousands of Singaporeans, who face the loss of yet another built memory.
by Kwok Kian-Woon, C.J. Wee Wan-Ling and Karen Chia (eds)
N.B.: Appendix (pages 60-88) are not available in the PDF version.
A preliminary review conducted by the Singapore Heritage Society of the Singapore Tourism Board’s multi-million dollar proposal to “revitalise” Chinatown. The book documents the courses that are relevant for the implementation of the STB plans; draw lessons from the Chinatown debate and reflect on the future directions for the development of other heritage sites in Singapore.
The study presents:
1. The Chinatown heritage.
2. Challenges in the revitalization of Chinatown.
3. Opportunities for the redevelopment of Chinatown.
4. A consideration of the STB proposal.
by Kwok Kian-Woon, Indira Arumugam, Karen Chia and Lee Chee Keng (eds)
In the wide-ranging and often complex papers and discussion at the February 2000 Singapore Conference “We Asians — between Past & Future,” Japanese and Southeast Asian contributors examined concepts of Asianness. The material evolves around the following themes: The past as prologue; war and violence; history and memory; Colonialism, Communism and nation-state formation; the rise of Capitalism in Asia; Culture and consciousness and Beginning the 21st Century.
by Kwok Kian Woon, Kwa Chong Guan, Lily Kong and Brenda Yeoh (eds.)
Our Place in Time is a collection of papers presented at a forum on 17-18 September 1994. It discusses our search for identity as an attempt to recover and rediscover ‘the living presence of the past’, for ‘heritage is not simply what we inherit from the past, as if it were fixed and given; rather, it embodies and discloses forms of human possibilities – possible ways of life, hopes and fears, aspirations fulfilled and unfulfilled. The book discusses how heritage answers fundamental questions such as what it means to be human and how recollecting the past is a part of projecting our future.
A new and charming version of Geraldene’s well known and loved memoir of a Chinatown past. Lavishly illustrated by Derek Corke, who lived and painted Singapore for 18 years, this companion reader and guide to Singapore’s Chinatown is an ideal gift and souvenir of one of Southeast Asia’s vibrant cities and it impressive and cherished heritage.
Collection of letters written in 1956 by distinguished Singapore lawyer, the late David Marshall, who was the colony’s first Chief Minister. The volume was edited by the late Prof. Michael Leifer, who also wrote an introduction to the book. In this volume, David Marshall provides interesting insights into conditions in communist China at a time when the country was still closed to most foreigners. He urged the Chinese authorities to encourage the overseas Chinese to take up citizenship of the countries of domicile. Marshall was instrumental in securing the expatriation of the small community of Jews who were in China at that time.
This is a pioneering work that attempts to trace the literary heritage of Singapore from its founding in 1819 up to 1959. Covers the early religious tracts published by missionary groups; poems, short stories published in newspapers and magazines; publishing houses, book distribution; literary awareness; and writers and their works. Photographs by Albert Lim K.S. & Eng Bow Kee.
The Singapore Heritage Society commissioned architectural photographer Jeremy San to document the nation’s modern architectural heritage (1920s-1970s), for its upcoming book: ‘Our Modern Past’. This calendar features rare and poignant images of 15 buildings that were once celebrated for their modernity and progressiveness, but now demolished, transformed or simply forgotten.
LIMITED EDITION | 500 COPIES ONLY
$18 PER COPY | $15 PER COPY FOR 10 COPIES AND ABOVE
Place your order here: OMP Calendar Order Form