Shedding light on history of Chinese here

26 June, 2019

Photo: Jason Quah, The Straits Times

The common myth of Singapore history often perpetuated is that British colonialism, heralded by the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, was the catalyst that turned Singapore into the major trading port that it is well-known for today. Contrary to this view, however, the island was known to have been trading with China since the 14th century.

In line with the Singapore Bicentennial, which aims to depict Singapore’s history since 1299, Honorary Adjunct Associate Professor Kwa Chong Guan (NUS Department of History) recently launched the English edition of A General History of the Chinese in Singapore (World Scientific), 2019) with his co-editor Mr Kua Bak Lim. The book’s English edition follows the Chinese version, first released in 2015, and documents the history of Singapore’s early Chinese secret societies. It covers a wide variety of topics surrounding Chinese history in Singapore, beginning with the Chinese presence on the island in pre-1819 Singapore, Teochew agriculturalists in Singapore before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, as well as accounts of Chinese merchants on the island’s trade history. The book also comprises 18 chapters and 38 essays and involved a total of 26 authors and seven translators. It is also supported by the Singapore Bicentennial and the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Photo: World Scientific

A/P Kwa studies the intersections of history, security studies, and international relations of Southeast Asia, with a specific focus on Singapore history and historiography. He began his career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs working on policy analysis before being reassigned to reorganise the National Archives and the old National Museum, which during this time was transformed into three museums under the NHB. He has also served on various advisory committees and was previously Head of the old Department of Strategic Studies at the SAFTI Military Institute, where he taught military history and strategic studies.

Mr Kua Bak Lim chairs the research committee of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), of which he is a council member. He advocates for the writing of Singapore Chinese history by Chinese historians and does so through publications such as A General History of the Chinese in Singapore.

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