A celebrated historian in Singapore and Malaysia, Kua Bak Lim graduated from Nanyang University with First-Class Honours in History in 1971. Fuelled by a desire to promote the cultural values and heritage of the Chinese Singaporean community, Kua joined the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), serving as the inaugural Chairman of the Research Committee for 10 years from 1986 to 1995. He resumed his stewardship of the Research Committee in 2010.
His first 15 years with the Research Committee was focused on promoting and preserving the heritage and culture of the Chinese Singaporean community. The second stage of his work with the committee commenced in 2010, with an emphasis focus on sharing and promoting research into the history and culture of the Chinese Singaporean community. With this end in mind, he has been organising research-led international conferences, lectures, public talks, broadcast programmes, and exhibitions in this area. Under Kua’s leadership, the academic activities of the Research Committee have provided a platform for sharing and exchange amongst scholars, historians, and the general public. The work of the Research Committee has also been recognised by Xiamen University in China, which regards the SFCCA as one of their collaborative partners in academic research.
Kua’s own research focuses on the history of the Chinese pioneers in Singapore. An author and editor of many noted publications, he won the Book Award 1988 from the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) for his publication, The Studies of Historical Figures in the Chinese Community of Singapore. His latest and most acclaimed book, A General History of the Chinese in Singapore, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in November 2015, was commended as a “precious gift to the Chinese community in Singapore”. This book was also rated by the newspaper China Reading Weekly as one of the best 20 publications in 2018 under the category of “History and Biography”. The English edition of this book was released in June 2019 to commemorate Singapore’s Bicentennial.
Since 2013, Kua has represented Wan Qing Yuan – Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall (SYSNMH) under the National Heritage Board to deliver lectures in China, Japan, and San Francisco. He was also invited by the China National Archive in Beijing to support their application for “Qiaopi” (侨批) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UNESCO Register (April 2013). Kua was also presented with a plaque by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, National Arts Council, and National Heritage Board in January 2015 for his pioneering contributions to the arts and heritage of Singapore.
Besides his chairmanship of the Research Committee, SFCCA, Kua serves on the Board of Governors, Chinese Heritage Centre, at Nanyang Technological University. He is also a member of the National Library Advisory Committee, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s Academic Advisory Committee, and the resource panel of SYSNMH. Aside from his duties on various boards, he is a history consultant for the Quanzhou History Museum of Overseas Chinese in China and an Adjunct Professor in Chinese Studies, New Era University College, Malaysia.
Lee Yuk Chuan is the President of the Choral Association (Singapore) and the Honorary Life President of the Association of Composers (Singapore). He is also the Honorary President of the Musicians Society of Singapore and its choir conductor.
Lee Yuk Chuan graduated from the Royal College of Music, London, with numerous certificates in violin, vocals, and music theory. In the 1950s, at the mere age of 20, he became the conductor for the Ershang Alumni Association choir. In the 1960s, he was the Chinese orchestra and choir conductor in many large-scale cultural performances. He introduced local and classical music in radio programmes and wrote dozens of articles on music for TV Weekly. Along with his friends, he founded the Metro Philharmonic Choir, and as its President, led three tours to Malaysia. He also conducted this choir as part of the opening ceremony of Television Singapore, which was broadcasted live.
In the 1970s, Lee was appointed conductor of the National Theatre choir, and music director of the Singapore Police Force. He also served as the music instructor for the Ministry of Defence to produce music lessons for the National Service and conduct its choir and Chinese orchestra.
In the 1990s, he served as the President of the Association of Composers (Singapore) and Choral Association (Singapore). In 1998, he led the Association of Composers (Singapore) to perform at vocal and instrumental music concerts in Beijing.
In March 2006, Lee led the Melo Art Choir and Choral Association (Singapore) to present his works in Zhu Ni Jiankang, organised by the Choral Association (Singapore) and the Association of Composers (Singapore). It raised funds for the Singapore Cancer Society and received tremendous support from all quarters. Over the years, Lee has led various local and overseas choirs, Chinese orchestras, and ensembles in his delicate yet bold and energetic style. He has also composed for symphonic orchestras, Chinese orchestras, choirs, and soloists. He teaches the violin and his students number in the thousands. He has actively contributed to local music and choral composition and is a sought-after judge in international music competitions.
Lee led the Association of Composers (Singapore) in seven editions of the Singapore International Choral Festival. Under his leadership, the association successfully organised the Singapore International Choral Festival, Voice Of A Thousand, Asia Vocal Competition, Asia Singing Competition, Singapore-Malaysia Singing Competition, the 2006 Singapore International Chinese Choral Festival, Songs of Joy and the 2010 Singapore International Vocal Competition, featuring the participation of 160 professionals and amateurs from all over the world.
Lee released his first collection of songs in 1982 in Singapore and Taiwan, his second collection in 1993, and his third collection, Zhu Ni Jiankang, in 2006. His recent works include Women Shi Jianguo Yidai and Zaoan A, Xinjiapo. Amongst Lee’s works are many original music compositions, lyrics, and choral arrangements that incorporate his compositions, renowned Chinese and Western pieces, and Indonesian folk songs.
In recognition of his contributions, Lee was conferred the Public Service Medal (PBM) by the President in 2001, the Meritorious Award by the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore Ltd (COMPASS) in 2002, and the COMPASS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Han Lao Da (also known as Ann Jong Juan) has been active in local Chinese theatre since the 1970s. He has enjoyed a long 40-year-old career in crosstalk and even now makes sterling contributions to innovate, promote, and pass on the tradition of the local crosstalk genre.
He has played a major role in the development, promotion, and localisation of crosstalk in Singapore. Since creating The Gift Ticket in 1973, he has written countless scripts, many of which have been performed on stage. He has also published three crosstalk collections and commentaries, and written more than 60 crosstalk works.
In December 1986, he started the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society with Yang Shibin and several crosstalk enthusiasts. It was registered as the first crosstalk organisation in Singapore in the following year. From the early days of the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society, Han has worked tirelessly to bring Chinese crosstalk masters and arts organisations to perform in Singapore. He has forged close friendships with the Chinese Ballad Singers Association and individual artists like Ma Ji and Jiang Kun, and he has collaborated with them on cultural exchanges. This brought high-quality crosstalk performances to Singapore and enhanced crosstalk appreciation amongst local enthusiasts and crosstalk practitioners. In 1996, the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society organised the ‘Tan Tian Special Crosstalk Performance’ to raise funds for the Chinese Development Assistance Council.
Exchanges with the Malaysian crosstalk scene started since 1986 when Han Lao Da and the late Yao Xinguang, the ‘father of Malaysian crosstalk’, became friends. In 2012, the Young People’s Performing Arts Ensemble put up his Lao Da Special Crosstalk Performance.
For many years now, the Chinese Ballad Singers Association has been inviting Han Lao Da and representatives of the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society to attend the prestigious China Art Festival, as well as exchanges to various provinces and cities in China. In 1995, the association awarded him an Honorary Certificate in recognition of his contributions.
Until the early 1990s, he was the Chairman and Head of the theatre group at the Singapore Southern Arts Society and Secretary-General of the Singapore Chinese Language Theatre Alliance. Many of his works have been staged at theatre and arts festivals in Singapore. Han was awarded the Cultural Medallion (Theatre) in 1990 in recognition of his tireless dedication and innovation in the crosstalk and theatre scene.
Han’s meticulous research for his crosstalk script-writing has resulted in diverse works infused with traditional crosstalk techniques and characteristics of the local culture. In 1990, he participated in the Shanghai International Crosstalk Exchange Performance, and showcased, for the first time in China, a Singaporean crosstalk A Chain of Love Stories performed by Yang Shibin and Huang Jiaqiang. The basis of this crosstalk is an Indian love song, which reflected Singapore’s unique multiculturalism. In 2005, Han Lao Da led Wang Weilin and Weng Yingfen to participate in the televised crosstalk competition organised by the Beijing Television Station. Their crosstalk item One-Day Tour of Singapore captured the attention of the Beijing audience and Chinese judges. In 2008, his performance of Chinese English Parody won him the Special Prize in the Overseas Category in the crosstalk competition organised by the China Central Television. In 2015, he wrote Unresolved Issues of the Lion City, a pioneering attempt to use the crosstalk format to reflect local history. His iconic works, Unresolved Issues of the Lion City in 2015 and the Queries on History series in 2016, both demonstrated how crosstalk could leave the audience in stitches and still manage to stimulate thinking about life and history.
Established in 2007, Ding Yi Music Company is one of Singapore’s most prodigious Chinese chamber music ensembles. Its distinctive approach to music-making, distinctive repertoire, and collaborations with prominent musicians such as Min Huifen and Lu Chunling have garnered accolades from critics and audiences alike.
It first drew national attention in 2008 by winning at the Singapore National Arts Council’s National Chinese Music Competition. The subsequent year, Ding Yi emerged the Champions in the prestigious Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod held in Wales, United Kingdom. In 2011, it clinched the Silver Award in the 28th Shanghai Spring International Music Festival.
In recent years, Ding Yi has represented Singapore at overseas festivals and performances, including the Hong Kong International Youth Chinese Music Festival, Canberra International Music Festival, Taoyuan Traditional Music Festival, World Music Festival Sharq Taronalari, Jogja International Performing Arts Festival, Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival, Borneo World Music Expo, ASEAN Arts Festival, Philippines Arts Festival, Shanghai World Expo, and more.
To date, the ensemble has pioneered two iconic major events within the Chinese music scene: the biennial Ding Yi Chinese Chamber Music Festival, organised in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, and the Composium, a triennial inaugurated in 2012 to encourage new Chinese chamber music works.
In conjunction with SG50 in 2015, the ensemble was invited by the Singapore Embassy in Berlin to present a concert titled Sights and Sounds of Singapore. Subsequently, the ensemble staged a concert in Suzhou and Wuxi titled Remembering Lee Kuan Yew — A Tribute to Singapore Founding Father and Celebration of SG50.
Ding Yi Music Company is a proud recipient of the National Art Council’s Seed Grant in 2011 and the Major Grant in 2013. It is a Major Company Scheme Recipient in 2016 and 2019. Till date, Ding Yi has organised over 250 outreach and school programmes which attracted over 8000 audiences annually.
The Singapore Association of Writers was founded by the pioneering writer Lien Shih Sheng and fourteen other writers in 1970, fueled by a sense of national consciousness in the society.
In the past decades, the three presidents of the Association, Dr Wong Meng Voon, Professor Wong Yoon Wah, and Chia Hwee Pheng, have actively encouraged the creation and publication of Chinese Singaporean literature with a unique local flavour. This anchored Chinese culture in Singapore through literary works and facilitated the recognition of Chinese Singaporean literature in global literary circles.
Besides invigorating the local literary scene, the association has also played the role of cultural ambassador in the past 50 years, establishing communication channels with overseas literary circles, literary groups, and writers to promote the understanding of Singapore literature and culture by overseas Chinese. The association has also published a hundred issues of its flagship publication Singapore Chinese Literature, which has attracted much attention both at home and abroad.
In recognition of their remarkable contributions to Chinese Singaporean literature and culture, all three former Presidents have been conferred the Cultural Medallion, the highest cultural award in Singapore. The Executive Council and members of the association have also won various literary awards, such as the Southeast Asian Writers Award, the Golden Lion Literary Award, and the Golden Point Award.
In recent years, the association has partnered with literary and cultural organisations, government agencies, and clan associations to promote Chinese Singaporean literature and cultural activities in the form of multi-disciplinary collaborations. In 2017, for example, the association worked with the Singapore Literature Society and the May Poetry Society to present Year of Chinese [email protected]. The annual National Primary Schools On-the-Spot Chinese Creative Writing Competition and the biennial National Secondary Schools Flash Fiction Writing Competition are forays by the association to cultivate a new generation of writers and to enhance the appreciation of Chinese literature among young adults. In addition, it organises the Young Writers’ Reading and Writing Camp and participates in the Author-in-Residence programme by the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning. The association regularly organises high-quality seminars on literature and culture, book launches, and sharing sessions for Chinese literature lovers.
First introduced to Singapore more than a century ago by Chinese immigrants from Fujian province, nanyin music has become an integral part of local Chinese culture ever since. Though nanyin has been included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, it is confronted by the tide of gradual decline and marginalisation. Siong Leng Musical Association is Singapore’s most important local cultural champion of this traditional art form.
Though founded in 1941, the association made its presence felt on the international stage only in 2010, when it won first prize at the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod held in North Wales. Since then, young musicians from Siong Leng have been making waves with their artistic prowess in different parts of the world.
In 2015, Siong Leng Musical Association held a 3-day International Nanyin Youth Concert and Symposium, a platform for young nanyin groups from around the world. In May the same year, Siong Leng presented nanyin in three French cities as part of the Singapore Arts Festival in France. And on the eve of National Day in 2015, the Association staged four performances of a new production called Soul Journey – Nine Songs at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.
In 2016, Siong Leng Musical Association received a grant from the Singapore International Foundation to perform in Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan. Besides performing Soul Journey, it also presented the technically demanding Musicians of the Imperial Court as well as the equally challenging Admiring Festive Lanterns, the first among the five grand suites of nanyin.
The Multi-sensory Nanyin Banquet, an annual fund-raising event for Siong Leng, has become one of the most highly anticipated cultural activities of the Chinese community. Aside from this, Siong Leng Musical Association tirelessly nurtures talented young performers to produce new musical works in this genre.