Evolution of an identity

Being Chinese in Singapore: Forging a unique identity, from pasar to ba sha

Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. Breaking down the strong within-dialect identification, a legacy of colonial segregation policies, is also important in building Chinese identity in Singapore, say some experts.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. Breaking down the strong within-dialect identification, a legacy of colonial segregation policies, is also important in building Chinese identity in Singapore, say some experts.PHOTO: MCI

A land of wealth and opportunity. That was how Chinese sailing south from the mainland saw Singapore and the Nanyang region (literally "southern ocean"), according to renowned historian Wang Gungwu.

The Chinese who came here originally had no intention of settling down. In fact, they would be best described by the phrase luoye guigen, or sojourners who would one day return to China, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally in August.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 13, 2019, with the headline 'Forging a unique identity: From pasar to ba sha'. Print Edition | Subscribe