Hokkien clan group to open new gallery

Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan council member Toh Lam Huat at the Arts and Culture section of the gallery. PHOTO: SINGAPORE HOKKIEN HUAY KUAN

It set up one of the earliest Chinese temples here, Thian Hock Keng, in 1840, and founded Singapore's first Chinese school, Chongwen Ge, in 1849.

It still runs six schools, a secondary and five primary schools, as well as a kindergarten today. It also led in the formation of the former Nanyang University in 1955.

The Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK) - one of the largest and wealthiest Chinese clan associations here with over 5,000 members - also operates a cultural academy, and has a cultural troupe as well as a professional Chinese dance group to give public performances.

These, and other milestones tracing the history and contributions of the 177-year-old clan association, can now be seen at a glance in a new gallery set up at its Sennett Road headquarters that was the former Chai Chee Secondary School's old premises. SHHK moved its headquarters there in 2014 after 174 years in Telok Ayer Street.

Occupying a 240 sq m area on the ground level, the SHHK Gallery in four sections - Heritage, Education, Arts and Culture and Social Service - features more than 130 photographs and interactive informative touchscreens.

It will be opened officially by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Friday.

SHHK secretary-general Sim Bee Hia, 49, said the gallery - which took about six months and $150,000 to set up - would benefit the 2,000 students from its affiliated schools who visit the clan association's premises every year, and members of the public as it would be open to them as well.

"The gallery, with the information all presented in Chinese and English, will enable the young and others to know the history and roots of our clan association which has a long and rich past," she added.

But the gallery's curator, retired Chinese journalist and SHHK council member Toh Lam Huat, 64, said it is "more than telling the clan association's history".

"We also want to show that it is still growing and contributing to the community here, such as the cultural academy it set up in 2014, and its charity foundation which has been giving out scholarships and bursaries to needy students, including those from the other racial groups," he added.

One highlight, said Mr Toh, is a large interactive map of the Fujian province in China showing the 18 districts where the Hokkiens had come from since the early 19th century to become the largest dialect group of Chinese immigrants here till today.

The SHHK Gallery will be open to the public from Saturday during office hours. Admission is free.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline Hokkien clan group to open new gallery. Subscribe