Hokkien festival to celebrate heritage, culture and food

Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan cultural committee vice-chairman Koh Chin Yee (left) and honorary council member Toh Lam Huat examine the couplet from the Heng San Teng temple. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE – A couplet from the Heng San Teng temple in Silat Road, which was razed to the ground in a massive fire in 1992, will be on public display for the first time in December at the Singapore Hokkien Festival (SHF). 

The couplet, which is in relatively good condition, bears the name “Heng San Teng Tua Pek Kong Temple”. It describes how the Tua Pek Kong deity’s meritorious deeds bestowed blessings upon many. 

The couplet was donated to the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK) by a Singaporean American optometrist who bought it from a second-hand artefact dealer in the late 1970s. It will be exhibited at the SHF, which will be held from Dec 2 to 4 at the Telok Ayer Street Plaza directly opposite the Thian Hock Keng temple.

The Heng San Teng temple was established around 1828 and served as an important source of both funeral and memorial services for the immigrants from Fujian, China.

Besides the couplet, two other artefacts from the temple will also be exhibited at the SHF. They are a wooden plaque that recorded information on the maintenance of the temple, and the Tua Pek Kong statue that survived the fire. 

A Heng San Teng seminar will also be held on Dec 2 to share more about the temple, regarded as one of the most important Hokkien ones in Singapore’s history.

In addition, the team at another temple – Thian Hock Keng – has developed an app so that visitors can learn more about this centuries-old national monument via their mobile devices. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong will launch the app at the festival.  

The festival, themed Being Hokkien: Heritage · Culture · Food,  will also feature local Chinese and Hokkien cultural performances and Hokkien food. 

Into its seventh edition, the event is organised by SHHK and supported by 14 other Fujian-related clan associations, as well as affiliated schools, to promote better understanding and appreciation of local Chinese and Hokkien cultures. It was last held in 2017 and was suspended after that due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Hokkien community – the largest Chinese dialect group here – traces its ancestry to Fujian province. There are an estimated 1.2 million to 1.4 million Hokkiens in Singapore, said SHHK.

Mr Thomas Chua, its president, said: “Hokkien Huay Kuan champions the preservation and promotion of Hokkien culture, and this biennial Hokkien Festival is one of the major platforms for us to reach out and share the diverse and rich cultures of the local Hokkien community.

“We are really excited to present a fresh look at the Hokkien culture across visual, musical and gastronomical realms.”

Students from Nan Chiau High School will perform Hokkien puppetry at the Singapore Hokkien Festival. PHOTO: SINGAPORE HOKKIEN HUAY KUAN

More than 20 cultural performances by about 260 performers will showcase the diversity of the Hokkien culture, including wushu, puppetry, opera and orchestra. 

Inter-generational bonding among parents, grandparents and children is encouraged at an interactive colouring and drawing workshop by local illustrator Kuan Eng.

Visitors can also enjoy Hokkien tunes by local singers in a concert hosted by veteran radio deejay Desmond Lim on two consecutive nights. The first concert on Dec 2 will be streamed live via SHHK’s Facebook page.

SHHK’s marketing and publicity manager Jeremiah Soh will be performing fitness exercises with about 50 children, using the Hokkien dialect and Hokkien pop tunes at the concert.

“Getting the children involved can promote their interest in, and understanding of, Hokkien culture,” said the 37-year-old.

The Hokkien food, put together by the clan associations, will feature favourites such as oyster mee sua, braised pork belly buns, shrimp rolls, Putien mixed noodles, fried Nan’an sweet potato noodles and Hokkien yam porridge. 

Visitors can also bring home products such as Heng Hua beehoon, Ann Kway tea leaves and Kim Mui peanut candies. All proceeds will go to supporting the clan associations and their philanthropic efforts. 

The activities are free unless otherwise stated. More information can be found on SHHK’s website at shhk.com.sg

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