新加坡是个多元种族的大熔炉，各族群拥有自己独特的文化与传统。 如果我们问当下新加坡年轻人“你是谁”？ 我们将得到各式各样的答案。如果进一步追问“你的根在何处”？没有多少人能作出准确的回答。事实上，甚至连他们的祖父母对自己来自何方都感到模糊。书中你会听到由他们的家族传述下来的几代人的故事，祖先从中国乘船来到此地，或者在马六甲或槟城出生。这部通史有一个篇章追溯马六甲/海峡华人，也就是我们常说的土生华人的来源。对于这些祖先来自中国的人士来说，此篇章相当有趣，值得一读。
老子的 “千里之行，始于足下” 这句话在全书无处不引起回响。如果我们的先民没有迈出第一步，新加坡就会完全不同；如果像柯宗元教授和柯木林先生这样尽心尽力的新加坡人没有迈开第一步来编辑这本书，我们不会如此深入地了解那段华人史，你说是吗？
Review of “A General History of the Chinese in Singapore”
The definition of History is a study of change over time that covers all aspects of human society. Besides natural events, most of the events that shaped the world today happened because of human decisions and interventions. History will not be known if these events were not recorded or remembered. Fortunately for us Singaporeans, this is not the case.
This is the book, helmed by two chief editors, National University of Singapore historian Kwa Chong Guan and independent Singapore Chinese historian Kua Bak Lim, who is an SFCCA council member, you will want to read if you want to learn why and how your forefathers made Singapore their home. You will learn about and understand the system that they ingeniously place to make a 19th century fishing village forward in every aspect, a mail money system, building hospitals and schools and a proper burial place, all these to form a humane and modern society. You will feel the sufferings of the war, the frustrations and the resilient, effort and determination of our forefathers. Above all, you will learn how Modern Singapore became who she is today.
Singapore is a melting pot of different races with their own unique different cultures and traditions. But if you were to ask the Chinese youth of Singapore today, who are you? We will get a variety of answers. But if we delve further and ask, where are your roots? Not many can give accurate answers. The truth is even their grandparents have vague ideas where they actually came from. You will hear stories past down from generations that their forefathers came on a boat from China or their ancestors were born in Malacca or Penang. There is a whole chapter of the Malacca/Straits-born Chinese or the Peranakans as we know them and it proved to be a very interesting read for those whose forefathers came from China.
A General History of the Chinese in Singapore is not just an ordinary history reference book. This book had its first publication in Chinese and now this English
version will definitely not deny many English readers the pleasure of having insightful knowledge of the rich history of the Chinese in Singapore. This book extensively covered the early Chinese in Southeast Asia charting from why they had made the long perilous journey from China to the islands in the South China Sea to how the Singapore Chinese innovatively built an organised economic and political system to make Singapore their home while preserving the Chinese culture. I personally found one of the chapters, “Money by Mail to China. Qiaopi and Chinese Remittance in Singapore”, highly informative as how hard-earned money made in Nanyang was remitted back to China. Back then, the money was physically mailed back and handled by parallel traders commuting between China and Singapore. This also led to the creation of the earliest banking system in Singapore.
In every History of any kind, there will always be conflicts. Singapore has seen her fair share of conflicts, from the establishment of her being a free port to the dark period when she fell in the hands of the Japanese. The Chinese in Singapore were targeted because of their anti-Japanese activities before the downfall of Singapore to Japan. The book covered the rise of the Japanese Empire to their invasion and occupation of Singapore.
With that, I have only scratched the surface of this weighty book, yes it weighs a lot but its weight is worth its gold.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
This saying resonates the entire book, if our forefathers had not made that single step, Singapore would be completely different. And if commit- ted Singaporeans like Professor Kwa Chong Guan and Mr Kua Bak Lim had not made this step to pen this book, then we will never know, won’t we?