Symposium on The History of Overseas Chinese in Singapore

3 February 2021 , 9.00am - 6.00pm

Online Zoom Webinar

This symposium is being held to reflect upon the long history Chinese activity in Singapore, from the time of itinerant sea traders, to the era of more permanent settlement in colonial times, and on into the establishment of Singapore as an independent and prosperous nation. It will focus on such themes as the history of Chinese education and the shaping of Chinese identities in Singapore, and new modes of research and exhibition by which to better study and appreciate that history, with the aim of inspiring further exploration of the complex and intricate ways in which various ethnic groups have come together to make Singapore what it is today.


9:00 AM – 10:15 AM | Introduction and Keynote Lecture

Chinese in Singapore: Parallels, Continuities, What’s New

Wang Gungwu 王賡武

University Professor, National University of Singapore


10:45 AM – 12:25 PM | Panel 1: Chinese Education in Colonial and Post-Colonial Singapore

An Introduction to the Chinese Textbook Used by the Colonial Government for the Civil Service

Kua Bak Lim 柯木林

Council Member and Chairman of the Research Committee, Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations

Disappearing Chinese Vernacular Schools in Singapore: Post-WWII British Decolonization and Lee Kong Chian’s Failed Struggle

Huang Jianli 黃堅立

Associate Professor of History, National University of Singapore


2:00 PM – 3:30 PM | Panel 2: Exhibition and Research of Historical Chinese Culture

SINGAPO人: Examining Chinese Singapore Culture through the Lens of Exhibition-making

Low Sze Wee 劉思偉

Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre

New Approaches to the History of Overseas Chinese in Singapore: Introducing the Singapore Historical GIS (SHGIS) and the Singapore Biographical Database (SBDB)

Kenneth Dean 丁荷生

Raffles Professor of Humanities and Head, Department of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore



4:00 PM – 5:30 PM | Panel 3: The Articulation of Chinese Identities in Singapore

Shaping Singapore’s Chinese Identities

Kwa Chong Guan 柯宗元

Senior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University

Adjunct Associate Professor (Honorary), History Department, National University of Singapore

Racializing ‘Chinese’ in Southeast Asia: The Case of Singapore at the Turn of the 20th Century

Kwee Hui Kian 郭慧娟

Associate Professor of Chinese, National University of Singapore

Watch the full symposium here:

This symposium is supported by the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture & Civilisation Programme.