Chinese clan associations were formed decades ago with the purpose to meet the needs of the Chinese migrant welfare. More than just a social institution, they played a largely significant role in bringing Chinese arts and culture to Singapore and advocating it, passing it down for generations.
Now, with changing times, clan associations are no longer the center of important social activities and functions as they are seen to be irrelevant in this day and age.
While the larger clans like the umbrella organisations may still be flourishing, many smaller clans have either closed or become dormant, silently waiting for their time to come. These communities know that unless they redefine their place in today’s society, they will continue to face problems in recruiting new blood and sustaining financially in the years to come.
Many clans’ building facades each also have a story to tell, but how many people actually stop to admire them? How much longer can it stand on this little island, where its landscape is everchanging?
The Creative Rationale
Few people realise that behind the humble-looking facade of a clan lies a rich history that all Chinese deserve to know.
After much thought, the definition of the two Chinese words (see below) was put together to create the project title, 源 . 亮, where the two words become a play on the pun of the Chinese term 原谅, meaning “to forgive”.
The project aims to bring our origins — how our ancestors came to Singapore, set up small communities, and propagated the Chinese arts and culture into our own localised culture — to light, and also educate today’s youths on the importance of knowing our beginnings. With possibly over 100 clans now on the verge of closing down due to changing times, if we are unable to preserve every clan, what more can we ask for, but forgiveness?
源 : origins 亮 : come to light
The theme of the project is “leaving home to find a home”, where clans inevitably became the migrants’ new “home” because that was the place where all of their own people would gather together, under one roof, to share their woes, solve their problems and contact their families back in China.
When our forefathers were made to leave their hometown to find opportunities elsewhere due to difficult living conditions, they came to Singapore with practically nothing, helpless and lost. That was when clans were set up to help them find jobs and attend to their welfare needs.
Clan associations also played an important role in passing down generations of Chinese traditions, practices and culture into the bloodstream of Singaporean Chinese, becoming the one of the remaining “links” to our Chinese heritage.