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Celebrating Singapore Chinese Culture in a Multicultural Society

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the opening of Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s Cultural Extravaganza 2022

1. 大家晚上好。

2. 首先,恭喜新加坡华族文化中心欢庆5周年。在此,我热烈祝贺。非常高兴受邀出席今晚的庆祝会。

a. 华族文化中心在华社里扮演重要的角色,特别是推动我国华族文化。很多会馆和团体都在这里举办很多活动。我和我的同事们都出席过。

b. 我希望华族文化中心能够大放异彩让更多新加坡人,不只是华人,还包括其他种族同胞,也认识这个地方。在推动华族文化同时也体现新加坡多元文化社会的价值观。

c. 在此,我祝华族文化中心百尺竿头更进一步,为华族和华族文化 做出更大的贡献,也为其他种族提供更多认识有关华族文化的平台。

3.    Let me continue now in English.
4.    Thank you very much for welcoming me here this evening, and I’ve come to congratulate SCCC for its fifth anniversary. This has really flown by.

a.    Since its opening in February 2020, SCCC’s Singapo人exhibition, I don’t know how many of you have gone to see it. If you have not, please do so.

i. More than 70,000 visitors have gone there, I have gone.

ii. The exhibition is a very fun but truly meaningful way to showcase

iii. the development and the distinctiveness of the Chinese Singaporean.

b.    SCCC’s signature programme, the annual Cultural Extravaganza, has also become a very much-anticipated mainstay in the local arts and culture calendar.

i. This festival showcases very innovative projects and creations from our very own local arts and culture practitioners,

ii. and has attracted more than 52,000 attendees since 2017 and almost a million online views since 2021.

c.      Even as physical programmes were disrupted during the pandemic, SCCC has not let up. It has stepped up its online programme.

i. The ‘Kaki Says” and “One of Us” series on our local customs and values,

ii. have been viewed almost a million times since the first video was released in 2021.

Celebrating Singapore Chinese Culture in a Multicultural Society

5.    It is in the context of our own special Singaporean multicultural society that we must preserve and celebrate our unique cultural heritage and identity

a.    What we have here is truly very special. We are the same, but also different.

b.    And over time, we come together, we have influenced each other, we have added new elements to the uniquely Singaporean way of life.

c.      This has created a very distinct Singaporean identity that is vibrant, special and certainly worth celebrating.

i. For example, we mix and match our words sometimes, almost intuitively. We use words and phrases from different languages to convey our meaning. For example, we have 巴刹 in Mandarin, pasar in Malay, pak sak in Cantonese. They all mean the same thing, and they are all used interchangeably very often by all of us. 

The Future of Singapore Chinese Culture

6.    But for Singapore Chinese culture to further develop, we will need to take some steps to deliberately strengthen that identity and preserve it, most importantly also for the next generation. What are some of the things we have to do? I suggest three ways.

7.    First, we must all further deepen our understanding and appreciation of our cultural roots.

a.    SCCC and its partners like the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations have contributed greatly by safeguarding and passing down time-honoured traditions and art forms to the next generation.

b.    But at the same time, there is still more that we can do to protect and preserve the evolution of the Singapore Chinese culture – from our immigrant origins to its distinctive Chinese Singaporean identity today.

8.    So therefore second, we must continue to encourage interactions between the different communities in Singapore.

a.    We must allow Singaporeans, regardless of race, language, religion,

i.        opportunities for cultural appreciation and exchange, and the chance to have open, constructive conversations about our cultural identities. And it is not just about different races, across Malay, Indian and Chinese, but also within the Chinese. We each of us have our own unique, distinctive heritage, some of our practices, and we should exchange them.

ii.      We have to take a very inclusive approach, and remain open to exploring how different cultures can cross-pollinate, influence each other and blend into unique Singaporean identities. 

9.    Third, we have to strengthen our engagement with the next generation,

a.    And take care to safeguard this heritage that we have inherited from our forefathers.

b.    We must encourage our youths to explore what it means to be a Chinese Singaporean.

i.        This itself constitutes a journey of self-discovery which every new generation needs to make, learn, and pass it down themselves.

10.    SCCC also recognises this, and will enhance its efforts in new areas to better initiate such conversations.

a.    Later this year, SCCC will set up a dedicated research team on Singapore Chinese culture,

i.        They will do this to further strengthen scholarship, deepen the learning, and enrich each of our understanding as to what makes us uniquely Singaporean Chinese.

ii.      The new research team will be a good initiative.

iii.    It will also help us safeguard our heritage, working with the community to tap on rich experiences and expertise, from the likes of academic researchers also to interest groups, and includes arts and culture interest groups as well. Music, dance, artists, all of whom collectively form that unique identity.

iv.    Through such partnerships, SCCC aims to produce in-depth and thoughtful publications and content on Singapore Chinese culture, all easily accessed via a dedicated website and other public channels.

v.      This will support ongoing community efforts to encourage more widespread appreciation and also the preservation and transmission of what is uniquely Singapore Chinese culture

11.    SCCC aims for this new initiative to allow all Singaporeans, to get to know a fuller story of the evolution of our Singapore Chinese community and culture, especially since our independence.

a.    This will deepen our own understanding of our culture – where we come from, who we are, how we pass it down;

b.    Capture the nuances that makes us uniquely Singaporean, and

c.      Record these details, these customs and practices, for posterity, and as I said, so that we can preserve it and pass it down.

12. This will help us to anchor and entrench our uniquely and distinctive Singapore Chinese identity, even as we continue to mature and grow as a country and society. 


13. As I conclude, let me once again congratulate SCCC. Five years is a long time and also a short time. It has been a long time, because we have had to grapple with COVID in between, so the challenges have been tough. But you have heard Mr Chua earlier - a lot of efforts have been taken to continue outreach efforts, even with COVID. And I want to thank the leadership of SCCC very much. Your efforts have really paid off, and I think these five years have shown the results of what we have done, and I look forward to certainly your continued success.

14. Your continued success will ensure that Singapore Chinese culture will continue to remain strong, vibrant, a rich heritage we are all proud of, and certainly one that will continue for many more generations to come.

15. Thank you very much.

Last updated on 17 May 2022