S'pore's Chinese community different from others elsewhere: PM Lee [TODAY Online]

He said that the Singaporean Chinese identity "will keep on evolving".

TODAY Online

CNY-at-Chinatown

The Chinese community in Singapore has integrated into a “larger, multiracial whole” over the years and, in the process, sets itself apart from other Chinese communities in Asia and the West, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Feb 4).

But identity — just like tradition — is dynamic in nature, said Mr Lee in his Chinese New Year message. With new Chinese immigrants moving to Singapore and as new generations come of age, the Singaporean Chinese identity “will keep on evolving”, he added.

“The new arrivals will enrich our cultural heritage with their different life experiences and perspectives. At the same time, I hope that over time they will adjust their social norms to our local context and embrace our uniquely Singaporean cultural habits, just as earlier generations did,” said Mr Lee.

“This is the way for the Chinese community to stay vibrant, and for Singapore to be open, dynamic and resilient for many years to come.”

Mr Lee had previously made the point that Chinese Singaporeans have forged their own unique identity. At Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao’s 95th anniversary dinner last September, he said that Singapore has developed its own “variation of Chinese culture and an identity that resonates with the Chinese Singaporeans, as well as with our fellow Singaporeans of other races”.

Mr Lee expanded on the theme on Monday, noting how, over the decades, the Chinese community here has developed its own unique rituals and traditions in celebrating Chinese New Year. These are then passed down to future generations.

In his message, he cited how Chinese Singaporeans would incorporate "lo hei" as part of reunion dinners to “express our hopes and wishes for the coming year”.

And as they visit relatives and friends, they would be served with pineapple tarts and other delicacies such as kueh bangkit, reflecting the South-east Asian heritage of the Straits Chinese.

Since 1973, Chingay Parades have also been part of Chinese New Year celebrations here, said Mr Lee. They are meant to generate a festive mood, in place of setting off firecrackers which authorities put a stop to in the 1970s as it was dangerous to do so given Singapore’s “built up and dense” environment.

Though Chingay Parades — inspired by the pre-war Chingay processions in the Malaysian state of Penang to celebrate temple festivals — started out by featuring mainly Chinese cultural elements such as lion and dragon dances, Mr Lee said it has evolved into a celebration for people of all races and ages.

Chinese lion dancers, he added, would perform alongside Malay children playing the kompang — a traditional Malay instrument in the shape of a small drum — as well as Indian dance troupes.

“The involvement of all races adds a special joy and richness to the festivities, and reflects our unique multicultural society,” said Mr Lee, pointing out that Chinese Singaporeans also participate in Muslim and Hindu religious celebrations.

“The way we celebrate Chinese New Year reflects how the Singapore Chinese identity has evolved and emerged over the years. Chinese Singaporeans have integrated into a larger, multiracial whole,” he said.

“In the process Singaporean Chinese have become distinct from Chinese communities elsewhere, both the Chinese societies of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the overseas Chinese minorities in the diaspora in South-east Asia and the West.”

Source: TODAY Online


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