Golden Jubilee CNY Garden Party at Istana

PicsArt_1425224667141 The above photo taken at the Istana on 1st March, 2015 when I attended the Chinese New Year Garden Party 2015.

It is my pleasure and honour to be invited to the Chinese New Year Garden Party at the Istana by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Colleagues, especially this is the “Golden Jubilee Singapore50” celebration of the 50th anniversary of independent Singapore.

Memories rushed through my brain as I recalled my first visit to the Istana on 12th October, 1963 as a member of the British Red Cross Society in school.  Please share my fond nostalgia memories in a previous blog  here . jsatistana_redcross At the Chinese New Year Garden Party 2015 PicsArt_1425224174871 PicsArt_1425223580308 PicsArt_1425222985209


A Chinese calligraphy of my name in Chinese ( 佘國琛 ) written by Mr Tan Tiow Siong at the Garden Party.



PicsArt_1425221404295 Meeting veteran blogger friend Unk Dicko unkdicko3_sm unkdicko1 unkdicko2_sm Meeting former classmate of 50 years, Freddy Lim Kah Chin PicsArt_1425227562786 freddylim1


The above group photo of the Outram Secondary School Geographical Society Committee taken in 1965.  James Seah Kok Thim seated on first row third from left.  Freddy Lim Kah Chin standing first from left.

Thank you for the memories, Freddy.  Still remember our favorite song, 小人物的心声 during our schooldays. (YouTube video courtesy of “tytnsm”).

恭祝大家新年快乐,万事如意,吉祥平安 !

Chong Pang Kampong in the Past

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The junction of Sembawang Road and Chong Pang Road  c  1970

By an accident of my personal history to be born and grew up in Bukit Ho Swee kampong, I had to move to another kampong from central Singapore to the north in the 1970s.

After my mother passed away,  I changed job to work at Sum Soon Poultry Farm at Woodlands Road and rented a room at Sembawang Road to live nearer to my workplace.  I was then single and living independently with freedom on my own.

For about 2 to 3 years, I breathed and soaked in the atmosphere of another kampong since my birthplace in Bukit Ho Swee at a different times many decades ago.

In my early twenties, I adapted to the new living environment in Sembawang easily because I prefer the natural, simple kampong lifestyle, given a choice.

Life is a journey ….. but there are routes with twist and turns around the corners with many surprises and unexpected destination along the way.  Some good, some not so good.  Set forth with adventure due to unforeseen circumstances with rewarding life lessons to learn as we meet with guiding angels to bless and guide us.  With gratitude to kind and helpful people we meet to show the ways.

I grew up in a kampong where the long and winding paths was like a maze and very often no street direction signage to guide.  Most kampong folks are friendly and helpful to approach them politely and with respect.

Many archived photos of Chong Pang kampong are curated from the National Archives of Singapore with thanks.

I traced down the memory lanes on this blog with photos of the old places at Chong Pang kampong.

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The pedestrian on the left towards the road would lead to the former Sultan Cinema.

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Blogger friend Jerome Lim blogs on a “Forgotten With Time – Chong Pang Village”  here .

Another blogger friend, Bing, reminisce “My Home Town, Chong Pang” here .

To enter into Chong Pang kampong, the paths are forked to the left and right of the Sultan Cinema.

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There were some shops in the kampong

chong pang village 1985g_smThe hardware shop with an assortment of mechanical spare-parts for sale

chong pang village 1985qchong pang village 1985xA shop for selling joss-sticks, joss-papers and Chinese praying paraphenalias

chong pang village 1985j_sm A vehicle repair shop

 Chong Pang Village

Part of Nee Soon estate, Chong Pang Village was originally called the Westhill Village or Westhill estate.  Westhill Village was located at the 12th milestone at Seletar opposite the Sembawang Aerodrome.

It was named as Chong Pang Village by the British administrators in 1956 as a tribute to Lim Chong Pang (1904 to 1956), the son of Lim Nee Soon.  He was a businessman who served as a member of the Rural Board from 1929 to 1938.

Chong Pang Village centred around a row of shophouse units which made up the village’s business, commercial and residential core.  The western and south-western boundaries of the village were next to the extensive Ulu Sembawang vegetable and fruit farming regions.  To the north of the village was the former British Naval Base constructed in 1938.

Heavily dependent on the rubber plantations for their living, the villagers were adversely affected by the collapse of the rubber in 1935.

Thankfully, the British Naval Base came into the picture and provided plenty of employment.

The construction of the Paya Lebar Airport in 1953-1954 led to an exodus of households from Paya Lebar into Chong Pang, leading to a swelling of Chinese households into the village, even outnumbering the Indians who were until then the majority of the village’s population.

‘Remember Singapore’ blogs on Kampong Spirit and Gotong Royong .

Mr Lim Soon Hock, one of the recipients of the inaugural President’s Volunteerism and Philanthropy Awards in 2012 said:

“We all live in a time impoverished world … If you sit back and reflect on it, we will always be able to find pockets of time that we can either share it with our loved ones or the underprivileged, the needy the poor, the disadvantaged.”

“I was living in a kampong in the Towner Road area where Central Sikh Gurdwara now stands … neighbours supported each other.  There was magnanimity.  We were all part of a larger family, though not related to one another, but bonded through a common simple and unostentatious life,” said Lim upon receiving his award.

“My indication [to serve the community] has been shaped very much by my childhood experiences — The kampong spirit was very much alive then,” he added.

[Source: Yahoo Online]

The olden days kampong in Singapore may have disappeared in reality on this little red dot of this small island in the world but the memories and the kampong spirit of the one time villager would live on in many lives of  Singaporeans like me and my pioneer generation friends.

The “modern days kampongs”, albeit the architectural building designs and structures, has transformed a new generation of our multi-racial, multi-cultural community and society to live in peace, prosperity and progress for the future with hope.

PM Lee Kuan Yew at National Day Dinner at Chong Pang CC on 5 August, 1966

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Memories of Biscuit Factories in Singapore


Former Thye Hong Biscuit Confectionary Factory blog.  Excerpts from “My Queenstown Heritage Trail” with courtesy of “My Queenstown” project team.

The former Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionery Factory at the junction of Alexandra Road and Tiong Bahru Road was one of the oldest biscuit manufacturers in Singapore. Built at a cost of $250,000, the 40,000 square feet factory was opened in March 1935 to modernise biscuit manufacturing and expand production through automation.

The factory comprised of two fully automated plants which weighed 65 tonnes each and measured 300 feet long. In this stretch, conveyor belts would pass the carpets of dough from which the biscuits were stamped, baked, cooled and packed in tins. In the 1960s, the factory employed more than 200 workers and produced 1,500 tonnes of biscuits every month.

Turned out from the factory each day was a wide variety of biscuits ranging from Marie Cream Crackers, Horlicks biscuits to Jam De Luxe cookies, a popular shortcake with pineapple jam sandwiched in between. The factory also produced the famous Torch brand sweets which were served to air travellers abroad Malaysian Airways flights. The factory exported biscuits and confectioneries to Hong Kong, Fiji, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and even Mauritius.

Tay Cheng Tar, 97, had worked as an accountant at Thye Hong from 1947 to 1981. He recalled,” There were many departments within the factory – production, packaging, marketing and so on. The machines would operate through the night so as to meet the massive demand from overseas markets.”

With courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and contributors from various sources, the archived photos are curated to share on related topics.

The following archived photos of former Minister for Social Affairs Othman Bin Wok visited Thye Hong Biscuit Factory on 3 May, 1975. We are able to learn the manufacturing process, the machineries and the different types of jobs required by the workers who were male or female, young or old.


The final processing stage for the completed products to be packed for delivery and distribution to reach the customers.

School Excursion to the factories

The graduating pupils of Tao Nan School on an excursion to the former Ho Ho Biscuit Factory on 25 September, 1951.


During my primary school year-end holidays, the teachers would organize school excursions for the students to visit places of interest such as the MacRitchie Reservoir, Haw Par Villa, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station or Pulau Brani in Singapore.

In 1960, the Primary 5 school excursion did not visit factories in Singapore. There were few factories of “Made in Singapore” products because the industrialization program in independent Singapore was launched after 1963.

Most of the products imported from Britain were indicated as “Her Majesty Service” which are approved for the best quality “Made in England”.

Since the Quality Management System certification from SGS helps most organizations develop and improve performance. ISO certification enables the local entrepreneurs to demonstrate high levels of service quality when bidding for contracts and a valid ISO certificate shows that the organizations follow internationally recognized quality management principles.

factories in 1960

Light industrial manufacturing and ship-building are two economic activities in the Tanjong Rhu area.  In the picture we can see the Khong Guan Biscuit silos, the Vosper Thornycraft shipyards, the unique slanting shaped building of the Woh Hup Complex at Beach Road, and the revolving restaurant of The Mandarin Hotel on Orchard Road (further in the background).  First Mansion and the Ambassador Hotel at Meyer Road are in the picture (foreground) in 1976.

Chakap Heritage: Colonial Days of Orchard

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Thimbuktu with Karen Hoisington for the first time in person. We were Facebook friends of the “On a little street in Singapore” and other heritage groups on Facebook for several years but were only virtual friends who never met in person until now. karen hoisington welcome

Karen Hoisington welcomes everyone  to Chakap Heritage – Colonial Days of Orchard.

It was an unforgettable evening to remember this special heritage event.

We met old ones with familiar faces and “new” friends with fake names on Facebook.  I have to keep Striking Angel, a strange avatar  and name,  a secret and not to reveal  it as a matter of respect.  Not even to reveal this person as guy or gal, human or angel : )

Ms Koh Lai Lin of the National Library Board was also there sitting quietly among the audience and did not identify herself.  She is a humble and modest person and I apologise I did not notice her until the end of the event.

Thanks to Karen Hoisington and Alex Tan to initiate the Chakap Heritage together with SMP at the library@orchard.  The venue for the event is appropriate … this building, the Gateway Orchard, was over 100 years ago the former Pavilion Cinema.

It is a meaningful program for heritage friends young and old to attend.  It was also a “memory exercise” session for most of us.

With the splendid efforts of the project team, the thorough research to produce archived photos, material and images never seen before on the Internet.  Both Karen and Alex are the walking encyclopedia with elephant memories about Orchard Road in the 1960s

However, this was not only a “chakap” (“talking” in Malay) session.  The participants talk, listen and share their collective memories of Orchard Road as they remember and grew up in the 1960s.  Most of our pioneer generation heritage friends would fondly remember the nostalgic memories of Orchard Road.

Lots of fun as we walked down memory lane of Orchard Road.  Although some of the familiar physical buildings have disappeared, our memories of our favorite places for decades have not died. Our memories, our minds and hearts of Orchard Road will live forever.  The spirits of Singapore heritage to keep us and our present and future younger generations alive.

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Jerome Lim, blogger of “The long and winding road” blog and the creator of the “On a little street in Singapore” group on Facebook. Long-time like-minded friends with similar interests to share with our heritage friends for several years now.

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The hard-working Singapore Memory Project (SMP) team members busy setting up the slideshow presentation together with Karen and Alex.

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Alex Tan remember the days when he used to roam around Orchard Road as a child and he could tell us every building, every shop, every “longkang” from the maps like the back of his palm to jog the history of Orchard Road to help everyone to remember.

Hands were raised by everyone to contribute and tell everyone their own memories and stories of Orchard Road. Great contribution from all the participants.

When I reminded him about the “black market” ticket sellers at Cathay Cinemas in the past, Alex blushed to admit that he was one of the syndicate and that was the ways he do business …
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The story of the gatecrash to watch the free movie at the Orchard Road in the evening in the 1960s when he grew up in Orchard Road.  He had to crawl underneath a drain at the fence to watch the movies … small size as a child was an advantage for him.
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Karen invited a nostalgia friend to share her memories of Orchard Road in the old days.


A memorable photo with the courtesy of Karen Hoisington for our keepsake at the Chakap Heritage.

Alex Tan (left), Thimbuktu (center) and Victor Yue (right).

Victor is the Chinatown Boy who blogs at Bullock Cart Water for many years.

Alex Tan is a veteran and pioneer of the Singapore Heritage Society with tons of stories about Singapore memories to share generously with everyone.

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Metamorphosis of Chinatown Food Street



This nostalgia blog is posted as inspired by my British friend Stephen Harshaw who walked down the memories of Chinatown with me on 18 October 2014 as captured in the above photo.

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Before Smith Street, Singapore became a hub of good food, it was the heart of entertainment in old Chinatown.  The street was famously known as “Hei Yuen Kai” (in Cantonese) or “theatre street”.  It was believed to have been built in 1887.

During World War II, the building was hit by a bomb and was badly damaged.  Though renovations were eventually made to the structure, the theatre did not survive.  The building went on to become a warehouse for street hawkers in post-war Smith Street.  It has survived till today, though with none of its former glory.

Like the rest of Chinatown, Smith Street flourished following the Japanese Occupation in 1942.  Because World War II meant the loss of countless jobs, thousands turned to hawking in the streets and markets.

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The peddlers sold their wares on carts and bicycles, and made street food a highly personalized experience by taking it right to their customers’ doorsteps.  They rang their bells or shouted their wares, and customers would emerge at their doors or windows to call out their orders in return.  Those who did not live on the ground floor would lower a long rope with a basket and then hoist it back up after the hawker had placed it with food by special delivery.

Throughout the 1950s, Smith Street was lined at the roadside, pushcarts and stalls selling what was widely considered some of the best food in Chinatown.  Those were the days before the culinary world was touched by technology, so everything was handmade, cooked over a charcoal fire and the ingredients were always fresh;  not factory-made and processed artificial flavor and products.

These hawkers provided an important service in the largely single migrant population.  And though the colonial authorities recognized this, they also resented the hawkers’ unregulated use of public space.

At first, they created regulations to register and unlicensed hawkers were banned and people were forced to go out of their homes to buy their favorite food.

As Singapore progressed into the First World, food hygience became an increasing concern.  Yet more stringent rules and regulations about how food should be sold were passed.

As a result, the government decided to relocate many street hawkers to sanctioned hawker centres across the island.  Those at Smith Street were moved to the new Kreta Ayer Complex by 30 September, 1983.



Chinatown’s hawkers were moved out from the alleys into cleaner and more hygienic stalls in the Kreta Ayer Complex on 1 October, 1983.

On 30 September, 1983, the last day of the Chinatown roadside hawkers to ply their trade in the streets of Chinatown, but 70 per cent of them, especially the cooked food and fruits stalls.

Only the haberdasheries have settled into the new complex specially built for them in Smith Street.

Breaking up is always hard to do.

For Chinatown’s 745 street hawkers, some of whom have started moving into the new Kreta Ayer Complex.

Some who had been plying their trade at roadside stalls for as long as 35 years.

But most took in their stride the move to clear the narrow streets and backlanes of makeshift stalls.  They would have to adapt to the changes as licensed hawkers in a new environment with proper permanents stalls, provided with electricity and water for their new businesses.  These hawkers with registered licenses would not have to worry in the past the risk of arrests of illegal hawkers by the Environment Ministry inspectors.

With this latest batch of hawkers resettled in 1983, there were 1,187 licensed street hawkers remaining in Singapore.

The majority were settled by early 1985 in food/market centres belonging either to the Environment Ministry, the Housing Board or the Jurong Town Corporation.


Nostalgic Street Style Dining Now

The former Chinatown Food Street was  closed on 1 May 2013 to make  way for renovations.  On 22 February 2014, it was re-opened.

The new CFS was conceptualized, designed and managed by Select Group Limited.

After the $4 million revamp, the stretch was fully pedestrianized, with 400 seats under shelter and another 200 in a open-air seating area.

The revamped Chinatown Food Street (CFS) celebrates the assembly of specialty dishes from main Chinese dialects and the different races in Singapore, all under one roof.  Located on Smith Street in the heart of Chinatown, the revitalized Chinatown Food Street seeks to create the most authentic Singapore dining experience for locals and tourists alike.  From a tantalizing plate of Char Kway Teow, to sticks of mouthwatering satay, CFS offers a diverse spread of local delights, with iconic food from local cultures all represented on one street.

With street hawker stalls, shophouse restaurants and ad hoc street kiosks, complete with the al-fresco dining style along the street, one can revisit the Chinatown of old at CFS.  Newly constructed high-ceiling glass canopy shelter and internal spot cooling system allow diners to indulge in culinary pleasures regardless of rain or shine.  Now fully pedestrianized, visitors can dine in comfort along Smith Street from day to night.

The Chinatown Food Street is set to bring you back into the past.  One can now experience the streets of Singapore, where Samsui women, policemen in shorts, trishaw uncles were aplenty.

The rustic feel of the pushcarts and bustling vibe of the street, along with the many heritage food, are sure to let you have a taste of reminisce.  Immerse yourself in the street, listen to the soft melody of some of the classic tunes, and get ready to feel the sense of nostalgia that will bring you back into the good old days.

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The metamorphosis of the Chinatown Food Street took over a hundred years at the same place, different times, different generations of Singaporeans to experience as Singapore progress to improve and transform Chinatown to be a better food street for the benefit of Singaporeans, foreign visitors and tourists.

Singapore Teochew Festival 2014

20141002_113226_smThe Singapore Teochew Festival is held at Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza till Oct 6, 2014 daily from 11 am to 10pm. Admission is $5. Stored-value tickets of $25 and $50.

The Teochew Festival is organised in conjunction with the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan’s grand 85th anniversary celebrations in Singapore.

The tagline for this festival broadly translates as ‘We are One Teochew Family’ and the logo is an artistic rendition of a distinctive Teochew snack – the ‘png kueh’ or rice cake. Eight ‘png kueh’ are strategically interlinked in a circle to symbolise harmony, community, union and family ties.

Visitors will be captivated by Culture & Heritage, Food & Beverage and Arts & Crafts. Children are not left out as there was special activities such as craft-making and colouring competitions to introduce Teochew culture in fun and engaging ways. There was masterchef classes for adults eager to learn more about Teochew cuisine.

The Teochew Festival would be the first time that the Huay Kuan has organised a festival showcasing Teochew culture on such a large scale. The Huay Kuan hopes to give the public a vivid representation of Teochews through enlightening glimpses into their daily lives, and to a larger extent also highlight an important aspect of Singaporean Chinese culture.

The 12-day event, which will feature the arts, culture, history and food of the second biggest dialect group here, also brought in an opera troupe, actors, dancers, singers and chefs from Shantou.

Mr Quek says that the team went to Shantou to pick the vendors who can best represent Teochew culture for the activities.

One Teochew whose interest was piqued by the videos is project manager Koh Wee Liang, 37, who downloaded the jingle as a ringtone for his mobile phone.

To produce the videos, Mr Quek and his committee roped in 10am Communications led by advertising veteran Lim Sau Hoong, who had previously headed the Speak Mandarin campaign. Five of the 10 videos were shot in Shantou, the home city of Teochews in China.

One challenge was to capture the richness of Teochew culture yet bring to it a “rejuvenated perspective”, says Ms Lim. “The campaign needed to be fresh and memorable to resonate with an increasingly Westernised audience.”

Mr Quek and his team took the same approach in putting together the festival. Expected to draw up to 120,000 visitors, the festival is the association’s concerted push to draw younger members, he adds.

“When people think of us, the image is of older folk. This event is a chance to welcome more youth to join and to find good talent to carry on our work,” he says.

His team took about a year to plan the festival, which cost more than $1 million. They intend to make it a biennial affair.

Polytechnic student Lim Chun Eng, 17, a Teochew, says there is much to learn. He is volunteering at the festival at the behest of his parents, who both run a family jewellery business.

He says: “I honestly don’t know the customs that well. I speak Teochew because my grandmother can only converse in it.”

Source: The Straits Times

The young Festival Ambassador showing my ticket to her.


The Teochew skit performance on the stage at the festival.

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The Food Street was jam-packed and the elder visitors would have to wait patiently for the food.  Its  worthwhile to wait  while the youngster join the queue and bring the favorite Teochew cuisine to the tables for the family to enjoy.

The related “Ancestors Gave Way To Space for the Living” blog here

Memories Are Made Of These


This is a favorite title which many bloggers, singers, writers would choose.

It is a simple catchphrase for everyone to be attracted and easy to remember.

On this blog, “Memories are made of these” is excerpted from an article by Audrey Tan published in The Business Times on 9 March, 1993.

Audrey was on a three-week-long event designed to rediscover what we’ve forgotten.

20140922_131443_smA memory search in progress at Pulau Ubin:  performers try to get in touch with nature, and hence, themselves.

The following are memorable photos taken at Pulau Ubin over 20 years ago when my daughter and son were still young.  Same place, different times.

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According to Singaporean playwright Kuo Pao Kun:  “There is a need to search, to rediscover things from the past, and to record them in documents or artistic works”.  Memory, he says, is what defines our identity and Memories – The Search For An Understanding in a three-week stay in Pulau Ubin to understand our past, to search for our identity in works of art.


Kuo Pao Kun ( 郭宝崑 1939 – 10 September 2002) was a playwright, theatre director, and arts activist in Singapore who wrote and directed both Mandarin and English plays.

He founded three arts and drama centres in Singapore, conducted and organised a number of drama seminars and workshops, and mentored Singaporean and foreign directors and artists. Kuo is acknowledged by both locals and foreigners as the pioneer of Singapore theatre, and was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1990 for his contributions to Singapore theatre.

His plays are characterised for their dramatic and social commentary, use of simple metaphors and multiculturalism themes, and have been staged locally and internationally.

Its organizers at the Substation believe that memories is an essential program for all who ask that fundamental question:  Who, and what, am I?

“How can we ever answer that if we do not look at our history and our memories?” asks Kuo.

Relevance is important, since he believes that memories are both collective and personal – understanding is for the individual to define.  The search may be for a personal identity or a community identity.  Shared memories may be those of the family, the community or the nation.

But it’s also humanity:  the diverse but common memories, which explains the presence Sally Morgan.

The relevance of their art to Singapore lies in the common strands of memories we share as part of the human race.  “if we are sensitive, the memories of other people’s art will also be inspirational.  Why else do we read books and watch films?

Kuo sees artists as more “intuitive” but “writers are crucial to understanding.  They are more analytical, and we need this layer to get deeper into interpreting our memories”.

“We do not have a single collective memory.  Instead, what we have are strands which combine together to form an alloy, how are we going to understand the alloy?”

According to dictionary definition,  “memory is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information;  something remembered from the past”.

Ms Angeline Koh, the founder of TYROS, said:  “I had the honour of being commissioned to create a digital story for Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2012. The video was presented to him at the launch of Havelock View Estate.

I crafted the story around the theme of Promises because Mr Lee made a promise to provide homes for the victims of the Bukit Ho Swee Fire in 1961. May the generations that follow honour our commitment to build our nation, to care for our people and Singapore our home. Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew”.

Thanks James for the sharing your story. Please help me honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew by sharing the digital story. Thank you.

TYROS presented the Promise – Bukit Ho Swee story.

PM Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech — English on 14 August, 2011.  At the rally,  PM said:

Recently, I attended the launch of Singapore HeritageFest and I made a speech about these human stories and emphasised how important they were.

It prompted a response in the TODAY newspaper by a lady, Angeline Koh, who is working on digital storytelling and I think I should read a little bit of what she said because it resonated with her.

She said, “What are memories and shared experiences but stories. And storytelling is what Singapore as a nation needs. There are unsung heroes in our midst, there are people we meet each day in our homes and in our schools, at work and in play. Our children need to realise they are heroes in the making. They have the power to become heroes by the brave and sacrificial choices they make to live well and for the good of others”.

Prime Minister mooted the launch of the Singapore Memory Project.  The Singapore Memory Project (SMP) is a whole-of-nation movement that aims to capture and document precious moments and memories related to Singapore; recollections not merely from individual Singaporeans, but also organisations, associations, companies and groups.

Pioneer Photographer Old Man Yip


Simply amazing photo captured with a click of the shutter on his camera to compose a perfect shot.  Awesome!

This masterpiece is the art and skills of our pioneer photographer, Yip Cheong Fun, fondly called him as “Old Man Yip”.  But of course, his nickname was used many years later as he aged.  Young Yip Cheong Fun in the photo below:

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[I would like to thank Tay Anne who posted this comment on the blog on Sep 4, 2016:

“Portrait picture of Master Yip used in Pioneer Photographer Old Man Yip write up belong to Mr Foo Tee Jun.  Kindly correct it.”

As I was hitherto unable to contact Mr Foo for acknowledgement of his photo. Thanks to Tay Anne for contacting me and to alert me on this matter.  My apologies.  This is now corrected to express my appreciation to Mr Foo Tee Jun to share this photo of Old Man Yip on this blog. Warm Regards.]

Many black and white photos caught in his lens at a nick of a moment with his sentimental feelings in the eyes of his mind.   Its a special spiritual feeling in his heart and his mind which we know is impossible for very few gifted people to explain or describe them in words.

Everywhere “Old Man Yip” left his house, his cameras and accessories were attached with him since he fell in love with photography as a young boy.  His love and passion all his lifetime.





oldmanyip8_smTime is of the essence.  That special moment as in meditation to share his emotion, his mood, his sentiments, love of beauty of nature to reflect on his photos.  He expresses in poem or paintings and soothing sentimental music without noisy color, far away from the maddening crowd.

Yip Cheong Fun (b. 1903, Hong Kong – d. 16 September 1989, Singapore), or “Old Man Yip”, was one of Singapore’s top pioneer photographers. He was the winner of more than 50 worldwide photography awards in his lifetime, identified as one of ten Honorary Outstanding Photographers of the Century (Seascapes) by the Photographic Society of New York in 1980 and awarded the Cultural Medallion for photography in 1984.

Early life

Yip started off as a mechanic in his younger days.  He became a technician and an engineering supervisor with the United Engineers in his adulthood. He resigned from the United Engineers in 1943 when he discovered the firm was manufacturing arms for the Japanese military. He then started his own engineering workshops at Kreta Ayer Road and Kallang, where he employed lathe operators, mechanics, turners and fitters to fabricate engineering machines for sale. In his later years, he worked for Tien Wah Press as an engineering supervisor.

Yip was passionate about photography, which started as a hobby to him when he was in his twenties. His first camera was a Rolleiflex, which he bought as he wanted to take photos for his family album. From then on, his love for photography grew. It led him to capture Singapore’s landscapes and scenery before the onset of urban redevelopment. He took photos of harbours, plantations and kampungs. He also travelled to neighbouring Johor by train, just so he could take photos of the scenery there every weekend. The coming of World War II disrupted Yip’s hobby. When the Japanese confiscated his camera, his grief was palpable, but as soon as the war was over, he bought a new camera and took up photography again.

Yip began sending his pictures for competitions and exhibitions in overseas salons when he was in his fifties and won many awards. However, he remained an amateur all through his life.  In his later years, Yip and his wife ran a grocery store in Chinatown.  Although he started naming his shop Yip’s Photo Service when he reached the age of seventy, the shop only acted as a collecting agency for developing and printing of photos on behalf of Rainbow Photo Service and Kodak. It was a service mainly run by Yip’s wife, Leong Lin, who also used the shop as a grocery shop.

(Source:  Nureza Ahmad at Infopedia)

Mr Yip Cheong-Fun was a remarkable Singaporean who struggled against all odds and faced formidable challenges to emerge eventually as a world famous photographer. He understood how photography can be a great medium not just to record truth and beauty, but to capture the defining moments of the changes that affect all of us in any human situation, and to interpret the dynamic interplay of the elements that constitute life and the human spirit. Oftentimes he used his pictures to tell stories and to depict the changing times and life-styles. He also understood that when creatively manipulated, photographs can present aesthetic ideas: that is, to show us beauty in common things or experiences through his lenses, or delineate the subtleties in quaint things or unusual experiences.

This Master Lensman was elected by the Photographic Society of New York as the “Honorary Outstanding Photographer of the Century” for his outstanding achievements, especially as the Seascape Specialist in the Twentieth Century. In his work over half a century, there were deliberate engagements with aesthetic forms in the way he used photography as a specialized medium for creative art.

Even if we were not present in the decades of Mr Yip’s practice, we live in that space through his lenses. And for those who lived through the early years in Singapore and other parts of the world, Mr Yip’s work provides not so much nostalgia or memory, but a new perception. In many of his images, we have been gifted with that “plenitude of the soul” we might not have known then, but that we now cherish, through the creative works of Mr Yip Cheong-Fun. Few artists in the world have left such a large body of creative works. Few artists in Singapore have been able to develop such a large collection of photographic images which form the most beautiful and important records of Singapore’s social history. Few in the world have been able to keep such a collection together over the long years and changing times and through a turbulent period of world’s history.

“Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It’s rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul. ”

– Gaston Bachelard
French Philosopher & poet, 1884-1962








” Teach me to live under the sun,
To learn, to work and to have fun.
Mould me like the potter’s clay,
Fill and inspire me each day.”

“Live then like the eternal sun,
Bright, warm and pure like its rays.
Light up the lives of everyone.
Love your folks and cherish them always.

Seek your true self; know your soul,
and feel the filial piety in your heart.
Then have a vision of your role and goal,
In school, home and society for a start.

By all means, enjoy life and have fun,
If it goes with caring and sharing that’s kind.
There’s fun in work for everyone –
If it does engage his passion and mind.

Be careful then how you live in joy or sorrow.
Dwell in humility and wisdom each day.
As you learn to number your days, you’ll know
That you may be the potter, not the clay.

Andrew Yip, Author, Chinatown – Different Exposures

oldmanyip5_smA rainy day – Ang Siang Hill, Chinatown, Singapore  c 1950

Yip Cheong-Fun – Portrait of the photographer

What is the true measure of greatness in an artist in modern society?  Just four words – vision, creativity, empathy and humility.  Yip Cheong-Fun’s greatness as an international icon in photography is buttressed by these four fundamental traits in his personality.


To the pantheon of great photographers belongs Yip Cheong-Fun.  Throughout his life, he shared his vision and artistry and his knowledge of photography with people from all parts of the world.  Living in an era when the world had not fully understood the potential of this powerful medium and art form, he had to convince the unconverted that photography was more than just a hobby or pastime, more than just taking snapshots for family albums that required only placing a finger to press the shutters.  Even to photographic enthusiasts, he had to convince them that photography could be a powerful medium not only to depict truth or beauty, but also to interpret the dynamic forces of life and the intricate relationships and perplexing patterns of changes in our physical and social environments.  It was and still is a futuristic vision for this art form.  During his life time, Yip had witnessed two World Wars and attendant deaths, devastation, and Man’s inhumanity to Man.  His eyes had seen countless instances of violence and human conflicts, the rise and fall of empires, Man’s conquest of space and the oceans, and political upheavals both at home and beyond.  He saw the atrocities of the Japanese Occupation, and in disgust, resigned from United Engineers during the Occupation period when he found the firm manufacturing arms for the Japanese military.  But he also saw good things too, and celebrated in joy when Singapore attained independence and nationhood.  His most famous picture “Rowing at Dawn” was created by him to depict this joy and the celebration of the dawn of a new day, new hopes, new beginning and a new life for all.

The photographer, himself, had publicly stated that he lived in awareness through these times and identified with the events of the time, including seeing on TV the first man walking on the moon.  He promptly took numerous pictures featuring moon as a theme and the rhythm of life as well as Sunrise and Sunset.

The events shaped a vision which shone through is works.  It was a vision of his life and times, ever changing, constantly challenging, sometimes menacing, perplexing or dazzling, but never completely crippling or annihilating.  To him and this shines through most of his works, there is always a rainbow or some light somehow, somewhere; there is always a higher being or higher order to give hope to those caught in the storms of life and the surging seas of change and perils.  Within his limitations, he began to map out the dynamic changes at play, starting taking snapshots of the same locations for paired comparisons over a prolonged period of time.  It was a deliberate undertaking for sure.  On 2nd January 1937, he took some pictures of the Victoria Concert Hall from the then General Post Office (now Fullerton Hotel).  He took the same scene from the same spot on 2nd January 1947.  Now one can see that this man with a vision was serious about his craft and undertaking.  Another example.  He took a few shots showing the panoramic view of Chinatown from a tall building in 1955 in January, and again he repeated the process in 1978.  This time, he submitted the two pictures to the Singapore Governments for an exhibition and was awarded a prize in April 1978.

In the words od Dr. Kevin Tan, the President of the Singapore Heritage Society, Yip carried the camera like a woman would carry a handbag – it was an indispensable part of his whole life.  He took pictures for record purposes, in as much as he did as an artistic endeavor.  His collection of thousands of prints form some of the most important and beautiful documents of the social history of Singapore, taken over the last sixty years.  In his vision, there was always an infusion of confidence and hope for the future.

It is this vision that enables the photographer as an artist to express in his unique way the feelings and perceptions of life and its manifold changes.  His photographs seem to depict the scene directly, and yet there is a multiplicity of meanings within each photograph, providing a wide range of interpretations.  Sometimes, he used the landscape as a natural force in shaping individual character.  In doing so, his landscape photographs were deliberately transformed into ethnoscapes.  It is a vision like this that brings out the true greatness of human endeavor.

Source:  A Poetic Vision – The Photography of Yip Cheong-Fun by Andrew W.K. Yip