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     FrontPage Edition: Wed 28 Dec 2005

Hua Song museum opens at Haw Par Villa


The Overseas Chinese Story Unveils At Hua Song

It was at the turn of the 20th century when Leong Kiow Hin 每 a young man barely in his teens 每 left the Chinese city of Zhongshan in Guang Dong province to embark on a treacherous three-month journey to Nanyang (literally the ※Southern Seas§ or geographical region south of China, particularly Southeast Asia).
Armed with Chinese travel documents and dreams of a better life, he sailed on a ship overcrowded with hundreds of other Chinese hopefuls. Once here, he eked out a living in the textile industry like many of his fellow Cantonese countrymen.
Narrowly escaping death during the Japanese Occupation, he was forced to perform hard labour. When the British government liberalised citizenship requirements in 1957, he decided to lay down roots here in Singapore and became a citizen.
Leong Kiow Hin was just one of millions of Chinese who left home to fulfil their dreams of a better future, having every intention of returning and dying on home soil but unwittingly becoming a lifelong migrant.
His story mirrors that of many other migrants 每 from their long walk from village to dock, surviving the floating hell over stormy seas, to their choice of occupation in their adopted country, the strong ties forged with clan associations who provided them with protection in a foreign land, and social ties to others of the same dialect group.
But unlike the countless number of faceless migrants whose unique stories may never be told, Leong Kiow Hin*s journey has been recorded for posterity and chronicled in the Hua Song Museum, thanks to the generosity of his eldest son, Leong Tai Loong.
The younger Mr Leong had read about Hua Song*s appeal for donations of artefacts in early 2004 and had promptly contacted the museum. He generously gave of some family treasures that he had kept for close to 70 years on one condition 每 that the museum never sells them.
Among those treasures were a travel document issued by the Qing Dynasty and a suitcase used by his father when he first set sail to the South Seas, travel documents to Batavia (now known as Jakarta in Indonesia) where he travelled to frequently to trade in textiles, a life-saving pass that saved him from certain death during Sook Ching Operation, amongst other documents and tools of his textile trade.
Besides the Leong family, clan associations and community groups from the United States of America, Tahiti, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore have also been generous in providing information, artefacts and helping to piece together the story of Chinese immigrants worldwide.
The Hua Song museum has to date gathered about 500 artefacts and close to 1,000 exhibits. Amongst some of these items donated or on loan by the clans are a well-preserved trunk used to store Chinese opera costumes, an incense burner, marriage registers complete with photos of wedded couples, school text books and photographs.
These items tell of the significant role played by the clan associations. Not only did clans provide people of the same surname, district or dialect group with a place to stay and get financial assistance, but they also played a religious, cultural, social and educational role for the millions of overseas Chinese, helping them maintain ties with their community and easing their transition to a foreign land.
The stories in Hua Song bring to life the dreams, sacrifices, fortitude and achievements of the Chinese who left their families and homeland to become railworkers in Panama, goldminers in Australia or market gardeners in America.
The one common thread running through the stories of these overseas Chinese 每 of which more than 80% are located in Southeast Asia 每 is a sense of flexibility, adaptability and community.
※In their time, our forefathers travelled great distances, surviving on sheer grit and perseverance, in search of a better life. Today, global migration of all ethnic groups continues. I believe both Chinese and non-Chinese can identify with and appreciate the many every-day heroes featured in the Hua Song story and undoubtedly, it will also add to the variety of Singapore*s cultural tourism offerings. We are especially grateful to all the generous individuals, families and clan associations who readily stepped up to support Hua Song with information and artefacts when we made our first public appeal in May 2004,§ said Dr Chan Tat Hon, Assistant Chief Executive (Leisure), Singapore Tourism Board.
Mrs Pamelia Lee, Consultant, Singapore Tourism Board, added, ※The story of the overseas Chinese does not stop but continues to unfold and evolve. To fully portray the ever-changing roles of overseas Chinese, Hua Song will continue in its efforts to record the stories of oversees Chinese through artefacts and other relevant information. While the progression from short-term sojourner to lifelong migrant is a constant thread for many, each story is unique. We welcome you to take a leaf from the Leong family and share the story of your forefathers. In this way, not only will you keep their memory alive but you will also inspire many others with the tales of their determination and perseverance.§
The Hua Song museum is intended to cater to a diverse audience ranging from international visitors to locals. Travellers exploring Asia will find it especially interesting for the insight that the museum provides on the overseas Chinese experience.
With the opening of Hua Song, the overall Haw Par Villa visitor experience is also set to be enhanced. This is in line with the Singapore Tourism Board*s aim to make every visit to an attraction a memorable one, even for repeat visits. As such, existing attractions are encouraged to constantly update and enhance their offerings to meet the evolving needs of visitors.
Hua Song is managed by the Singapore Explorer Pte Ltd, a company which specialises in heritage tours such as the Labrador Park Secret Tunnels, The Singapore Trolley Sightseeing Bus and The Singapore River Boat Tour.
※With Hua Song Museum, we hope to share the stories and experiences of international Chinese migrants with both locals and visitors from all over the world. Singapore Explorer is happy to be associated with Hua Song and will continue to find innovative and exciting ways to showcase the museum,§ said Mr Francis Phun, Chairman, Singapore Explorer Pte Ltd.
Hua Song is now open to the public. Individuals and tour groups can visit from Tuesdays to Sundays from 12pm to 7pm. It will also open for visitors during the Chinese New Year. Admission prices are SGD8 per adult and SGD5 per child.
Please also see Annex for Description of Hua Song Museum Exhibition Halls.

Source: Press Release 21 Dec 2005

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