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S ’ R O T I ED NOTE Whoever said “a picture speaks a thousand words” clearly did not know what he was on about. Sure, pictures are often loaded with layers of meaning, opened to multiple levels of interpretations and at times carry much potential for debate. In our case, some may even argue that an icon, supposedly an official immortalised symbol of an object, event or place, would be even more straightforward in sharing its stories with the audience. Corollary to this, I pose this question - how does a simple image inform the reader about its history, evolution and significance? Hence, our team set out to explore and unveil the different meanings behind different popular icons, especially those that influenced Singapore tremendously, whether in her early years or present day. The features of this article are divided into three categories; icons of respect, icons of pop culture, and icons of belief. Our writers examined a wide range of topics, from the Beatles (p. 26) to the Magna Carta (p. 11) and from a 1960s nightclub (p.24) to how Jesus had become a hippie (p. 32). There is even an interview with our department’s very own icon in maritime history (p. 7)! We explore the meanings behind these icons while surfacing the ways through which they had impacted Singapore, and we 2

discover and tell the stories which a simple image cannot.

An icon’s history is often understated, particularly in Singapore where we are exposed to countless icons from around the globe. It is therefore, more important that we ensure that our local icons do not lose their meanings and significance to our own citizens. Although a rather intangible process with equally intangible results, the Mnemozine team would like to believe that this is a right step towards discovering what these icons mean to us. As I write this during one of the many hectic humid afternoons of March, I notice that study areas are getting more crowded and students are getting less sleep. Perhaps, if you find this issue lying around and happen to pick it up, you will not only acquire new knowledge, but also enjoy some reverie from the stress and continuous waves of deadlines. I hope that you enjoy this read. Chief Editor, Kwok Yi Ling


Issue 9 / April 2016


Editorial Team Chief Editor Kwok Yi Ling Deputy Editors Chng Shao Kai Joshua Lim Lim Jia Yi Marcus Tan

Design Team Oh Khee Hoon Zhang Haoran


Andy Ho Beatrice Chin Chng Shao Kai Choo Ruizhi Emily Eng Eric Ng Gary Chia Glennson Ong Joey Chua Joshua Lim Kwok Yi Ling Lim Natasha Ann Lim Zhi Wei Nurul Qistina bte Fadhillah Tan Wei Yan Timotty Tay Trinisha Ann Sunil

Aye! An Icon in Maritime History

President: More than a Nod, More than a Symbol

With a Little Help from my Kawan Kawan

Jesus and how He became a Hippie

HOME OF RAMBLES, REMEMBRANCE AND RELAXATION / 5 Aye! An Icon in Maritime History / 7 A Familiar Face: Interview with an ACJC Teacher / 9

FEATURE Legis Populi: Magna Carta and Singaporean Law / 11 Our Naval Visitors / 14 Respect and Reverence / 16 Two Pillars of Singapore / 18 Delving into the Legacy of Tan Tock Seng / 20 President: More than a Nod, More than a Symbol / 22 Venus in Gold / 24 With a Little Help from my Kawan Kawan / 26 Five Hours in Singapore - Papal Visit Controversy / 28 Of Monsters, Men and Mythologies: The Dioramas of Haw Par Villa / 30 Jesus and How he became a Hippie / 32 Making it Rain: Paper Offerings made for the Qing Ming Festival / 34 The Ancestors that Keep Us Together - In Spirit / 36

REVIEW Drama Review - The Man in High Castle / 38 NUS Museum Exhibition Review - Post No Bills / 40 Forum - Who/What is your Personal Icon? / 42

Public Relations Chng Shao Kai

nushissoc nushissoc.org

Mnemozine is published by the NUS History Society and is distributed to all current students, staff, friends and benefactors of the society. As a non-profit entity, we welcome donations and other in-kind support. The views expressed by the writers remain solely their own and do not necessarily reflect the official view of the National University of Singapore and its affiliates. For more information, please email us at publications@nushissoc.org Want to relieve past memories? Find them at http://issuu.com/mnemozine


THE MNEMOZINE TEAM Kwok Yi Ling | Editor-in-Chief Yi Ling would like to apologise in advance for her boring write up, but she finds no better way to credit and thank her team of editors and designers for their effort into Mnemozine. Be it their first foray into the publication, or their Nth time with it, she hopes that time put into perfecting this issue is time enjoyed and wellspent.

Marcus Tan Liang Cheng | Editor Marcus is a second-year History major. After submitting two articles to past issues of Mnemozine, he’s decided to try his hand at editing as well. While he’s not busy writing and editing, he dabbles occasionally in scale-modelling and digital photography.

Chng Shao Kai | Editor Shao Kai is a first-year History major. Mnemozine has been his first passion in NUS, where he dabbled in both editing and writing. He enjoys the simple things in life, like milo-ping on weekdays and teh-ping on weekends. Lim Jia Yi | Editor Jia Yi is a second-year History major who once dreamt of becoming an archaeologist before she realised she would be in ruins. She is a story-collector, and enjoys hilarious (or horrendous, depending on your perspective) puns. As she explores different genres of writing, Mnemozine marks her first foray into editing.

Lim Xiu Yu, Joshua | Editor Joshua is a full-time history buff. When he is not editing and writing articles for Mnemozine, he can be found chilling in museums, libraries, or cafes... editing and writing for Mnemozine.

Oh Khee Hoon | Designer Khee Hoon is second year Communication and New Media major. She likes anything related to arts and design and Mnemozine is her first magazine work. Zhang Haoran | Designer Hao Ran is a pursuer of anything beautiful, be it objects, ideas or people (or so he claims). He enjoys helping his friends but prefers to get paid.


OF RAMBLES, REMEMBRANCE AND RELAXATION Natasha is a Year 2 History major that has an intense love for history and thus decided to major in it. Her obsessions include watching American dramas and sitcoms.

Having received positive feedback on the tours, we have achieved our goal of allowing the public to gain a deeper understanding of the battle that took place at the Pasir Panjang Ridge. Additionally, we were even featured in various media outlets such as Channel NewsAsia and the Straits Times!


Lim Natasha Ann | externalevents@nushissoc.org



o commemorate the 74th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore this year, HISSOC has collaborated with the National Heritage Board (NHB) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) veterans in conducting a guided tour named ‘Battle for Singapore: Pasir Panjang Ridge Trail’.


Beginning from December 2015, my team and I planned the workshops, searched for willing interviewees through knocking on countless doors, and went the distance to ensure the success of the project. By mid January, a total of fifteen teams from seven secondary schools expressed interest to participate in our competition. Together with eighteen NUS student mentors, we conducted an oral history workshop on 30th January for the students to learn


With the aid of ten researchers and sixteen tour guides, and over two months of background research and reconnaissance since December 2015, we began uncovering the gallant efforts of our unsung heroes. We guided nine tours on Friday and Saturday nights, spanning three weeks across February, tracing the very steps of the Malay Regiment as they confronted the invading Japanese troops.

Carried out as an Oral history competition, Project Scribe was an outreach event that sought to engage secondary school students. Through the use of oral history methods, the students had to compile first hand narratives and memories of Rochor Centre before the Housing Development Blocks are demolished to make way for the new NorthSouth Expressway.

Project Scribe Team 2016


methods of oral history, ethics in interviews, and the skills of crafting apt interview questions.

Following which, building upon the theme of ‘Memories in Rochor Centre’, interviews began in the last week of February as students met their respective interviewees for the formal interviews. Having attended a few of the interviews myself, I also gained greater insights about the history of Rochor Center through the memories of the residents. Residents were evidently excited to share their life stories with the younger generation, highlighting the past of Rochor center that we would not expect in that bustling city center we see today. The students therefore truly benefitted as they were able to obtain a slice of history from a different perspective rather than the usual dominant narrative presented by their textbooks. On 19th March, each team then presented their findings through a 10 minute presentation in hopes of dazzling our guest judges; NUS Lecturers Prof. Lai Ah Eng, Mr. Ho Chi Tim, and Dr. Donna Brunero, who notably enjoyed themselves. The event thus came to an end as we handed out the prizes and certificates to the students and NUS volunteers alike for making this project a meaningful one. Eric is a current Year 1 History major. His hobby involves travelling and he intends to focus on the history of Southeast Asian communities.

The retreat, aptly named “Détente”- the French word for relaxation also symbolised the vision of NUS History Society to dedicate and serve the History community. Through this event we hope to create and strengthen the bonds between the students, thus establishing a cohesive and united History community in NUS. With the aid of my deputy project director, Jia Min, we managed to design a fun programme. The tranquil environment at Aloha Changi Resort provided a perfect and comfortable setting for the participants to rest and recharge before school starts. From interactive card games to the delectable BBQ at the end of the day, we hoped everyone who came for this event had a great time.

This event would not have been possible without the support from the participants as well as the management committee of the NUS History Society. The event was a success and we hope to see more participants for the next retreat! Do look out for more events organised by HISSOC, especially the upcoming History Camp 2016!


HIST ERIA Why so studious? Join us on a histericaL adventure from

: NUS History Camp 2016 : @nushissoc : nushistorycamp2016@gmail.com

Eric Ng | Eric Ng | internalevents@nushissoc.org



s part of an initiative to reach out to the History and European Studies community in NUS, NUS History Society organized a retreat in the beginning of the year for the History and European Studies majors.


History Camp 2016 cannot happen without YOU! Sign up at tinyurl.com/histcamp2016comm to become a committee member! At the same time, to all incoming FASS freshmen, especially those intending to become History undergraduates (wise move, wise move), keep a look out on our event pages for more updates!

Group Shot at Détente 2015


Kwok Yi Ling | publications@nushissoc.org Photography by Chng Shao Kai

Dr. Brunero has been with the History Department for many years now and is tutor for some of the more popular modules, such as Brides of the Sea: Asia’s Port Cities. More significantly, she researches and contributes extensively to the study of maritime history in Asia, having participated in numerous conferences while working on her publications. Thank you for having this chat with us! We’ve long heard your special interest and focus on Maritime History. Could you tell us why this field of history is so fascinating to you? My interest only began in my final year, when I studied Shanghai ports for my thesis. Then, I discovered that many ports actually have similar stories but some are just more famous than others. For a long time, I was very resistant to the idea of seeing myself as a maritime historian because of the stereotype of the field – traditional and boring.

An Icon in Maritime History

In fact, maritime history has changed a lot and is enjoying a renaissance, where researchers are focusing on life at sea, not only of the captains, but of the sailors, people and even looking at maritime folklore - essentially, using ship life as a microcosm for maritime history! The field and its scholarship have really developed where even maritime museums have changed their exhibits and focus to include more interactive and refreshing elements. Given this resurgence, I am especially fascinated with the linkage between the port cities and global history. There is always some connectivity between maritime systems and global networks, such as the movement of goods and different ports. This has intrigued and inspired me to continue my research on this particular area.


Interesting! Are anyonissues from your research me to continue mythere research this particular area. which you may like to share, perhaps in relation to our theme on icons that shook Singapore?

the research, not the one helping the researcher.

Well, not in my research in particular, but I think the Singapore River is definitely an icon that we can look at since it has a strong connection to both the history and identity of Singapore. It has evolved significantly from a trading centre during the Temasek era (longue duree – study of history that gives priority to long-term historical structures) to being widely recognised as an icon of leisure and national symbol today.

Most of the time, I’ll be engaged in activities with my family – mainly sports, sometimes with my sons’ school team for parents. I like to play music too and I am currently learning the flute from a private tutor. I hope to learn it to a standard that I can play it in public. I have also been playing the clarinet for many years.

Another less intuitive, and tackier icon of Singapore related to maritime history would be the Merlion. Some Singaporeans feel uncomfortable about the merlion being symbolic of Singapore, but it is undeniable that many tourists now identify it as quintessential Singapore. It is interesting how the Singapore Tourism Board turned something so mythical and not particularly outstanding (in aesthetics) into an icon that is so relatable worldwide. In fact, last year, following the declaration of the Botanic Gardens as a UNESCO heritage site, there were some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for the Merlion to be branded one as well! What research or projects are you working on now?

I’m now working on the 2nd volume of the Empire of Asia project run by the History Department, where I study British notions of maritime empires in Asia and how they try to exert dominance over them. I am also working on a project on trading ports with a Professor from Hong Kong, where we look into the material life of everyday culture with regards to families along the China coast.

And as you might know, I am in the process of creating a port cities WordPress site with a few students as a teaching aid. We aim for it to become a hub of information for anyone researching on maritime history as the material for this field is really dispersed currently. It would definitely be beneficial to centralize all information on a site that also provides short overviews and links to more information and images. It would be constantly updated by professors and students alike, giving them an opportunity for their work to be showcased to the public. How did you realise your passion for academia?

The more I studied, the more I realised I was passionate about researching and teaching. While waiting for my PhD examination, I took a job with the State Archives in South Australia where I worked on policy development while helping researchers retrieve their documents and materials in the library. Although it was meaningful to help others in their research, this job only reinforced my love for academia - I wanted to be one on the other side, the one doing


When not researching or lecturing, how do you spend your free time?

Also, thanks to my students, I have developed an interest for the Japanese comic One Piece. I know there are about 70 volumes but unfortunately, I’m not even beyond the first 20!

Any words of advice to current History majors, especially those aspiring to go into academia? Don’t pass off an opportunity if it presents itself to you because you can never know where you might end up with it! I was finding a professor for consultation when I saw a brochure for a summer programme. After casually mentioning it to my professor, he signed me up for it and I eventually spent six weeks in a university doing research, which kickstarted my journey in academia. It also opened my eyes to many more opportunities outside my university.

Also, read widely and enjoy reading! It seems that many students today have not read any of the literary classics. In a bid to encourage reading of such texts, I have assigned my students from my course on modern imperialism to read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad which depicts the loss of identity and how an individual is transformed when one moves away from civilisation. We thank Dr. Brunero for the interview and wish her all the best for her current projects and modules!


Interview with an ACJC Teacher Kwok Yi Ling | publications@nushissoc.org Photography by Kwok Yi Ling

Mr. Kumu (short for Mr. Kumuthan Martheya) is History major Jude Leong’s history teacher from ACJC. One Tuesday evening, in the midst of the J1 orientation frenzy, Mr. Kumu took time off for a short interview with Jude and me. It was a joyful conversation with him, injected with nostalgia as he reminisces his time spent in NUS, teaching Jude, as well as excitement when talking about his areas of interest in film and history. Thank you for being willing to be interviewed, Mr. Kumu! As an introduction, could you tell us more about your current occupation and what you do in your job? I am currently a history teacher in Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) and have been here ever since graduating from the National Institute of Education (NIE). In my previous years, I was once involved in teaching China Studies in English (CSE) as well as Project Work, the compulsory H1 subject for all students. I recall 2010, when I was literally thrown into the deep end for CSE, having being assigned to teach the graduating class! It was scary for a new teacher like me then, but thankfully the students were all very driven, making it a joy to teach them.

Apart from teaching, I am in charge of Debate team in ACJC.

As they have their own debate coach, my role is mostly mentoring. Interestingly, there is a strong history-debate connection due to the synergy between the two elements, which is heightened by the contemporary focus of the JC History syllabus (Religious Fundamentalism, Arab-Israeli Conflict). In fact, the past 10 debate captains have been history students! I see! Despite being a teacher, do you have any areas of interest that you are currently working on and pursuing?

For one, I’ve always thought that the Middle East and its history have been rather underexplored, and we certainly can find new means of understanding it. Some people also call me a film and cultural historian, for I like to explore his9

tory through films. Currently, I’m writing for an E-magazine called Pop Matters, under the column Subaltern Talkies, where I mostly examine trends and developments in South Asian films. My latest article compares Serbian folk music and film. Oh, I have also been working on a research paper that is going to be published! In fact, it would be available online in just a few days! I’m extremely thankful to ACJC for its support, without which I certainly cannot do what I have been and am doing. Nonetheless, teaching still takes up a lot of time, and my priority always lies with the students! (Writer’s note: Mr. Kumu’s article is called “Red Flags in Tamil Cinema: Agitprop and Art-House during the Cold War” in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.) How do you spend your free time?

I like to watch films? (Laughs) Fun fact, my interest in films was developed in NUS when I took the module Film and History offered by Associate Professor Ian Gordan! Other than that, I’m either writing for my column, improving teaching materials or going for consultations with students. While these consultations may occasionally be time-consuming, especially when exams are nearing, it is these consultations that foster greater understanding and rapport between teacher and student. I often find myself offering them some career advice after hearing their aspirations! Speaking of career aspirations, did you set out to be a teacher all along? Any words of advice to younger generations of History majors, especially those aspiring (or already en route) to becoming a teacher?

Yes! In fact, I was already bonded to the Ministry of Education (MOE) during my undergraduate years under the Teaching Scholarship! First piece of advice - it sounds like a cliché, but those who want to be teachers must be passionate about teaching, which will definitely help them to pull through on bad days. Secondly, a practical tip would be to have key takeaways every lesson and have them spelt out clearly at the beginning. Students might not be able to remember everything that was taught, but it would definitely be useful if you could tell them what the basic things that they have to remember are.

Thirdly, preparation will not correlate with outcomes; you cannot always expect a Dead Poet’s Society scene to unfold in every lesson you teach. While NIE helps to prepare you for the classroom through strategies and frameworks, the most important skills are almost always picked up in the actual classroom, after experiments and trial and error with different strategies and to different groups of students. When teaching, a mix of idealism and pragmatism is always the best.


So, moving back to your time at NUS, are there any fond memories you have for certain modules? What school activities did you use to do? I generally had fun in A/P Bruce Lockhart’s and Professor Brian Farrell’s modules. However, there were three that I remember fondly till this day! One of these modules, the aforementioned Film and History, had a huge impact on me for it kickstarted my interest and eventual research areas in history. Alongside that, I thoroughly enjoyed another of A/P Ian Gordan’s module, Making America Modern. I think these two modules are what spurred me to become more of a cultural historian than anything else. The last module I liked was Ethnic Minorities in Southeast Asia, taught by A/P Bruce Lockhart. Unfortunately, the mandatory module for history students, Historiography, was a constant uphill struggle for me as I began work on my Honours Thesis.

Speaking of the Honours Thesis, some of my happiest and fond memories came from the History Honours Room which many of us deeply appreciated. If you have been to the room, you would notice wall motifs and paintings, along with random expressions of the history graduating cohort’s love-hate relationship with the subject. Those wall paintings are actually drawn and crafted by my batch, many of whom pulled all-nighters to finish the ‘project’. Unfortunately, our level history rep got a lashing as permission was not given to paint the walls. We thank Mr. Kumu for the interview!

Legis Populi: Magna Carta and Singaporean Law Joey Chua | joeycwz@hotmail.com

Preamble: While celebrating national anniversaries, it becomes necessary for one to commemorate the iconic political structures that have held the nation together. The Articles of the Singapore Constitution are thusly commemorated. They symbolize the legal foundations of Singapore, defending fundamental rights and minimise legal discrimination towards its citizens. An interest in national history encourages one to analyse and seek out the origins of long-forgotten rationales for the empowerment of the “supreme law of the Republic”.1

I, the author, in order to promote a better understanding of Singaporean political heritage, shall ensure greater awareness towards an eight-century old British parchment that established the foundations for the rule of law and provided for the common defence of people’s liberty. I do ordain and establish this document on Magna Carta and its connections to the contemporary Singaporean Constitution. Article I: Legacies of Magna Carta

1. The application of principles of Magna Carta in colonial legal institutions, subsequently inherited postindependence, have allowed the legacy of these past laws to have legal effect in a contemporary sovereign nation. 2. Magna Carta principles, codi�ied into English Law in the year 1297,2 were introduced to Singapore as part of the bureaucratic process of establishing a British colony, wherein: a. The Second Charter of Justice of 1826, which established a Court of Judicature in the Straits Settlements, of which “civil and criminal law jurisdictions on par with similar courts in England” and decisions to be made based on the implicit application of English Law. 3 3. Certain British laws have remained in effect based on legal statutes of�iciated post-independence. Such legal enactments include: a. Continual references to British Law through the Application of English Laws Act of 1993, which determined “the extent to which English law is applicable in Singapore”, that would of�iciate “the common Law of England… shall continue to be part of the law of Singapore”.4 b. Elements of the Singapore Constitution that have their foundations in Magna Carta include – i. Article 9, which lawfully protects the life and liberty of every individual while prohibiting the punishment or unlawful arrest of any individual insofar as it does not break the law,5 as well as Article 13(1), which outlaws the banishment from Singapore for any citizen.6 Both have their basis in Magna Carta Article 39,7 which guarantees that “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights and possessions, or outlawed or exiled… except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”8 ii. Article 12, which ensures that all are equal before the law, and sanctions the protection of the law equally to all,9 has its basis in Magna Carta Article 40,10 which guarantees “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” 11 c. Application of the above Constitutional enactments in Singaporean legal decisions, as demonstrated in – i. Tan Eng Seet v Attorney General of 2015, which upheld the principles of preventing unlawful detention in Article 9 by arguing that Tan’s actions did not contribute to disruptions in Singaporean public safety or order and as such could not be detained under Section 30 of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.12 4. Magna Carta as part of British law has thus been a key element of the Singaporean legal system since colonial rule. In inheriting these principles post-independence, Singapore has been able to uphold the notion of “building a democratic society, based on justice and equality” as per the National Pledge. 11

Article II: Magna Carta and International Law 1. The Singaporean Government maintains principles of Magna Carta through its subscription to international laws and legal frameworks, where these same principles of Magna Carta have become deeply ingrained. 2. International legal systems have their basis in Magna Carta, alluding to its guarantee for “rule of law” or equality of all before the law as well as its interpretation as a “symbol of freedom and equal rights for all”.13 Singapore, being “very dependent on a rules-based model of law and governance to keep it safe and secure”,14 has thus found it important to be involved in maintaining and expanding such legal systems. This has notably included15 – a. Participation in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of Sea (dubbed “Magna Carta of the Seas”), where Singaporean senior diplomat Dr. Tommy Koh presided over the negotiations. b. Agreement to be a venue in Asia to hold proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to promote peaceful resolutions of maritime disputes, in turn facilitating the maintenance of an international rule of law. 3. Singaporean participation in international legal agreements and institutions contributes to the iconic nature of Magna Carta by retaining Magna Carta’s timeless principles and championing the rule of law within the international community.

Article III: Conclusion

I, appealing to my readers for the magnitude of my intentions, do solemnly write that Magna Carta has forged a legacy in the Singaporean Legal System; that there has been a long-standing implementation of its principles in Singapore since the colonial period; and that they still hold sway in both contemporary domestic and international legal statute. For continued improvements in understanding our Singaporean political heritage after celebrating the 50th year of independence, I hold the sacred honour of being able to raise awareness on such an in�luential and iconic document.

Replica of the 1217 Issue of the Magna Carta and King John’s Writ for the 1215 Issue, taken at the Exhibition “Magna Carta and Us” held at the Supreme Court in November 2015 Joey Chua is a second-year History major. His story consists largely This article was written in a style inspired by a of long, rambling tales of a better life, reminiscing how much better “Constitution”, after the author had seen for himself one it was “back in the old days”. Whatever that means. of the few available copies in the world during the “Magna

Carta and Us” exhibition held in November 2015 at the Supreme Court, in celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Creation of the Charter. He was well and truly awestruck. 12

Endnotes 1 “Part II – Article 4”, “Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (S 1/63)”, Singapore Statutes Online, http://statutes.agc.gov. sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId% 3A%22cf2412ff-fca5-4a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20 Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0;whole=yes#pr11he-. 2 “Manuscript of Magna Carta, 1287”, The British Library Collection Items, http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/ magna-carta-1297

3 Tan, Eugene and Chan, Gary, 2015, “The Fledgling Legal System”, “Section 2 Constitutional and Legal History”, “Chapter 01 The Singapore Legal System (Updated as at 20 September 2015)”,”, “Laws of Singapore – Overview”, SingaporeLaw. sg, Singapore Academy of Law, http://www.singaporelaw. sg/ aol/search/display/view.w3p;page=0;query=DocI d%3A7f838e86-ed5e-4e6c-934a-e91152412edc%20 Depth%3A0%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0;whole=yes

5 “Part IV Fundamental Liberties – Article 9”, “Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (S 1/63)”, Singapore Statutes Online, http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/ view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22cf2412ff-fca54a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20 Depth%3A0;rec=0;whole=yes#pr11-he-. 6 “Part IV Fundamental Liberties - Article 13 (1)”, “Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (S 1/63)”, Singapore Statutes Online, http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/ view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22cf2412ff-fca54a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20 Depth%3A0;rec=0;whole=yes#pr11-he-. 7 Tan, Eugene and Lee, Jack, 2015, “Magna Carta Then and Now: A Symbol of Freedom and Equal Rights for All”, Singapore Public sglaw/laws-of-singapore/overview/ chapter-1

4 “Application of English Law Act (Chapter 7A), Revised Edition of 1994”, Singapore Statutes Online, http://statutes.agc. gov.sg/Law, https://singaporepubliclaw.com/2015/11/20/ magna-carta-then-and-now-commentary/#more-535

8 “Transcript of Magna Carta, 1215”, Line (39), “Learning: Timelines – Sources from History”, The British Library Board, http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item95692.html

9 “Part IV Fundamental Liberties - Article 12”, “Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (S 1/63)”, Singapore Statutes Online, http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/ view.w3p;page=0;query=DocId%3A%22cf2412ff-fca54a64-a8ef-b95b8987728e%22%20Status%3Ainforce%20 Depth%3A0;rec=0;whole=yes#pr11-he-.

10 “Public Prosecutor v Taw Cheng Kong (1998) 2 SLR 410”, Line 52, “Singapore and International Law”, Laws of Singapore - Case Law”, SingaporeLaw.sg, Singapore Academy of Law, http://www.singaporelaw.sg/sglaw/laws-of-singapore/ case-law/cases-in-articles/singapore-and-internationallaw/1635-public-prosecutor-v-taw-cheng-kong-1998-2-slr410-1998-sgca-37 11 “Transcript of Magna Carta 1215”, Line (40), “Learning: Timelines – Sources from History”, The British Library Board, http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item95692.html 12 “Tan Seet Eng v Attorney-General and another matter (2015) SGCA 59”, SingaporeLaw.sg, Singapore Academy of Law, http://www.singaporelaw.sg/sglaw/laws-of-singapore/ case-law/free-law/court-of-appeal-judgments/18218-tanseet-eng-v-attorney-general-and-another-matter-2015sgca-59

13 Tan, Eugene and Lee, Jack, 2015, “Magna Carta Then and Now: A Symbol of Freedom and Equal Rights for All”, Singapore Public Law, https://singaporepubliclaw.com/2015/11/20/ magna-carta-then-and-now-commentary/#more-535 14 Weili, Fong, 2015, “What Singapore’s Laws Have to do with the Magna Carta”, National Library Board, http://www.nlb. gov.sg/sure/what-singapores-laws-have-to-do-with-themagna-carta/

15 Wightman, Scott, 2015, “Strong Links Between Singapore’s Rule of Law and Magna Carta”, TODAY Newspaper Online, http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/strong-linksbetween-singapores-rule-law-and-magna-carta?page=1


“Our Naval Visitors”: The Special Service Squadron in Singapore Lim Xiu Yu, Joshua | A0124666@u.nus.edu


or much of Singapore’s time under British colonial rule, the Royal Navy secured the colony from maritime threats. Singapore’s importance as a key colony and the Navy’s mandate for imperial defence meant that her harbour was visited by British warships of all kinds. None were as impressive as the battleships and battlecruisers that represented Britain’s global reach and naval power. Two battlecruisers came to Singapore in 1924 as part of the Special Service Squadron: a fleet of Royal Navy warships that would prove to be an enduring icon of British naval power in Singapore in the years leading up to the Second World War.

The Special Service Squadron’s visit to Singapore was part of a round-the-world voyage meant to encourage Britain’s dominions to play a more active role in imperial defence and to provide crews with experience in long distance cruises.1 The squadron’s battlecruisers, HMS Hood and Repulse, were heavily armed with 15-inch guns in two-gun turrets. Both ships had high top speeds of up to 31 knots. Being the largest warship at the time of her commissioning in 1920, Hood was touted as the pride of the Royal Navy and was tipped to be the squadron’s flagship.2 Joining the squadron were five light cruisers: HMS Delhi, Dragon, Dunedin, Danae, and Dauntless. All had been launched and commissioned in the latter years of the First World War. The powerful, and at that time modern, squadron was thus what Britain presented to the world as a mark of might.

the squadron’s departure for Australia on 17th February.

Bad weather plagued the programme for the squadron’s visit.5 For one, some sports events between the squadron’s crews and local teams had to be cancelled. In other areas, the show went on. Numerous receptions, luncheons, and dinner parties entertained the squadron’s officers. A temporary ‘Squadron Club’ was established at a large warehouse near Collyer Quay to entertain crew on shore leave.6 On 15th February, a contingent of 1500 sailors and Royal Marines held a ceremonial march-past through the city. The parade route, lined by large crowds, went past the Padang, through Bras Basah and into commercial district.7 While sailors and marines came ashore for sports, entertainment, and parades, Hood and Repulse were opened to the public. Both ships saw over 29,000 visitors during the squadron’s Singapore stopover.8

Although relegated to the footnotes of Singapore’s history, the visit to Singapore by some of the Royal Navy’s most modern and powerful warships was a big occasion at the time. The squadron’s visit received favourable coverage in the English, Chinese, and Baba Malay press.9 The visit’s programme was also published weeks in advance. Companies ranging from departmental stores to the Malaya Broadcasting Corporation further publicised the visit by taking advantage of it to advertise their products and services in newspapers. After all, the entire cruise was a large public On 10th February, 1924, the grey monoliths of steel ap- relations exercise meant to promote pride in Britain’s empeared off Collyer Quay, having already visited ports in Af- pire.10 rica, the Indian Ocean, and Malaya after leaving Devonport. The squadron was welcomed by Malayan sultans and top of- The underlying reason, however, for the visit’s festivities ficials of the Straits Settlements in a lavish ceremony the next was that the battlecruisers themselves were the icons of day, with a rainbow of flags flying from the ships in harbour, the hour. That thousands flocked to the festivities and the and gun salutes being exchanged.3 The government declared ships themselves bore testimony to the substantial ima public holiday for the day.4 Thus began what the local En- pression the warships made on Singapore’s inhabitants. glish-language press called ‘Navy Week’, which ended with


Map of the 1923 – 1924 Empire Cruise (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Empire_Cruise_1923.jpg)

The sight of two large, friendly battlecruisers anchored off Collyer Quay invoked more than just a sense of awe, but also a sense of security. As The Straits Times puts it in the journalist’s prose of the day, the Royal Navy was “the guardian of our homes, the big insurance of all our property.”11 The warships effectively represented the “Main Fleet to Singapore” strategy that would see the Repulse return to Singapore with a battleship, HMS Prince of Wales, on the eve of war with Japan in 1941. By then, the strategic and tactical position of Britain’s naval presence in Singapore had changed drastically. The strategic balance of power in the Asia-Pacific now favoured Japan, and aircraft now posed a serious threat to battleships. Ideas of British naval superiority held by Singapore’s inhabitants after Repulse’s previous visit likely sank with her and the Prince of Wales off Kelantan after a Japanese air attack on 10th December, 1941.

Today, Singapore continues to play host to visiting foreign warships. With its position at the edge of an oft-used waterway, perhaps Singapore was as iconic a location for these ships just as they were iconic to Singapore. In more recent times, the US Navy has been Singapore’s most frequent naval visitor. The most iconic of these American warships that call on Singapore are the large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Like the British battlecruisers that came before them, the carriers represent America’s global reach and naval supremacy, something inherited from Britain as the latter lost her empire after the Second World War. Nonetheless, just as Britain’s battlecruisers captured the imagination of colonial-era Singapore, large warships, be they foreign or local, continue to invoke a sense of awe to whoever beheld them.

Currently a second-year undergraduate in NUS, Joshua is a History major with an interest in military and naval history. When he is not editing articles, he can be found in museums, libraries, or building model warships.


1 The National Archives, ADM 116/2219, Letter from DCNS to First Sea Lord. pp 5-6, cited in Ralph Harrington. “`The Mighty Hood’: Navy, Empire, War at Sea and the British National Imagination, 1920--60.” Journal of Contemporary History 38, no. 2 (2003): 171-85. pp 177. 2 Harrington, “The Mighty Hood”

3 “Landing of the Admirals,” The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Singapore), 13th February 1924. pp 12.

4 “Monday, February 11 is declared a public holiday for Singapore,” The Straits Times (Singapore), 26th Jan 1924. pp 8.

5 The National Archives, CO 275/112, Report on the Straits Settlements for the Year 1924, pp 332.

6 “The Squadron Club,” The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Singapore), 9th February 1924. pp 7.

7 “Naval Brigade March,” The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Singapore), 16th February 1924. pp 12.

8 Vincent Scott O’Connor. The Empire Cruise. (London, 1925). pp 112.

9 “Baik Bersekutu Sama Siapa Pun,” Kabar Slalu (Singapore), 11th February 1924. pp 6; “Yīngguó tèpài jiànduì dǐle shí zhī shèngkuàng,” Lat Pau (Singapore), 11th February 1924. pp 2.

10 Harrington, “The Mighty Hood”. pp 177.

11 “Our Naval Visitors,” The Straits Times (Singapore), 11th February 1924. pp 8. 12 Map of the 1923 – 1924 Empire Cruise , retrieved March 24, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Empire_Cruise_1923.jpg.


Respect and Reverence: Singapore’s attitude towards the British Monarch


Photo credits: thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com

rom 1819 to 1963, when Singapore was a colony of the British Empire, the British monarchy, as a symbolic figure of Great Britain was a prominent institution in the fabric of colonial Singapore life. Roads, streets and other important monuments in Singapore were named after contemporary British monarchs today. Celebrations were held, to celebrate a long reign, as in the case of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 or the coronation of a new queen, as was the case for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. They were well-regarded enough that local organisations were formed to pay respect and demonstrate their loyalty to the Crown and to the Empire. Today, in our post-independence society, the icon of the British monarchy and the royal family is still well-regarded and revered, even though some of it has diminished as old institutions are torn down or renamed.

The monarchy was a well-respected icon during colonial times, as was the norm for many other British colonies at that time. The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria lasted two days, the 25th and 26th of June 1887, with heavy local participation as a show of respect and reverence to the Queen and to mark the 50th anniversary of her rule.1 It was part of a wave of celebrations across the globe in the British Empire and the world too. Another celebration was also held 10 years later when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee or her 60-year anniversary.2 When she passed away in 1901, a memorial hall was proposed and constructed in 1905 to commemorate her long rule and to show her respect, which still stands today as the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and a landmark of British colonial


rule and architecture.3 The hall has even been a part of major important political and cultural events in Singapore, like the inaugural meeting of the People’s Action Party in 1957.4 Other important institutions named in honour of contemporary monarchs include the King George VI Dry-docks, unveiled in 1936 as part of the opening of the Sembawang Naval base and then one of the biggest dry docks at that time.5 As such, respect for the icon of the monarch was shown by the naming of such important institutions and its utilisation for vital and prestigious purposes.

Furthermore, it can be seen that the institution of a monarch was a symbol that was widely respected among the locals here. The Straits Chinese British Association, (today the Peranakan Association) was formed at the turn of the 20th century by wealthy Straits Chinese, not just to improve the lives of Straits Chinese in Singapore, but to show their loyalty to the crown and to the British Empire. They contributed men and funds to the British effort during World War I, as well as helping to establish a school of medicine named after the present monarch, the King Edward VII Medical School in 1907, as part of their activities.6 The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was another celebration that saw huge participation and performances by local communities.7 The desire to honour the queen resulted in a new promenade to be named after her. A delegation of prominent businessmen was even sent to London to represent Singapore and to pay respects to the new Queen. Overall the effort put in by locals to pay respect and to revere the status of the crown illustrates the popular support of the British royalty in colonial Singapore.8

In the post-independent society, this respect and reverence has somewhat diminished, due to a transition from a British colony to our own sovereign state. However, it has not fully disappeared and British royalty still commands a positive reception here. There are buildings and institutions named after monarchs that have been replaced and renamed to better fit contemporary concerns. The most famous example would be the King Edward VII Medical School,9 which was renamed and later merged into the National University of Singapore (NUS) as the Faculty of Medicine. Today, its legacy lingers as part of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in NUS. As part of our ties to the British crown, the monarchy holds special part of the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in NUS. As part of our ties to the British crown, the monarchy holds special reverence whenever it visits Singapore. Queen Elizabeth’s visits to Singapore in 1972,10 198911 and 2006 were fondly remembered. This respect extends to other members of the royal family, such as when Prince William and Kate Middleton visited Singapore in 2012. Thus the tradition of paying respect and showing affection to British royalty still continues to this day, even if it is not as intense as it was during the colonial period.

Overall, Singapore, ever since it became a British colony in 1819, has demonstrated a strong sense of admiration, respect and affection for the British crown and its various monarchs. This was often demonstrated in the colonial period by huge celebrations of much pomp and grandeur, often with enthusiastic local participation and contributions, by the naming of important and significant buildings and landmarks and more mundanely, by the contributions of locals to the maintenance of the British Empire. As we became our own independent nation, our affection and reverence for the British crown and its role in our social fabric naturally decreased. However, it did not totally disappear or turn hostile to the icon of the British crown and it still makes waves in the relations between our countries today.

Wei Yen loves military history and can get lost studying the great battles of ages past. His dream is to further explore the military history of Singapore Endnotes Singapore celebrates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee - Singapore History. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/history/events/2f8ff21b-f40e-485c-a622-2fd4dc228230 1



Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://www.nhb.gov.sg/places/sites-and-monuments/national-monuments/victoria-theatre-and-concert-hall 3



Headquarters for command at the naval base. (1940, December 4). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884– 1942), p. 7. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from NewspaperSG, http:// eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/singfreepressb19401204-1.2.72.aspx 5

Straits Chinese British Association is established - Singapore History. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://eresources.nlb. gov.sg/history/events/3bf8c766-dd03-4825-b191-e65ef09b237b 6

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation celebrations in Singapore. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2014-04-09_112610.html 7



Tan, J. H. (n.d.). King Edward VII College of Medicine. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1087_2011-01-21.html 9

Lim, J. (n.d.). The Queen was in my kitchen. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMA63fde649-2447-4033-adf9-7c4ac7525e0c 10

The Day Queen Elizabeth II Visited #SG50HOME. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://www.sg50home.sg/the-dayqueen-elizabeth-ii-visited.html 11


Chng Shao Kai | e0003021@u.nus.edu


ew buildings have stood the test of time in Singapore, and even fewer buildings command the grandeur and vastness of the Old Supreme Court and the Former City Hall. Throughout the twists and turns of time, this building remained under several flags, but today it rests in front of the modern landscape that it helped to establish. While the meaning of this building may change with accordance to the times, given its new façade as the National Gallery Singapore, it serves as the part of the bedrock that forms Singapore’s history. These buildings, static in time, contrast with the ever-dynamic nature of our city’s landscape and serve to remind us who we are and where we came from. Originally designed by British architects Frank Dorrington


Ward (Old Supreme Court), and A. Gordans & F. D. Meadows (City Hall), these buildings were meant to last beyond the lifetimes of mere men and were to be immortalised in Singapore’s history.12 These were the last Neoclassical buildings built in colonial Singapore. The concrete footsteps and marble floors, which were well crafted and sculpted to perfection, spoke of British ingenuity and labourers’ sweat.3 The woodwork and craftsmanship were one of a kind, shaping the arenas of legislature and politicking in the contours of benches, rotunda and tables. These buildings were meant to serve the British administrative needs; from passing important laws in the Supreme Court, to the maintenance of public infrastructure under the City Hall Building. While they no longer serve such purposes today, these were where the

blueprints of modern-day Singapore were laid out, from how the city-state is governed to how it is being planned.

While the flags above these monuments of history changed with the times, the Old Supreme Court and the Former City Hall remained as a constant. Their shadows remain on the footsteps leading to the Padang, and are iconic in their sheer presence. The City Hall building sheltered the public from Japanese air raids and became a municipal headquarters during the Occupation. It later oversaw the eventual defeat and surrender of the Japanese forces to the returning British government that was celebrated with a victory parade at the adjacent Padang.4 These were turbulent times, however. The tide of decolonization had finally hit Singapore’s shores. The City Hall saw the People’s Action Party (PAP) forming the first Cabinet in the City Hall Chambers after the 1959 Legislative Assembly General Elections, with Lee Kuan Yew becoming Singapore’s first Prime Minister.5 The iconic pillars of the City Hall Chambers that saw Singapore through her metamorphosis became its cradle of birth as Singapore achieved internal self-governance.

On 16 September 1963, Singapore departed from its colonial past and joined the Federation of Malaysia with the Proclamation of Malaysia announced by Lee from the steps of City Hall. Singapore parted from the federation in 1965 and became an independent country.6 It was upon the footsteps of these buildings that the nation celebrated its first National Day Parade in 1966.7 Throughout it all, British colony or Malaysian state, these concrete grounds have carried the weight of thousands – from heavy and sombre marching, to light and joyous dancing. And it was in 1966 that these buildings witnessed the birth of a new nation. As time passed, these two buildings began to fade into the background of modern Singapore. The Old Supreme Court continued to serve the judiciary and oversaw important legal battles that painted Singapore’s landscape, until its functions was replaced by the new Supreme Court in 2005.8 The City Hall’s functions were slowly handed over to the Public Utilities Board, and served various government ministries’ offices, ranging from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister’s Office, before it was replaced by the respective ministerial buildings and the Parliament House. On 14 February 1992, both buildings faded into the past gradually, with them being gazetted as national monuments; icons of the past now immortalised in the shadows of Singapore’s rise.9

Perhaps the Old Supreme Court and City Hall building’s quiet and imposing silhouette speak more for itself than what they embody. They have witnessed earth-shaking events of history while being rooted to their places. These constant figures remain, despite being situated within the heart of rapid change and turbulent times. While their utility changes with the times, they remain the centrepiece

of Singapore’s landscape while the city stretches and grows in its dynamism. They serve as footnotes for memories of bygone pasts, but also as the, and as the forefront of Singapore’s vibrant art scene in the present and the future. They were the heart of colonial Singapore, and the cradle of modern Singapore – and are icons of their own right. This piece has been adapted from a previous article by the same author that was published on The Ridge Magazine; reproduction of aspects of the previous article has been permitted by the The Ridge and the author.

Chng Shao Kai is a Year 1 History major. When not busying himself with assignments, he enjoys working at a bookshop and waiting for the next Star Wars movie to be out. Endnotes 1“Former City Hall.” Former City Hall. Accessed February 01, 2016. http://www.nhb.gov.sg/places/sites-and-monuments/ national-monuments/former-city-hall. 2“Former Supreme Court.” Former Supreme Court. Accessed February 01, 2016. http://www.nhb.gov.sg/places/sites-andmonuments/national-monuments/former-supreme-court. 3“Singapore’s New Supreme Court.” The Straits Times (Singapore), March 19, 1939, Page 32. 4Ibid. 5Ibid.

6“Singapore Is out.” The Straits Times  (Singapore), August 10, 1965, Page 1.

7“National Day Joy.” The Straits Times  (Singapore), August 10, 1966, Page 21. 8 Lum S. “New Supreme Court to Open on Monday.” The Straits Times (Singapore), June 18, 2005, Page 9.

9Urban Redevelopment Authority. “Joint PMB-URA Release on TPRS and BTRS.” News release, 2011. Accessed February 1, 2016. https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/media-room/news/2011/ apr/~/media/User Defined/URA Online/media-room/2011/ apr/pr11-40b.ash


Delving into the Legacy of Tan Tock Seng Glennson Ong | ongglennson@u.nus.edu


rom humble beginnings with only a single operating room lit by gas lamps, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has come a long way to become one of Singapore’s largest multidisciplinary hospitals today.1 Given Singapore’s evolving healthcare landscape and rapidly ageing population, it is timely to take stock of what the iconic hospital has achieved.2 As an established icon of respect firmly anchored on the values of compassion, service and care, TTSH is at the vanguard of Singapore’s efforts to overcome complex healthcare challenges and meet the population’s medical needs. Starting from humble origins, Tan Tock Seng toiled to become one of colonial Singapore’s wealthiest merchants.3 Yet, he did not forget his roots, and the plight of the less fortunate. He donated $5000 – a very large sum back then – to build a hospital for the poor in 1844. Where the Straits Settlements government had failed to look after the downtrodden and diseased due to a lack of resources, Tan Tock Seng’s courage and humanity to do what was right for the underprivileged of all races and backgrounds certainly merits profound reverence.

Pauperism was still all too familiar in the second half of the 19th century.4 Funding woes of TTSH reached a peak in 1864, where patients were made to work and a cheaper diet was introduced to cut costs.5 Some patients even escaped or turned to crime, while others hanged themselves in despair.6 The hospital was also besieged by severe epidemics and malaria outbreaks.7 In the face of seemingly insurmountable crises during the hospital’s arguably most difficult days, the dedication and focus of TTSH as a provider of medical care for the people is truly remarkable and deserving of utmost respect.


The dawn of the 20th century heralded the new beginnings of TTSH as a pioneering healthcare institution. Although a medical school was established in 1905, clinical teaching in medicine and surgery was conducted at the better-staffed and equipped TTSH from 1908.8 Besides proudly producing Singapore’s first batches of medical students from the 1910s, the hospital made a breakthrough in treating beriberi – a usually fatal nutritional deficiency.9 The hospital also went global in 1936, conducting international courses under the auspices of the League of Nations. 10

After the Second World War, TTSH became the designated centre for tuberculosis (TB) treatment, which spearheaded the eradication of the disease in Singapore.11 The hospital also collaborated with other medical centres worldwide and pioneered much of the global research in chemotherapeutic research of TB.12 The trailblazing successes of TTSH in medical excellence and its unwavering commitment to improve its patients’ quality of life serve as a source of deep inspiration and respect.

TTSH’s transition from private-run to public hospital in 1961 marked its transformation from a tuberculosis hospital to a general hospital. The hospital continued to clock many milestones in a newly-independent Singapore from 1965. Amongst them were a few surgical firsts, such as Singapore’s first open heart surgery in 1967.13 TTSH also established a comprehensive range of centres and specialisations in the 1980s to meet the needs of the new generation of Singaporeans.14 As a professional and compassionate healthcare institution, TTSH’s development through the uncertain early years of an independent Singapore engendered much confidence and respect locally and globally.

In 1992, TTSH became a restructured hospital. This gave the hospital more autonomy in managing its affairs, particularly to keep costs low while better tending to its patients. TTSH also became a referral centre national and regionally for five core disciplines, those of Neurosciences, Rheumatology and Immunology, Respiratory Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Rehabilitation Medicine.15 The fact that TTSH did not rest on its laurels and continually strived for greater heights cemented its legacy as a global icon of commitment, excellence and respect.

the care provided by the outstanding healthcare professionals of Singapore’s public healthcare system.

Endnotes 1 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, 100 YEARS OF SURGICAL EXCELLENCE SINCE 1912 (Singapore: Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, 2012), p. 4.

2 Ministry of Health (MOH), Singapore, MOH 2012 Committee of Supply Speech Healthcare 2020: Improving Accessbility, Quality and Affordability for Tomorrow’s Challenges (Part 1 of 2) (Singapore: Of course, who could forget the scourge of Severe Acute MOH Press Room, 2012).

Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that hit Singapore in 2003? In a bid to contain the spread of the deadly virus, TTSH became the designated hospital for SARS-infected patients in Singapore.16 The hospital was initially shunned by Singaporeans who were understandably fearful of the unknown disease. It did not help that the disease claimed the lives of five TTSH healthcare workers, amidst the dozens of SARS cases it handled daily.17 As the outbreak wore on, however, the hospital became the lynchpin of, and symbolised Singapore’s resilience in the face of the crisis. TTSH’s efforts paid off as Singapore was eventually declared SARS-free by the World Health Organisation on May 31st, three months after the crisis started.

3 Dhoraisingam, Kamala Devi and Dhoraisingam, S. Samuel, Tan Tock Seng, Pioneer, His Life, Times, Contributions and Legacy (Borneo: Natural History Publication, 2003), p xiii. 4 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, THE LEGACY OF TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL, 150 Years of Caring (Singapore: Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, 1994), p 18. 5 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, THE LEGACY OF TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL, p 24. 6 Ibid.

7 National Library Board [Singapore], “Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)”, http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/ TTSH’s remarkable journey from humble beginnings to SIP_70_2004-12-24.html. Accessed 26th February 2016.

Singapore’s second largest acute care general hospital today is a success story worthy of belief, pride and respect. Despite the numerous challenges it faced, and the multiple changes it underwent throughout its 171 years of existence, this public healthcare institution never wavered from its noble mission of “caring for the sick poor of all nations”.18 Even today, the healthcare professionals of this public hospital continue to execute this mission with care, compassion and service. This was what has and will continue to firmly establish TTSH as an inspiring and illustrious icon of respect in Singapore and beyond.

8 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, THE LEGACY OF TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL. p 31. http://www.

9 Annals, Academy of Medicine, Singapore (AAMS) [Singapore], ”Milestones of the Medical School and Medical Progress of Singapore over the Past 100 years”, http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/34volno6200506/v34n6p14c.pdf. Accessed 26th February 2016.

10 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, THE LEGACY OF TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL. p 35. 11 “Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).”

Glennson is a first-year History major at NUS who enjoys tennis, 12 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, THE LEGACY OF TAN TOCK SENG and is a huge fan of Roger Federer. He has also benefited from HOSPITAL. pp. 46 - 47 13 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Pte Ltd, THE LEGACY OF TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITA, p 52. 14 Ibid.

15 “Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).” 16 Ibid.

17 The Straits Times [Singapore], “Sars in Singapore: Race against time to battle deadly disease”,http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sars-in-singapore-race-against-time-to-battle-deadly-disease. Accessed 26th February 2016.

Front view of Tan Tock Seng Hospital

18 Tan Tock Seng Hospital Heritage Museum [Singapore], “TTSH Heritage Museum”, https://www.ttsh.com.sg/TTSH-Heritage-Museum/. Accessed 26th February 2016.


Trinisha Ann Sunil | trinisha.ann.sunil@gmail.com


uring colonial rule, the Queen of the United Kingdom was the icon of British supremacy in Singapore. However, the rich history of the royal bloodline that legitimised the Queen’s reign in the United Kingdom would never be a part of the national identity we were trying to carve for ourselves. In 1965, the President of Singapore became an icon of our independence and budding identity. Where colonial Singapore pledged fealty to a monarch, the independent Singapore was to be a republic, where the written constitution was to reign supreme. Unlike the Queen therefore, the President of Singapore pledged his allegiance to the Constitution.1 From inception till now, the President remains as an icon of democracy in Singapore nonetheless, despite the changes over time and in his powers. His functional role however, remained the same. As a president under the Westminster model of government, he was not involved in the actual day-to-day administration of the nation’s affairs. He was a ceremonial figure, carrying out the formalities of appointing key civil officers chosen by the Cabinet amongst other affairs. The President, standing above the divisive realm of politics in a democracy, functioned as a de jure unifying force within a racially and religiously diverse nation.2

As Singapore grew, the government identified structural flaws in its system. In order to uphold constitutionalism, most countries separate the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government in order for each to check the rest. A unique feature of the Westminster model of government however, is that members of the executive are drawn from the legislative branch.3 The Cabinet is responsible for formulating policies, and is collectively answerable to Parliament, who decides what should be made law. However in countries like Singapore, where both branches essentially consist members of the same party in a clear majority, practically nothing is in the party’s way to prevent it from making arbitrary decisions. The government feared that the status quo was insufficient to ensure that Singapore would be governed by the rule of good law, rather than by the arbitrary will of a government free to pass whatever decision


it feels like instituting as law. Most importantly they feared a day where an fiscally imprudent populist party were to gain the majority, and with no institution to control its access to the nations funds, they might dwindle the nation’s reserves in the long term.4

Thus in 1991, it seemed as if the Elected President of Singapore (“EP”) was to become an icon of constitutionalism and balance in the government. The EP was titled the second key to the nation’s reserves, among other veto powers to protect fundamental liberties, maintain religious harmony, prevent corruption and ensure the proper exercise of power under the Internal Security Act.5 His office appeared to be instituted as an alternative power within government to check the actions of the government.6

This conception of the elected presidency was tried and tested by the �irst EP Ong Teng Cheong, who was determined to fully utilise the extent of his powers. Most notably, he questioned the constitutionality of the bill passed by the government to amend his veto powers in 1994. In 1997, he was of the opinion that the Central Provident Fund Board’s budget would drain the nation’s reserves and nearly refused to allow it.7 President Ong toward the end of his Presidency even went public in revealing the obstacles he faced by government of�ices in exercising his powers, declaring his right to publicly differ from the government.8 The government promptly reiterated by publicly clarifying in the media and in a White Paper the role of the EP as custodial, non-executive and to be closely cooperative with the government.9 President Ong’s presidency was framed merely to have tested the waters of a new institution.

Regardless of the initial dif�iculties in identifying the EP’s function, President Ong’s legacy remains as the �irst president to be directly chosen by the populace, and as an icon of democracy.

Contrasted with subsequent EP elections after President Ong, the watershed 2011 elections strengthened the legitimacy of the election process. The ‘Battle of the 4 Tans’ gave voters for the �irst time a greater diversity of Presidential candidates. The elections were no longer a shoo-in, where candidates are required to prove their mantle to the people through rigorous debates over key national issues. And as the 2017 elections near, the establishment of a Presidential Commission to ensure minority representation in the Presidency10, signifying a potential growth of the EP’s status to truly become a �igure representative of the people of Singapore. Trinisha Ann Sunil is a sophomore at the Faculty of Law. A selfprofessed history geek, she believes that a deep understanding of a country’s history is the key to truly appreciating the intricacies of

the development of legal institutions and laws in the modern day.

Endnotes 1A Treatise On Singapore Constitutional Law. 2012. Singapore: Singapore Academy of Law.

2The Reid Commission,. 1956-1957. Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Conference. Malaya.

3 Tan, Kevin Y.L. 2014. Constitutional Law In Singapore. The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International.

4 Singapore Parliament Debates, Of�icial Report, (5 October 1990). “Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No 3) Bill” vol 56 at col 567. (Goh Chok Tong, First Deputy Prime Minister).

5 Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1999 Reprint), Art 21(1), Art 21(2).

6 A Treatise On Singapore Constitutional Law. 2012. Singapore: Singapore Academy of Law.

7 The Straits Times,. 1999. “Custodial President: Testing The System”.

8 “I Had A Job To Do Whether The Government Liked It Or Not, Says Ex-President Ong” - Extended Interview With Roger Mitton”. 2000. Asiaweek. 9 Parliament of Singapore, White Paper,. 1999. The Principles For Determining And Safeguarding The Accumulated Reserves Of The Government And The Fifth Schedule Statutory Boards And Government Companies. Singapore.

10 The Straits Times,. 2016. “9-Member Constitutional Commission Formed To Review Elected Presidency”. http:// www.straitstimes.com/politics/9-member-constitutionalcommission-formed-to-review-elected-presidency.





The Vibrant Age of Local Music and the Golden Venus Nightclub in 1960s Singapore Gary Chia | gary6508@hotmail.com


ou could hear it from outside the corridor: the grooving baseline, the relentless drums, the twangy guitars, and the ethereal voice of Shirley Nair – sounds you rarely hear in other clubs. The walkway is cramped with youngsters of different ethnicities sporting different fashion styles: hippies, mods, rockers – guy dressed to the nines in their tailored shirts and girls sporting Jackie Kennedy hairstyles; a visual feast rarely seen in other clubs. You pay $2 at the door, receive a drink coupon, and step through the doorway. The music is incredibly loud at this point, but you feel at home: you’re back in the Golden Venus.


The Golden Venus was iconic in being the first commercial civilian platform accessible for expats and locals.1 Before the Golden Venus, British mess halls served as a platform for local bands because there was a strong demand for rock. Later, as more GIs started to enter Singapore with the re-escalation of tensions in the Vietnamese War for Independence, they brought along with them Chicago Blues and US psychedelia, injecting these influences into local music. 2 With this, the Golden Venus morphed into the iconic melting pot of people and genres which produced and showcased bands embodying this broad spectrum of influences. Songs were sung in English, Malay, and Mandarin, expressed through a mix of pop, psychedelia, and experimental rock a vibrancy which led many connoisseurs branding the ‘60s


as the golden decade for local music.3


In the 1960s, “clubbing” didn’t exist as a social event bringing youths together. Instead, its equivalent was a “tea dance” and the Golden Venus was a pioneering venue.4 Ironically, tea was never served at a tea dance. Instead, it was similar to the happy hour at a club with live music and dancing.5 Tea dances became a support system for young bands that had the chance of fame as guest bands at earlier timings of the tea dance - this process became almost a rite of passage for local bands.6

Indeed, local bands were arguably as celebrated as foreign bands. Original compositions were rising in demand.7 Talent scouts from international labels like Phillips, EMI, and Decca Records would visit the Golden Venus to spot, sign, and release records for local acts.8 Bands like The Quests, Naomi and The Boys, Shirley Nair and The Silver Strings, Rita&Sakura, and The Straydogs had their debut at the Golden Venus before enjoying commercial success locally and regionally.9 Music stars back then need not be from Europe: it could be some youngsters from your neighbourhood - they were the rockstars of the everyday people. In an interview with Chan of The Checkmates, he recounted that fans would mob them in the packed venue where “they would come running and screaming for your autograph.”10



The Golden Venus was also an iconic venue for underground counter-culture and subcultures. While the government espoused its conservative stance on long hair and the rock subcultures, the Golden Venus was this “mythical space” that ran on its own norms, where individuals could challenge that discourse and momentarily escape from their day personas. While bombs were exploding north of the peninsular in Vietnam, songs about civil resistance and peace blasted through the speakers at the Golden Venus. While the streets of Singapore were tense with ethnic tensions, bands of the Golden Venus sung passionately about tolerance and understanding.11


Pereira, Legends of the Golden Venus (1999).


Pereira, Legends of the Golden Venus, (1999).

For many individuals, the Golden Venus will forever be icons in their personal histories. The Golden Venus was the hip place to be and be seen in. Kids from conservative families had to sneak out of home or lie about their whereabouts to visit the Golden Venus.12 Unsurprisingly, it also became the place where many young loves blossomed and where some marriages originated from dances at the Golden Venus, as former patrons recall.13The romanticised image of falling in youthful love at a rock show without a care for the world was true for the personal histories of some at the Golden Venus.

Unfortunately as the ‘70s wore on, public attitudes towards clubs with tea dances and rock nose-dived. Without a proper understanding of these subcultures, the hippies, mods, and rockers were casted as “social deviants” associated with drugs and decadent lifestyles.14 Following these perceptions, blanket bans on tea dances were established: acts disbanded, many never to perform again.15 The youth “grew up” and “matured”. 16 The withdrawal of British forces in 1968 and gradual withdrawal of GIs throughout the ‘70s also shrunk the source and demand for gigs by local bands.17 Eventually, the Golden Venus closed.

Joseph C. Pereira, Legends of the Golden Venus (Singapore: Times Editions, 1999).


3 Delfina Utomo, “Before Zouk, There was Venus…Golden Venus”, Coconuts Singapore, 5th February, retrieved from http://singapore.coconuts.co/2014/11/21/memory-lane-before-zouk-golden-venus-clubbing-1960s. 5








Pereira, Legends of the Golden Venus, (1999). Ibid.

10 Toh, “Take a Trip Back in Time with Starts of the Golden Venus”, (2015). 11 Joseph C. Pereira, Singapore ‘60s: The Songs (Singapore: Universal Music Singapore, 2009)

Toh, “Take a Trip Back in Time with Starts of the Golden Venus”, (2015).


13 Ibid. Toh, “Take a Trip Back in Time with Starts of the Golden Venus”, (2015). 14

Pereira, Legends of the Golden Venus, (1999).



15 Kaiman Chandran, “Those were the Days…”, The Straits Times, 14th March 1986, retrieved from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19860314.2.73.2.aspx 17

Pereira, Legends of the Golden Venus, (1999).

Indeed, the Golden Venus was an iconic melting pot venue critical in kick-starting the golden age of local music and popularising the tea dance concept. While it was also an iconic gathering space for those who wished to partake in a certain subculture, it was also an iconic venue for the personal histories of many people whose lives were forever altered. The sum of all this makes the Golden Venus an iconic venue in local music. It captured a certain mood unique to a specific space and time in Singaporean history: the Golden Venue was a space for post-war youths who in peacetime, just wanted to dance, have fun, and live life. Gary is a Year 2 Political Science major who does not believe in the “science” of politics. He has a deep interest in anthropology and the study of everyday life in Southeast Asia. When he does have a life, he likes being cosy and one with the universe.





Timotty Tay | president@nushissoc.org


uly 1964. Many would remember the horrific riots that threw Singapore into pandemonium then, but few would recall that a certain pop-rock band visited our humble little island a couple of weeks before. While the visit was merely a layover for their Australasian World Tour, the impact The Beatles had on Singapore stretches beyond that.1

The 1960s saw a phenomenon in the music scene that would arguably never be replicated. Four scruffy young lads from Liverpool took the world by storm with their brand of rock with a dash of skiffle. Known as Beatlemania, this sensation rippled across the Atlantic and beyond, sweeping up Singapore along the way.2

While London was experiencing the Swinging Sixties, Singapore was developing itself, finding its feet while coming to terms with greater political autonomy. With economic development came Western cultural influences, much to the government’s disdain.3 The Beatles, perceived to be an icon of the 1960s counter-culture, soon captured the imaginations of budding artistes in the Malay rock scene in Singapore and Malaysia.4 Pop Yeh Yeh emerged, dubbed as such after the popular and catchy Beatles tune, She Loves You (She loves you, yeah yeah yeah), underscoring the Liverpudlians’ tremendous impact on the local scene. True to the spirit of counter-culture, Beatles-influenced rockand-roll continued to thrive locally.5

Fast forward to the present, and the legacy of the famous quartet still runs deep here. 2014 saw two separate travelling tribute acts on local stages. The MasterCard Theatre at Marina Bay Sands hosted the Scottish tribute


The Beatles spearheading the British Invasion of the USA. From left: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Beatles_in_America.JPG)

Singapore’s Fab Five L-R: Gary Tan, Keith Ong, Albert Khoo, Surath Godfrey, Spencer Goh (The Day Trippers’ Facebook page)

band Beatlemania, while the Resorts World Theatre at Resorts World Sentosa was the venue for the acclaimed West End stage production Let It Be.6 It seems only fitting that the two monoliths that welcomed these tribute acts double as blatant testaments to the prosperity of today borne out of an economic miracle fifty years ago. Those craving for more of the Fab Four in Singapore have the option of The Day Trippers, who tout themselves as “Singapore’s only Beatles tribute band”. Albert Khoo, guitarist and vocalist of the tribute band, reasons that the formation of the tribute band is “the greatest flattery one can give to The Beatles”.7 Indeed, the enthusiastic reception to their hearty renditions are proof of the iconic and timeless nature of the Fab Four. The Beatles were simply perfect in perfecting simplicity: two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer was a straightforward formula for budding musicians to emulate. Confined to the time restraints of vinyl records, they had a knack for composing catchy songs with layered meanings and emotions. As Albert put it, The Beatles “perfected the art of pop song writing”.8 The Beatles also represented the notion of a simpler past in the 1960s. By virtue of reaching its heyday at the right time, The Beatles captured the hearts of many a baby boomer across the world, who remember their songs with fond nostalgia today.

They were versatile as well. In the span of a decade, they experimented with anything from pop ballads to hard rock, psychedelia to Indian classical. There is a Beatles song to suit every mood, Albert claims, and it is hard to refute that.9 Their discography takes one on a whirlwind journey across the entire emotive universe. Albert prefers In My Life to match an introspective mood, though the emotive spectrum of any one song is vast. John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s chart-topping number Help! is a bitter-sweet sing-along, while Ringo’s absurd Octopus’s Garden is philosophical beneath the shroud of juvenility.

Timotty is a Second Year History major and the President of the NUS History Society. When he’s not listening to The Beatles while doing his readings, he’s busy recruiting people for History Society events.

Endnotes Lewisohn, Mark. 1992. The Complete Beatles Chronicle. New York: Harmony Books, p. 164

1 2

Lewisohn. The Complete Beatles Chronicle. p.136 – 141

Tamney, Joseph B. 1996. The Struggle Over Singapore’s Soul. Berlin: W. de Gruyter, p. 10-12.


4 Junaini, Hidzir. 2015. “We Love You (Pop Yeh Yeh): A Brief History Of Malay Rock ‘N’ Roll In The 1960s”. Bandwagon. http://www. bandwagon.asia/articles/we-love-you-pop-yeh-yeh-a-brief-history-of-malay-rock-n-roll-in-the-1960s.

5 S/pores,. 2016. “100 Greatest: Singapore 60S”. http://s-pores. com/2009/06/100-greatest/.

6 Toh, Christopher. 2014. “Being Beatles”. Today Online. http:// www.todayonline.com/blogs/poparazzi/being-beatles. 7

Khoo, Albert, e-mail message to author. 28th January, 2016





10 Hu, Cherie. 2016. “The Beatles Are Streaming, But How Will We Listen?”. Forbes. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/cheriehu/2015/12/26/the-beatles-are-streaming-but-how-will-welisten/#6a33c0fe1864.)

The Beatles had the winning combination of slick charisma and styles. As the de-facto headliners of the British Invasion, they were trendsetters in hairstyles and outfits. Fans, including our Pop Yeh Yeh musicians, sought to imitate the suave mohair suits, flamboyant military outfits, or whatever else The Beatles donned. Even today, they continue to live on as branded icons on an astounding array of memorabilia.

As technology progresses, preserving the legacy of The Beatles can only get easier. Last Christmas, Beatles fans worldwide triumphed over the tyranny of overprotective copyrights, as the Beatles’ entire discography was released on Spotify. The world demonstrated their gratitude with nearly four million listens on the music streaming platform within the first day (although this author probably contributed to half of that).10 As we now dwell in the golden age of music streaming services, and local tribute bands garnering greater popularity, one can be hopeful that the future generations will continue to be inspired by The Beatles and spark their own revolution in the local music scene.


5 Hours in Singapore

Lim Zhi Wei | zhiweiwba@gmail.com


n a rainy day in November 1986, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, landed at Changi Airport in the early afternoon. He was due for a short five-hour visit before taking off.1 Even though it was five hours which may have changed the lives of tens of thousands of Catholics in Singapore, many of whom attended Mass conducted by the Pope himself at the National Stadium, the aftermath of the Papal visit was not without controversy as well.

For many Catholics, the Papal visit was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to catch a glimpse of the Pope. To understand the significance of the Papal visit for Catholics in Singapore, one only has to consider the sheer magnitude of the efforts by many Catholics to lay eyes on the Pope. 70,000 attended the Mass at the National Stadium even as the rain poured. Those who were not able to get a ticket to attend the Mass nevertheless lined the roads, hoping to catch a view of the Papal motorcade.2 Yet, their spirits were not dampened by the weather, as some took to calling the rain “showers of blessings”.3 There was even a plea by several students to the Ministry of Education to shift the date for an “O” Level paper just so that the students would be able to attend Mass.4 Merely two days following the Papal visit, a Straits Times article reported on the “regrets” that the Majlis Pusat felt over the visit. The Majlis Pusat, the body representing Malay cultural organisations in Singapore, expressed concerns that the Papal visit would “fire up” attempts to proselytise the Catholic faith among Muslim youths, whom they claimed were already “threatened” by Christian missionary


groups.5 While the controversy over the Papal visit was eventually overshadowed by the much greater opposition and anger over the visit of the Israeli President, Chiam Herzog, over long-term Muslim anger with Israeli role in the perpetuation of the Middle Eastern conflict, just three days prior to the Papal visit, it nevertheless generated a number of impassionate responses. Debates over issues of religious sensitivity and tolerance were suddenly reignited.

Such a controversial claim naturally invited many to pen their responses to the national press, many of which attempted to quell the supposed concerns over the Papal visit among the Muslim community. One responder attempted to explain that a five-hour visit would be “too short” to have stirred up missionary movements in Singapore, although the writer also expressed concerns regarding ‘extremist’ Christian groups whose actions may have been a cause for concern within the Muslim community.6 Another tried to provide a list of reasons outlining the fears expressed by the Majlis Pusat as being “unfounded”. The writer commented on how access to the Mass was highly restricted, as only those who had tickets could enter the stadium. The writer even went as far to explain that no one should have any reason to fear the supposed implications of the Papal visit in fostering missionary movements, claiming that if one was true to his faith, no “amount of persecution or enticement can distract or convert him from his religious beliefs”.7

Although generally lost in the wider controversy that surrounds the Chiam Herzog visit, the controversy of the Papal visit did raise several pertinent issues with regards to religion and national identity. Singapore regularly trumpets the idea that religious harmony and tolerance form the basis of the multi-cultural, multi-racial and multireligious foundations of the Singaporean nation. However, the inconvenient truth remains that issues over religion and religious sensitivity continue to be relevant topics for debate. For a Catholic, the Pope forms a crucial component of his/her religious identity. Yet there was cause for concern from a Malay cultural body over the potential implication of the Papal visit. While this article does not seek to disregard the concerns expressed by the Majlis Pusat in 1986, perhaps it would be in the better interest of “national unity” for Singaporeans to be comfortable in debating over sensitive issues, including over religion. Perhaps, if there is a lesson we can learn from this episode, it is embodied in a quote by Pope John Paul II himself:

Endnotes 1Alan John, “A short, wet and busy visit,” The Straits Times, November 21, 1986, accessed February 18, 2016. 2 Suzanne Ooi, “The Pope through a Catholic’s eyes,” The Straits Times, November 23, 1986, accessed February 18, 2016.

3 Janice Seah, “Day that sent spirits soaring,” The Straits Times, November 21, 1986, accessed February 18, 2016.

4 Anonymous, “They want to attend Pape mass,” The Straits Times, October 30, 1986, accessed February 18, 2016. 5 Anonymous, “Malay body ‘regrets’ visit by Herzog, Pope,” The Straits Times, November 22, 1986, accessed February 18, 2016.

6 David Chua, “Pope’s visit too short to be missionary,” The Straits Times, December 6, 1986, accessed February 18, 2016. 7Anonymous, “Reasons why anxiety is unfounded,” The Straits Times, December 6, 1986, accessed February 19, 2016.

“Love is characterised by a deep respect for all people, regardless of their race, belief or whatever makes them dif- 8 Pope John Paul II, “This week’s parting shots,” The Straits Times, November 22, 1986, accessed February 19, 2016. ferent from ourselves.”8 Lim Zhi Wei is currently an undergraduate majoring in History. His areas of interest include military history, cats and cooking.

Pope John Paul II arrived at the old Singapore National Stadium for the Papal Mass in 1986.


Of Monsters, Men and Mythologies: The Dioramas of Haw Par Villa Choo Ruizhi | choo.ruizhi@gmail.com


snarling tiger will greet you when you step out of Haw Par Villa MRT station.

This is Haw Par Villa, known also as the Tiger Balm Gardens. If you walk through its towering gates, past that snarling tiger, an exhilaratingly weird and technicolour trip into Chinese mythology awaits. These aren’t the quaint “Gardens” of the colonial imagination, manifested at the Singapore Botanic Gardens; nor the ‘Garden’ of Lee Kuan Yew’s ‘Garden City’; nor a ‘Garden’ of super-trees that cost a billion taxpayer dollars to build. These ‘Gardens’ are more brilliant paint and plaster than neat, landscaped greenery. A Rich Man’s Gardens

Haw Par Villa opened in 1937 to the public, the brainchild of Aw Boon Haw, the Burmese-Chinese business tycoon behind the Tiger Balm brand of medicinal products. Known as a colourful and flamboyant personality, Boon Haw had the Villa built as a gift for his brother, Aw Boon Par. The grounds were initially open to the public only on the first three days of the Chinese New Year, then all year round from 1937 thereafter, in keeping with the philanthropic spirit of wealthy Chinese at this time. The vivid – and arguably, lurid – dioramas that Haw Par Villa are so well-known for today were already in place by this time. These dioramas include the graphically memorable Ten Courts of Hell, with sinners creatively boiled, roasted and disembowelled in a myriad ways for their transgressions, and Confucian scenes of filial piety – such as the tableau of Lady Tang breastfeeding her elderly mother-in-law instead of her baby during a famine.1 A State’s Vision


Following the decline of the Tiger Balm business empire in the 1970s, the state took control of the Villa in 1985 by invoking the Land Acquisition Act, after nearly

a decade of protracted negotiations on how the Gardens would be run after it was to be handed over to the government. However, the pleasure gardens of an overseas Chinese billionaire tycoon do not necessarily conform to state objectives, especially if it wanted to utilise Haw Par Villa to parade Singapore to outsiders. In the context of a 1980s-Singapore projecting the Asian Values discourse as a way to rationalise its economic success, this meant a disproportionate emphasis on Chinese culture.2 After smearing Chinese-educated political leaders for years as dangerous “Communists” or “communalists”, and effacing the use of Chinese dialects from official and educational discourses, the avowedly multicultural Singaporean state suddenly needed to demonstrate its Chinese credentials. It needed generic showcases for Chinese culture germane to nation-building objectives.

The well-known tiger balm brand in Singapore

Under the recommendations of tourism committees formed in 1983, such as the Tourism Task Force, and the Economic Research Associates, Haw Par Villa underwent a radical, ambitious transformation which aimed to make it the “Disneyland of the East”, to sell Chinese culture and folk mythology to tourists. Augmented by high-technology and the expertise of American consultants, the revamped Haw Par Villa: reconfigured, overhauled – and now dominated by a spectacular (and spectacularly incongruous) 60-metre dragon-shaped tunnel – reopened on 2 October 1990. Appropriated by the state for the tourist market, Tiger Balm Gardens became “Dragon World”.3 As academics Hong Lysa and Huang Jianli remark sardonically in their lushly detailed historical account of Haw Par Villa, the ambition of Dragon World was as spectacular as the subsequent financial fallout.4 After nearly 80 million dollars of start-up investments, Dragon World closed about a decade later in 2001, having suffered a loss of nearly 31.5million dollars. Numerous academic works: from fields as diverse as business studies, tourism and cultural geography, have mushroomed in an attempt to rationalise this rejection by market forces, ranging from Dragon World’s incongruous ‘East and West’ melding, to the high entrance fees charged.5

their own stories”. The success of Haw Par Villa as a visitor site remains to be seen, in the decades to come.

In a Singapore where rich languages and cultural backgrounds – much like our natural landscapes- have been flattened, manicured and trimmed to suit state-dictated national interests, it is an astonishing feat that Haw Par Villa has continued to exist. Eighty years after their inception, the Eight Immortals continue to duel with the Dragon King at his underwater court. The yakshas, resplendent in new coats of paint, happily dismember a hapless adulterer. The great tiger at the gate snarls in contented repose. Conclusion: Glimpsing Iconic Alternatives

The history of Haw Par Villa shows us that places can be icons of many things, depending on who wields the financial and political power to define. Under different owners, Haw Par Villa has been emblematic of wealthy philanthropy, Chinese folk culture and state policies.

Yet its chaotically exuberant, expressive dioramas are also delightfully iconoclastic outliers to the sanitised, ordered Singapore we are so used to. In the final analysis, it stands as an icon of a past only occasionally glimpsed through the stories of our grandparents; of a different Singapore dominated by other imaginations: other monsters, men and mythologies.

Ruizhi is a third-year history major at the National University of Singapore. He likes to listen to stories, even the ones which cannot be told by human beings. If the past is another country, and history A Return to Form? but myriad interpretations of the past, then studying history is just Under a reconceptualised framework, Haw Par Villa has another way to sate his wanderlust. It also give him an excuse to be since been repositioned again, this time with a focus on re- the biggest busybody he can be.

turning the Gardens back to its original appearance. Since the early 2000s, there has been an emerging emphasis by the Singapore Tourism Board to let the dioramas “tell their own stories”.6 The success of Haw Par Villa as a visitor site remains Singapore Tourism Board to let the dioramas “tell


1 Brandel, Judith, and Tina Turbeville, 1998, Tiger Balm Gardens, Hong Kong: Aw Boon Haw Foundation.

2 Huang, Jianli, and Lysa Hong, “Conscripting Chinese Diasporic Culture into National Identity: Taming of the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore” in The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008), p.215. 3 Ibid, p.219

4 Ibid, p. 220

5 Cultural geographers have examined themes such as the strategies of “Dragon World”, and the issues that come with heritage tourism through geographical lenses, such as in Teo, Peggy, and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, 1997, Remaking local heritage for tourism. Annals of Tourism Research 24 (1): 192-213; see also Yeoh, Brenda S. A., and Peggy Teo. 1996. “From Tiger Balm Gardens To Dragon World: Philanthropy And Profit In The Making Of Singapore’s First Cultural Theme Park”. Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography 78 (1): 27. To date, and to this writer’s knowledge, Hong and Huang’s work on Haw Par Villa remains the only published academic paper about the site written by local historians; even then, this paper tends to embed Haw Par Villa in the context of Singapore’s development as a sovereign nation-state, rather than to examine the Villa on its own, or to read it as an instance, and a text of cultural history. 6 Hong and Huang, “Taming of the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore”, p.220 31


And How He Became a Hippie Emily Eng | emuwie@gmail.com

Revered as the Son of God and Saviour in the Christian faith, one of the world’s largest and most powerful religions, the popularisation of Jesus Christ has made him a very recognisable figure.

However, a facial reconstruction done by Dr. Neave from University of Manchester in 2001, has debunked all the stereotypical presentations of Jesus Christ.1 His findings were based on three Semitic skulls from an archeological excavation in Egypt, and documented by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in a documentary series called “Son of God”. While his computer constructed images were not meant to depict Jesus Christ himself, it is believable that Jesus would have looked like a man of the same Galilean Semitic descent. Forget the hackneyed image of a pale, long-haired and bearded man with sharp features and piercing blue eyes, as seen in contemporary films like “Jesus of Nazareth”, “The Ten Commandments” and “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Jesus Christ as reimagined by science was a broad and tanned man with a large nose and plain, brown or black eyes, and none of the classical long tresses.2

While the Bible gives very little description of Jesus Christ, it does suggest that Jesus had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). He has had the knack of disappearing


into crowds. This is seen for example in John 5:13, “But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.” This suggests that despite being a man of great influence, Jesus seemed to have looked just like any typical Galilean Semite. Upon greater thought, it seems much more believable for Jesus to have had weather-worn features and short hair. Firstly, Jesus was born to a carpenter and had to help with the labour, which would make his locks extremely insensible. Also, the Bible suggests that men of the period mostly wore their hair short. In Corinthians 11:14, the Bible outrightly disapproves of men to wear their hair long: “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Cross referencing this to the earliest representations of Jewish men on Judaeua Capta Coins, captive men were indeed bearded and short haired.3

Later Byzantine artistic depictions of Jesus Christ presented Him as a younger version of Zeus, with long hair and a toga, giving him the “hippie” look that we now know.4 Of course, Jesus could never have worn a toga, but would likely to have been decked in himation instead, something that is similar, but rectangular in shape and unlikely to have shown off his chest as he would have had another mantle underneath.

Statues of young Zeus: some of his features were adopted in portrayal of Jesus

In most artworks after, the golden halo around Jesus’ head was also adopted from elsewhere- specifically a feature of Apollo the Sun God- in attempt to emphasize Jesus’ heavenly nature. If the Bible had never been specific with Jesus’ appearance, how is it that nativity images of Jesus drawn on our Christmas cards only depict him as a white baby with blue eyes and born to two typical Caucasian-looking parents? White-washing is not a new phenomenon, and as Christianity spread across Europe and the Americas, especially during times when being fair-skinned was an obvious privilege, we began to give Jesus attributes that we perceived as favourable.1 Afterall, enslavement of African Americans began way back in the 1600s and lasted till the 1800s, which led to the implicit “white” against “blacks” divide. With the domination of power in the hands of one race, and specifically one country in the years after World War II and the Cold War, the United States and Hollywood heralded so much soft power that it redefined the world’s cultural stereotypes. Perhaps, it is time for us to reverse this apparent “white-washing” and “hipster-fying” of Jesus, and come to realise that the real Jesus would have looked a whole lot different from what we have imagined. Perhaps, it is also time to dispel the “white” rhetoric, and this applies not just to sacred figures like Jesus Christ.

One might recall classic films embedded in Asian culture, like “The Last Samurai” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” being hijacked as well by whitewashing- and these are only the tip of the iceberg. Hollywood has had a great role to play institutionalising being “white” as the norm.

Of course, to any Christian, how Jesus looked has little to do with the influence he had on the people around him. Per-

haps that is why the Bible spends so little time trying to describe him at all. However, recent contentions over what some see as racism (one man tried to sue The Metropolitan Museum of Art for displaying whitewashed paintings of Jesus that he found offensive) show that race and image still has plenty to do with power and influence, and especially for an icon as powerful as Jesus Christ.⁶ Emily is a Year 1 student in FASS and intends to major in Communications and New Media. She has always loved history, and is particularly related in the history of religion, especially in Islam and Christianity. Endnotes 1 “The ‘real’ Face of Jesus Revealed.” NewsComAu. 2015. Accessed February 05, 2016. http://www.news.com.au/technology/ science/experts-use-forensics-tests-to-discover-what-jesuschrist-may-have-looked-like/news-story/9c9a08c91bbf4c5fa7c 0094022beb1dd. 2 “Jesus of Nazareth IIII.” Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth. Accessed February 20, 2016. http://www.excerptsofinri.com/ jesus_of_nazareth_iiii.html.

3 “What Did Jesus Really Look Like? - BBC News.” BBC News. Accessed February 05, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/ magazine-35120965. 4 “What Did Jesus Really Look Like? - BBC News.” BBC News. Accessed February 05, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/ magazine-35120965. 5 “Art: Whitewashing Jesus.” Newsweek. Accessed February 05, 2016. http://www.newsweek.com/art-whitewashing-jesus-105409.

6 “Met Accused of Whitewashing Baby Jesus.” New York Post. 2015. Accessed February 05, 2016. http://nypost.com/2015/12/06/ lawsuit-claims-jesus-is-too-white-in-met-paintings/.

Reconstructed image of a Semitic man from Israel, compared to a contemporary Jesus from “Jesus of Nazareth”.


Making it Rain:

Paper Offerings made for the Qing Ming Festival

Beatrice Chin|chinbeatrice@hotmail.com

In my childhood years, April marked not just monsoon rains, but also a household practice. I would come home from school to see my grandma sitting at the couch folding joss paper to form little ingots. To a younger me, this ritual resembled too much like origami to resist. I would spend afternoons rolling the square pieces of paper, each with a gold or silver foil pasted in the middle, adding to the pile of gold and silver ingots she had folded. We did this every year leading up to the annual Qing Ming Jie, folding paper currency and filling paper treasure chests. We included paper replicas of mansions, vehicles, servant dolls, goods and sundry alike for our deceased ancestors. In preparing paper offerings for Qing Ming, with time, I realized that I was engaging in an event that would resonate with many other Chinese Singaporean families.

Qing Ming Jie (清明节) is a festival of ancestral worship observed by Chinese Taoists, celebrated by visiting the resting places of ancestors, cleaning their tombstone and making offerings to them. Translated, Qing Ming means “clear and bright”, reminiscent of the qualities of springtime during which the festival is celebrated.1 Given that the Chinese typically associate springtime with vitality and renewal, the curious onlooker might question the practice of commemorating the dead during this season. However, it is precisely this contradiction between the etymology and purpose of the festival that reflects the significance of ancestral worship in Chinese culture best. Believing that the deceased are “intimately connected” with the living, Chinese descendants engage in this symbolic show of respect and filial piety towards their ancestors in hope of securing “abundant blessings” for the living in return.2 In essence, paper offerings become the mode of correspondence between ancestors and descendants, an arrangement to look


after members of the same descent regardless of the realm they exist in. To Chinese Taoist families like mine, paper offerings serve as unique visual icons in the practice of ancestral worship by symbolizing an act of remembrance of those who came before.

Of all the rituals and paraphernalia of Qing Ming, the paper offerings made for Qing Ming remain the most attention-grabbing, the most visually-impactful – the icons of the festival itself. Walk into any shop catering to these practices, and you might find yourself in a bizarre world: paper effigies of iPhones, supercars, and similar consumer products exist. Paper offerings lend the underworld a strong sense of realism, being premised on the notion that the underworld functions just as the living world does, and its inhabitants having desires that mirror those of contemporary Singaporeans. Beyond its novelty value, paper offerings may at times appear as astounding works of craftsmanship. While many items like bank notes and clothes are machine-made, experienced hands assemble other items like mansions, cars, and servant dolls. With painstaking effort, bamboo strips are cleaved open with a knife to form the structure of the paper objects.3 Structures are then embellished with intricate details, completed by individually piecing the various parts together using homemade glue.4 In retrospect, even the mechanization in production of banknotes and clothes can represent the sheer scale and demand for goods related to the practice of making paper offerings.

A sign of the significance of ancestral worship manifests itself as an annual jam of cars jostling to enter cemeteries and columbarium complexes.1 The annual jam holds up traffic so badly that the Land Transport Authority preemptively posts traffic warnings in the days leading up to the Qing Ming, while law enforcement makes special traffic arrangements.2 One major contributing factor for the extent of traffic congestion is the transport of bulky paper offerings. While varying in extravagance, paper offerings such as the aforementioned treasure chests containing banknotes and personal items can get rather bulky and sizable, making it virtually impossible for families to travel on foot with offerings in hand. Most travel by car or taxi, explaining the jams within. At the columbarium, a large part of the observance revolves around paper offerings as well. After a long series of prayers, the commemoration ends with what I find to be the most novel part: making the paper offering. This ritual was akin to mailing a parcel. First, names of the recipient ancestor and the living descendent making the offering are first filled out courier on a yellow strip of paper. Then, we paid for the safe passage of our offerings, with hell notes serving as stamps. For good measure, some extra hell notes are attached to the parcels – much like premiums paid for registered mail. Finally, a giant menacing furnace in the columbarium operates as the courier. Throw the paper offerings in the furnace, just as you would drop off mail in the posting box, burning the paper offerings, beginning its passage to the underworld.

ings, would watch as we made it “rain” on Qing Ming in two senses – ensuring the material comfort of our departed ancestors in the otherworld, and perhaps even physically contributing to the monsoon rains that sweep our island in April. Beatrice is a first-year History major at the National University of Singapore. She is interested in cultural studies and social histories, particularly under dictatorshipss. In her own time, she enjoys exploring, reading listicles, and spending her time with her dogs. Endnotes 1Stepanchuk, Carol, and Charles Wong. 1993. Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts: Festivals of China. Kuala Lumpur: S. Abdul Majeed. P. 61. 2 Tong, Chee-Kiong. 2004. Chinese Death Rituals in Singapore. New York: Routledge Curzon. P. 62, 69.

3 Tan, Jeremy. 6th June, 2011. Rediscover.sg: The Paper Builders. http://rediscover.sg/slice-of-life-the-paper-builders/

4 Ng, Joyce. 2 July 2014. Contented.cc: The man who makes iPads, homes, cars and servant dolls for the dead. http://contented. cc/2014/07/offerings-for-the-dead-ipads-and-weird-ghost-stories/ ⁵ Chia, Shimin. 4 April 2014. Asiaone.com: Qing Ming traffic jams are back. http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/qing-mingtraffic-jams-are-back

A Chinese poem on Qing Ming begins thus: 「清明时节 6 Singapore Police Force. 25 March 2011. Police.gov.sg: Traffic 雨纷纷 Qing Ming Shi Jie Yu Fen Fen」, referencing the arrangements for Qing Ming Observance Day 2011. http://www. monsoon rains that coincided with Qing Ming. Du Mu, the police.gov.sg/mic/2011/03/20110325_trafarr_qing_ming.html poet, probably thought as we did - we, who had made a yearly commitment to fashion and transport these offer-


The Ancestors That Keep Us Together– In Spirit Nurul Qistina Bte Fadhillah | qistinanurulburp@gmail.com


uring the Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore, the burning of offerings in wire cages is a common sight across the islad. However, is this festival a Buddhist tradition? It has been presented that way, but Taoists practise this too. Furthermore, this practice is common across Asia, be it in Japan (Obon) or even Vietnam (Vu Lan) – and those people are not always Buddhist, or even religiously-inclined1 either.

temple has erected a statue of Guan Yin, the bodhisattva310 of compassion, in their compound. Here, the paradoxical relationship is brought to light again – how can religions of vastly different origins coexist under the same banner? Again, it is due to syncretism, though the local custom of venerating historical individuals perceived to be important (i.e. ancestor worship) may have played a part too.

Syncretism refers to the fusion of religious practices from different religions, sometimes resulting in the creation of an entirely new religion.2 Over time, thousands have spawned worldwide, with notable ones being the increasingly popular Baha’i faith and Caodaism.

Let me clarify: it is not ancestor worship per se. Rather, it is the veneration of certain individuals perceived to have attained sainthood or divine-like qualities11 – much like the concept of ‘worshipping’ a boddhisattva. If you ever have the time, drop by the Central Business District: there is a keramat4 there, entombing Habib Noh, a local Sufi saint from the pre-Singapore era. Saint veneration is perceived as idolatry in most sects of Islam, since beings aside from God are worshipped. By far, only Sufi Islam and sections of Shi’a Islam are unopposed to this practice, and they are a tiny minority in Singapore’s predominantly Sunni population12 but unlike countries like Saudi Arabia, Singaporean Sunnis do not go around destroying keramats in the name of ‘religious orthodoxy’.13 Much like other religio-cultural sites, we celebrate them as cultural icons: as items that should be appreciated, rather than corrected - a choice we should consciously make more often.

How is this overlap possible? Ten letters: syncretism.

In Singapore, an example of this lies in ‘Chinese Buddhism’ – an improbable blend of Taoist, Confucian and Mahayana Buddhist practices3 – commonly understood as the defacto religion of the local Chinese.4 It is the main reason why ancestor worship, of all things, is carried out by some who identify as ‘Buddhists’, despite Buddhism being a nontheistic1 religion. Syncretic fusion dates back to the Han Dynasty of ancient China, where Indian missionaries introduced Buddhism to a civilisation suffused with Taoist and Confucian beliefs.256 It is vital to note that syncretism happens only when adherents consciously introduce these elements into their religion – ergo, it is not a passive or inevitable process.7 These religious elements are not necessarily compatible with the original religion, but if they are, it will certainly ease the adoption of these additional practices. Though it initially faced resistance from society,8 Chinese Buddhism eventually emerged after a few centuries in China, hinging on common values such as humility, compassion and filial piety, to name a few. This is, in itself, symbolic of how delineated Taoism and Buddhism have become in the creation of a uniquely ethnic religion – but the boundaries do not stop here. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion with a multitude of deities, and through these deities, Taoism and Hinduism converge as Hindu deities are adopted into the Taoist pantheon. In fact, this phenomenon is alive and well in Singapore: Chinese devotees frequent Sri Krishnan Temple in Waterloo Street to light joss sticks for the Hindu deities housed within.9 Even better, as a mark of respect, the


It may surprise you, but ancestor worship is present in Islam too.

Contrary to the eccentric Buddho-Tao-Hindu convergence, this brand of ancestor worship is restricted to within Islam itself, as the icons of worship are Islamic in origin. Then again, what is to say that this idea of saint worship in local Islam is not influenced by the Buddho-Tao-Hindu convergence? Or vice versa? At times, religion may seem monolithic and distinct, but noting can be further than reality. Syncretism is, at its most basic, a creative force; anathema to religious ‘conservatism’ which aims to homogenise practices by replicating what was done before by literally ‘going by the book’.14 But there is so much interaction happening between and within religions, because of the adherents themselves. Humanity is the reason why religion’s ideals and commandments may not correspond to how we practise it. In other words, what we perceive to be ‘Buddhist’ or ‘Hindu’ in Singapore may not be as such in other countries. We need not look far to see it played out in reality because examples exist even within Singapore.

Thanks to ancestor worship and syncretism, the notion of religious diversity in Singapore becomes far more meaningful precisely because even labels cannot capture the true extent of such diversity.15 To that, one has to wonder labels are necessary in the first place, because how can we measure infinitely different concepts with mere words? I may not have an answer to that, but I do know this: Ancestor worship is definitely an under-appreciated icon in Singapore. With how it transcends religious and ethnic boundaries, it may call attention for our commonalities in an age that emphasises differences. Qistina is a Year One Sociology major who plans to major in Social Work too. She spends her free hours writing fiction and wondering if a classless society will ever succeed in modern society. Endnotes 1 Lyon-Bestor, Victoria, Theodore C. Bestor, and Akiko Yamagata. Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society. (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011): 65 2 P S Goh, Daniel. “Introduction: Religious Syncretism and Everyday Religiosity in Asia” Asian Journal of Social Science 37(1) (2009): 5

3 Atiyah, Jeremy. The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia. (London: Rough Guides, 2005): 56

4 Sinha, Vineetha. “‘Hinduism’ and ‘Taoism’ in Singapore: Seeing Points of Convergence” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 39(1) (2008): 125,138

5 “Confucianism vs Taoism” Diffen, Accessed Feb 4, 2016. http: www.diffen.com/difference/Confucianism_vs_Taoism

6 “The Spread of Buddhism Among The Chinese.” Buddha Dharma Education Association & BuddhaNet. Accessed

Feb 4, 2016. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/ buddhistworld/china-txt.htm

7 Hoskins, Janet. “From Colonial Syncretism to Transpacific Diaspora. Re-Orienting Caodaism from Vietnam to California.” DORISEA Working Paper Series, (7) (2014): 4

8 Teiser, Stephen F. “The Spirits of Chinese Religion” In Religions of China in Practice, edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996):15. Accessed Feb 11, 2016, http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/cosmos/main/spirits_of_ chinese_religion.pdf

9 Naidu, Thulaja. “Sri Krishnan Temple.” NLB E-Resources, Accessed Feb 4, 2016. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/ articles/SIP_276_2004-12-24.html

10 “What is a bodhisattva?” wildmind buddhist meditation. Accessed Feb 4, 2016. http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/ bodhisattvas

11 Cheu, Hock Tong. “Malay Keramat, Chinese Worshippers: The Sinicisation of Malay Keramats in Malaysia” Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore Working Paper Series, (25) (1996): 4, 11. Accessed Feb 11, 2016, http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/malay/publications/working_ papers/CheuHT%20-%20Mly%20keramat%20Chinese%20 worshippers.pdf

12 Ibid: 6-7.

13 Power, Carla. “Saudi Arabia Bulldozes Over Its Heritage.” TIME, 14 November 2014. Accessed Feb 12, 2016. http://time. com/3584585/saudi-arabia-bulldozes-over-its-heritage/

14 Hoskins, Janet. “From Colonial Syncretism to Transpacific Diaspora. Re-Orienting Caodaism from Vietnam to California.” DORISEA Working Paper Series, (7) (2014): 3

15 “Global Religious Diversity: Half of the Most Religiously Diverse Countries are in Asia-Pacific Region” Pew Research Centre, April 2014. Accessed Feb 11, 2016. http://www.pewforum. org/files/2014/04/Religious-Diversity-full-report.pdf


DRAMA SERIES REVIEW Andy Ho | cherkee.ho@u.nus.edu


hat if the Axis Powers won WWII and occupied the United States? Amazon’s TV adaption of The Man in the High Castle by author Philip K. Dick paints the picture of a world on the brink of nuclear war. It is 1962 and superpowers Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany have inherited the global seats of power. The former, benefactors of the Pacific States of America to the West of the Rocky Mountains whilst the latter, in firm control of the Greater Nazi Reich to its East. The Reich’s technological edge over Imperial Japan has only heightened since WWII, granting it sole access to nuclear weaponry and rocket planes amongst other things. Hitler’s wishes have kept a terse peace between the two sides but his ailing health and his contrarian subordinates threaten an end to the status quo.

Peace and “normality” has returned barely two decades after the end of WWII. The old world is a sentiment. A new generation has grown up with the trappings of Japanese and Nazi dominion in every inch of life. American culture in the Pacific States have been thoroughly tamed by Japanese predilections; Japanese mannerisms and media are the norm. Similarly and more intensively, the Reich has grafted Nazi Germany onto its American subjects; Swastikas grace even public telephones. VA Day is celebrated as America’s liberation from decadence and degeneracy. The complete embrace of loaded icons like the Swastika and


the Japanese Rising Sun Flag by people of Alternate 1962 highlights the pliant nature of their meaning and value. It is in interpreting them that icons gain their weight, yet this says nothing about why Alternate 1962 differs so substantially from our world. Just what or who set the lens through which people of Alternate 1962 interpret their world?

Icons of power are ever-present in Alternate 1962. They work as much for the masters of that world as it does for us, the viewers. We, who are thrust into uncomfortable dissonance by the lengths to which ordinary people of Alternate 1962 have accepted the powers, the ideas and institutions that people of our reality know as evil and wretchedness. We, who are compelled to attempt an explanation to soothe the iota of confusion that suspending our disbelief does not writ away. The more jarring one’s viewing experience, perhaps the more one is subconsciously compelled to examine the place of symbolisms in our/their lives. They start as suggestions that grow into norms. Norms turn symbols into projections of meaning. Meaning spells subscription. Subscription further reinforces meaning. Icons feed Imperial Japan and the Reich which are all the better to feed their icons to the masses. Icons of power, religion, and culture craft the world as we know it, shape the lens through which we interpret our world. Yet it is our interpretation that craft these icons and imbue them with meaning and value. Our world understands the Swastika and the Rising Sun Flag

as controversial and nefarious, associated with despicable crimes against humanity, violence and discrimination amongst other things. But these very icons anchor the world of Alternate 1962, for they silently enforce the powers of the Japanese and the Germans and entrench the systems that they have crafted. Ultimately, these icons help to convey the alternate worldview and narratives that legitimise their masters. These alternative narratives then come to imbue these icons with their weight.

It is precisely so that aberrant icons are deeply disturbing to the alternate authorities. German and Japanese powers have taken great interest in a series of mysterious film reels linked to the Man in the High Castle which seems to depict realities different from Alternate 1962. When Juliana inadvertently glimpsed one such reel, her faith in Alternate 1962 is tested. Driven to uncover the meaning of what she had seen and the hope of a better reality, she is cast into the shadowy games of the superpowers and the resistance in a turn of events that has far-reaching implications down the road. The show’s elaborate sets and attention to detail has done well to craft a believable world. Honestly, the idea of that world is more interesting than anything else. Lovers of the novel should expect to be underwhelmed by the show’s plot which does not take much from the novel’s mystical and philosophical tendencies. In other words, the show feels at times to be yet another soppy American drama about people with feelings but with the great favour of a unique setting. It does not help that the acting sometimes degenerates into slightly cringe-worthy stiffness… yet that is more than compensated by great moments strewn over the length of the series. Scenes with Inspector Kido are particularly delightful and worthy of replay. All in all, The Man in the High Castle is a visual feast that more than makes up for its sub-stellar taste. The Man in the High Castle Season One is available for viewing on Amazon with an Amazon Prime subscription. A one-year free trial of Prime membership is available to all students with a @u.nus.edu e-mail address. A Second Season is under production.

Andy Ho is a 2nd year Economics undergraduate primarily interested in urban economics, sustainability and health. He usually does it with models.


POST NO BILLS Thoughts on the public sculptures of Plaza Singapura

Kenneth Tay | kennethtay@nus.edu.sg


s one of the oldest shopping malls in Singapore, Plaza Singapura might well be considered a veritable icon of Singapore. First opened in 1974, the mall has undergone several renovations and additions to its façade: a refurnishing in 1997, a major renovation between 2002 and 2003, and again most recently in 2012 when it was given a new look along with a major extension. However, more than just an icon perhaps, the history of Plaza Singapura contains, in its indexical relationship to Singapore, a history of Singapore’s appetite and relationship with consumerism in general.1 As a brief reading of just such a history, I’m interested in looking at the commissioned public sculptures that have accompanied and adorned Plaza Singapura at various stages. Public sculptures are often an index for a society at a particular point in time. The latest sculpture at Plaza Singapura, Jelly Belly Family by the Italian artist Mauro Perucchetti, features five translucent figures, presumably standing in for a nuclear family of five, cast in the popcandied colours of purple, red, orange, yellow and green. The sculpture is telling of contemporary Singapore’s aspiration for several reasons. Namely, our explicit relationship with consumerism, the emphasis of family against the falling birth rates, the increasingly diverse makeup of the


Singaporean society, and Singapore’s continued aspiration to be a global city (represented here in the choice of an international artist). In 1974, when Plaza Singapura was first opened, the mall had commissioned local artist Ng Eng Teng to produce a set of public sculptures which would mark the socio-economic development of Singapore since its independence in 1965.

For many who grew up in Singapore between the late 1970s and the early 1990s, Ng Eng Teng’s Wealth and Contentment became indistinguishable from Plaza Singapura itself. Wealth features a reclining female figure lying on her back, arms rested on her belly. Contentment features a female figure lying on her belly; her posture suggesting that she is floating languidly forward, rather than rushing head long into the future. Cast in ciment fondu (an aggregate made from industrial concrete which would have been abundant all-round in 1970s Singapore), the two iconic sculptures had become intimately tied to the social memories of the shopping mall. In being situated in what was then the newest, brightest and shiniest shopping mall in Singapore, they also performed a quiet critique of Singapore’s rapid development and acceleration. What accompanied a decade worth of rapid economic development was also this question of what to do with this new-found wealth. Wealth and Contentment marked precisely this point, that the day’s worth of hard labour needed to be channeled back into a

productive leisure of shopping and expenditure; it needed to be exchanged, in order to keep the Singaporean economy and society afloat.1

However, in 1997, the management of Plaza Singapura decided to re-evaluate the identity of the mall, and donated the two sculptures to NUS.2 Today, Wealth and Contentment are located at the University Cultural Centre (UCC) since 2002.3

In her article on The Straits Times dated 28 June 2011, Ong Soh Chin remarked that the relocation of Wealth and Contentment to NUS was, for her, “the equivalent of sending your aged parents to a nursing home”.4 It’s a curious metaphor, as it bears the imprint of a writer painfully aware of Singapore’s ageing population (and falling birth rates). But as Ahmad Mashadi writes, Ong’s article does not engage with the fact that public sculptures assume different lives (or afterlives) in different situations: the two relocated sculptures now mark, in proximity, the university museum’s Ng Eng Teng Collection.5

As icons that have been displaced several times now, we might trace in the history of Wealth and Contentment, together with the history of Plaza Singapura perhaps, a parallel history of Singapore’s changing attitude towards wealth, material comfort and the question of contentment. Singapore is today held in place by the massive network of submarine cables which ensures a constant connectivity to the integrated circuits of global finance. It is the constant movement of finance, of imported labour, and most recently even art (imported and exhibited), that has allowed Singapore to stay in place.6 Without which, Singapore would sculpted by a foreign artist. But perhaps, be impossible. Perhaps then, it is not surprising too that Ng Eng Teng’s Wealth and Contentment eventually found themselves replaced by Mauro Perucchetti’s Jelly Belly Family. Rather than sculptures made from ciment fondu, we are now greeted by an imported family of synthetic resin

as a parting point of speculation, what else might be said of the sculptures being translucent? The Ng Eng Teng Collection at the NUS Museum consists of over 1,100 drawings, sketches, paintings, ceramics, sculptures and figurines donated mainly by the artist between 1997 and 2000. A new exhibition, 1+1=1: Ng Eng Teng, which examines the artist’s practice as one haunted by the “digital” is opening in late February 2016. Simultaneously, CONCRETE ISLAND is an ongoing prep-room project at the NUS Museum which proposes to think of the city as a condition of movement, exchange and intensities. Endnotes See also Charles Sanders Pierce’s distinction between icon, index, and symbol in Semiotics and Significs, ed. Charles Hardwick (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977). 1

Though it would also be tempting to speculate on why the female figure is used by the artist for Wealth and Contentment.


Whether this has to do directly with the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis remains a point of debate.


Both sculptures still stand at the UCC today, where they often make guest appearances in the graduation photos of NUS students. 4

Ong Soh Chin, “Sculpting a National Identity”, The Straits Times, 28 June 2011. 5

Ahmad Mashadi, “’Sculpting a National Identity’ by ST’s Ong Soh Chin’ in NUS Museum blog, 13 July 2011. Accessed February 10 6

For more, see Kathleen Ditzig’s “The Currents of the ‘Current’” in CONCRETE ISLAND (Singapore: NUS Museum, 2016). 7


My personal icon is Kimberly Lim! Despite her rigorous training schedule, she works part time to fund her studies as well. Her grit and determination really inspires me to juggle both academic and non-academic activities better :)

A tiramisu cake. There’s no other cake like it - it looks fluffy and delicious, and tastes exactly as good as it looks. It might not be as pretty as a strawberry shortcake or fruit cake, but it undisputably contains more deliciousness and substance than the former two. Not to mention it surprises with some alcohol within sometimes. A popular dark horse that brings surprises that’s what I wanna be.

Serene Wong | Year 1, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Ng Jing Rou | Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

My personal icon is Disney character Elsa! Just like her I am optimistic, enthusiastic and always sees the good in people! ( Love to help people ) Adventure and romance is what I always long for. Tan Li Na | Year 1, Faculty of Science.

I love the study of Mathematics and so my personal icon is Terence Tao. He’s an extraordinary mathematician and a receiptent of the Fields Medal too (Nobel prize equivalent in Mathematics). He presented undeniable resilience in the pursue of Mathematics and that’s something that I would like to learn from him! Hongnan | Year 2, Faculty of Science

Li Nanxing, in The Unbeatables 2. I’ve always wanted to use $10 (well, $110 in Singapore) to win over a whole casino.

Marcus Tan | Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


John Mayer. Gift of blues, and the go-to album of where the light is when I’m down. Ryan | Year 2, Faculty of Business


Walt Disney! I look up to him because he gave life to a whole world of imagination and created my favourite animations of all time. He also inspires me with his quotes. One that currently resonates most strongly with me is, “If you can dream it, you can do it”. This quote pushes me to be more than I think I am amidst the stressful yet fulfilling university life. Adeline Chew | Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Haruki Murakami, because his work transcends normality in the most simplistic manner.

To celebrate the recent announcements on the release of the new Pokemon version, I pick Satoshi Taijiri, one of the two creators of Pokemon. He is an inspiration to people who want to follow their dreams and is a symbol of persistence and creativity.

Lim Su-Yi | Year 1, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

QL | Year 2, Faculty of Science

To tie in with this issue’s theme of icons, we asked readers who or what their personal icons are. It is always interesting to see what inspires people, and from the editor’s desk, even more fascinating to find them in the most unexpected characters or things!

Charles Xavier from X-Men, because he has the strength of inner character and inspires those he leads to do the right thing! A leader worth following. Pang Jun Xiang | Year 3, Faculty of Business

Saitama from One Punch Man! Despite his ability to defeat anyone with one punch (hence the name), he remains humble and is a hero for fun without any malicious agenda. Chng Shao Kai | Year 1, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

My mum! She’s such a strong woman!

Ivy Heng | Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Mine would be the late, great comedian George Carlin, a champion of nihilists and cynics alike. Through the use of wordplay, observational humour and a liberal dose of profanity, he bashed popular culture and sacred cows without mercy. His routines made me laugh, question my sanity, and most importantly, think. Goh Swee Yik | Year 1, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

I’d like to be represented as a giraffe. A gentle giant, unassuming, yet magnificent.

Timotty Tay | Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Peter Pan he’s someone who is adventurous and daring yet also isn’t entirely reckless. He is also a kind character and I like how he embodies childhood :)

Valerie | Year 2, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Profile for HISSOC Publications

Mnemozine: Issue Nine  

A publication of National University of Singapore's History Society

Mnemozine: Issue Nine  

A publication of National University of Singapore's History Society

Profile for mnemozine