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Rebuilding the Ancestral Village

Singaporeans in China

Khun Eng Kuah-Pearce

Publication Year: 2010

This work illustrates the relationship between one group of Singaporean Chinese and their ancestral village in Fujian, China. It explores the reasons why the Singaporean Chinese continue to maintain ties with their ancestral village and how they reproduce Chinese culture through ancestor worship and religion in the ancestral village. In some cases, the Singaporeans feel morally obliged to assist in village reconstruction and infrastructure developments such as new roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. Others help with small-scale industrial and retail activities. Meanwhile, officials and villagers in the ancestral home utilize various strategies to encourage the Singaporeans to revisit their ancestral village, sustain heritage ties, and help enhance the moral economy. This ethnographic study examines two geographically distinct groups of Chinese coming together to re-establish their lineage and identity through cultural and economic activities

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. vii-ix

Since the publication of the first edition of this book in 2000, the relationship between the Chinese Diaspora and their qiaoxiang has intensified and the transnational linkages have grown stronger. Such relationship has spread to the north where new migrants from such places as Wenzhou, Hubei and Hunan have also returned to their ancestral villages and helped with village ...

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Acknowledgements to the Second Edition

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pp. xi-xii

... I am indebted to a lot of people who have been most helpful and made it possible for me to carry out the research and see the completion of this book. I would like to record my gratitude to the informants in both Singapore and Anxi for opening their hearts and doors to constant questionings and probing. They have been most gracious in their answers. The names appeared in this ...

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Note on Romanization

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pp. xiii-15

Chinese terms and place names are transliterated using the Hanyu Pinyin system in the text. Some terms and names commonly used by the informants are romanized according to the Fujian dialect and are identified with an [H] immediately following the term. A list of the romanized terms and names, their ...


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pp. xv-xvi

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-28

This book is a study of the relationship between two groups of Chinese, the Singapore Chinese and their village relatives in Anxi County, Fujian. It covers the Singaporeans’ search for their cultural roots in their ancestral home villages in Anxi, which has resulted in the revival of their Chinese lineage. Anxi County is popularly known as a district of emigrant ...

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2 Constructing a Singapore Chinese Cultural Identity

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pp. 29-53

The changing political and moral order has brought about a renewed search for individual identity, be it ethnic or cultural. As migrant communities throughout the world settle into their countries of adoption and as younger generations become identified with these countries, diaspora experiences are replaced by a sense of affiliation within the boundaries of nation-states. ...

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3 The Ancestral Village in Anxi County

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pp. 55-70

Having settled permanently in Singapore and assumed Singapore Chinese identity, a group of Singapore Chinese are now searching for their cultural roots in Penglai Zhen in Anxi County. Penglai Zhen officially comprises the market town and 31 administrative villages, but continues to be divided by local inhabitants into several precincts named according to the natural terrain ...

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4 Negotiating Collective Memories and Social Experiences

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pp. 71-99

Since the nineteenth century, emigrants have moved out of Fujian to Nanyang and elsewhere in search of better economic opportunities, and a large number moved to Malaya and Singapore and settled there. After World War II, another 20,000 Anxi villagers immigrated to Singapore. Today, the number of emigrants from Anxi to Singapore and their descendents totals 185,309, or ...

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5 The Moral Economy of Rebuilding the Ancestral Village

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pp. 101-129

The qiaoxiang villages of Fujian and Guangdong have been the recipients of wealth and assistance from their Chinese overseas relatives since the 1978 reform. It has been a policy of the central government to encourage not only remittances but also contributions from Chinese overseas for village infrastructure and economic development. ...

Color Insert

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pp. 148-151

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6 The Bond of Ancestor Worship

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pp. 131-162

With the coming of the Singapore Chinese after the reform years, the social and cultural life of the villagers became more colourful and exciting. The period from the 1980s to the late 1990s witnessed a revival in both traditional socio-cultural and religious activities. Much cultural life now centres around three types of worship: (i) that of the ancestors, which involves the ancestral ...

Color Insert 2

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pp. 184-189

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7 Religious Revivalism

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pp. 163-187

Chinese religious orthodoxy is an important part of Singapore-Chinese socio-religious life. One of the earliest social institutions established by the Chinese in Singapore was the temple. Since then Singapore Chinese have continued to hold Chinese religious practices, both individually and communally. Today, Chinese ritual ceremonies and religious fairs continue to be part of the ...

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8 Rewriting Genealogy and Reclaiming One’s Cultural Roots

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pp. 189-215

For many members of the Ke Lineage, inclusion in the lineage genealogy constitutes the ultimate goal in reclaiming one’s cultural roots. The final task is thus the addition and rewriting of the genealogy (xiupu, 修譜, literally, mending the genealogy), as this establishes one’s membership, position and social status, and expounds on one’s achievements within the lineage. ...

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9 Chinese Lineage as a Cultural Network

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pp. 217-240

When the Singapore members of the Ke lineage visit their ancestral home in search of ancestral and cultural ‘roots’, they inevitably feel a renewed sense of lineage identity. They are forced, whether they like it or not, to acknowledge the existence of the other branches of the lineage. ...

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10 Conclusion: From Lineage to Transnational Chinese Network

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pp. 241-249

In this book, I have explored the relationship between the Singapore Chinese and their qiaoxiang. For the Singapore Chinese, visiting their qiaoxiang is a journey in search of ancestral and cultural roots. This search is facilitated by the fact that there continues to be a sizeable number of elderly first-generation Chinese migrants in Singapore, and they have played a large part ...


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-261


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pp. 263-273


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pp. 275-279

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053667
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028818

Page Count: 308
Illustrations: 19 colour and b/w photos
Publication Year: 2010