One Hundred Years’ History of the Chinese in Singapore

Book cover

One Hundred Years’ History of the Chinese in Singapore is a 600-page classic that chronicles the contributions of the Chinese community, and the development, progress and prosperity of Singapore between 1819 to 1919.

The book is a compilation of anecdotes centred on the movers and shakers who had contributed to the social, economic, political, educational and religious life of colonial Singapore, the successive generations, their livelihood, public services, recreations and festivities.

Dr Lim Boon Keng’s Mandarin Class

A Chinese Bride & Bridegroom With Their Pages

The author, Song Ong Siang (1871-1941), was himself an influential figure. Born in Singapore, he was the first ever Asian in Singapore to be knighted and was held in esteem throughout the colony. Song distinguished himself as a scholar, a lawyer, legislator and a prominent member of the Straits Chinese community. Originally, Song was tasked to contribute a chapter about the Chinese in Singapore for One Hundred Years of Singapore, to mark Singapore’s centenary. The editors later decided the Chinese, who are the dominant community in Singapore, deserved a volume of its own. Due to the lack of written records, Song relied heavily on the back volumes of two local newspapers, the Straits Times and the Singapore Free Press in collating the materials for the history. Song divided his book into 12 chronological chapters and modelled the accounts of events on Charles Burton Buckley’s An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore.

A portrait of Mr & Mrs Song Ong Siang inside the cover

The book with no less than 185 portraits and illustrations remains today as an invaluable reference work, packed with facts, on the history of Chinese in Singapore. It was first published in English by John Murray in London in 1923 and the original copy is preserved as part of our rare collection.

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