Passage of Time (致读者)

The book trade in Singapore has a long history and can be traced back to the late 19th century. The appearance of Kelly & Walsh bookstore (英商别发印书馆) in 1881 at Raffles Place marked the beginning of Singapore’s bookstore industry.

Passage of Time Singapore Bookstore Stories 1881-2016 (致读者 : 新加坡书店故事 1881-2016) narrates a historical picture of publishing, culture, literature and education in Singapore over 135 years. While the book contains information about 500 bookstores, its main focus is on the histories of 50 bookstores that are representative of Singapore’s book industry, from the age of the five major Chinese bookstores to the development of local textbooks to the decline of the local bookstore industry and the emergence of independent bookstores.

The content of this book is divided into five parts: Genesis, Chronicle, Stories, Memories and Listing. Genesis introduces the book’s origins in the “irememberBookstores” campaign under the Singapore Memory Project by the National Library Board. In this campaign, the Chou Sing Chu Foundation started collecting local bookstores’ stories in early 2013, an undertaking to honour the history of Singapore’s book industry. Chronicle traces the 135 years of Singapore’s bookstore industry through four distinct periods, namely the Pioneer Era (1881-1920), the Era of Localism (1921-1950), the Golden Era (1951-1970) and the Modern Era (1971-2016). Stories captures the accounts of 50 bookstores including five major Chinese bookstores, four major English bookstores and numerous other bookstores that spread out into five regions of Xiao Po, Da Po as well as Western, Northern and Eastern Singapore. These narratives are arranged in chronological order according to the year of the founding of the bookstores. Memories consists of nine prominent figures, both local and international, sharing their stories of visiting bookstores and reading. They are Wang Gungwu (王赓武), Choo Thiam Siew (朱添寿), Toh Lam Huat (杜南发), Zhang Ren Feng (张人凤), Kit Chan (陈洁仪), Tan Kay Ngee (陈家毅), Linden Tsai-Chueh Lin (林载爵), Hou Ming (侯明) and Huang Shujun (黄淑君). The fifth part, Listing provides an extensive list of approximately 500 Chinese, English, Malay and other language bookstores with useful information of their founders, established years and addresses in Singapore through the years.

Map of bookstores found along North Bridge Road – Beach Road

This book was published in 2016 by Chou Sing Chu Foundation (周星衢基金), a non-profit organization, in Chinese and English. Established in 2004, the Foundation is founded by Popular Holdings Group CEO, Mr Chou Cheng Ngok, in honour of his late father, Mr Chou Sing Chu (1905-1986) – founder of Cheng Hing Company (正兴公司), World Book Company (世界书局) and Popular Book Company (大众书局). The Foundation aims to promote the Chinese language, culture and education.

Besides this book, there are others published by the Foundation and some of these can be found in NUS Libraries: 开卷有益, 润物无声 : 东南亚早期华文课本图示目录 (Pages That Opened Our Minds: A Pictorial Catalogue of Early Chinese Textbooks in Southeast Asia) (2014); 开卷有益, 润物无声 : 新加坡华文教科书图示目录 1902-2015 (Pages That Opened Our Minds: A Pictorial Catalogue of Chinese Textbooks in Singapore 1902-2015) (2017); 开卷有益, 润物无声 III : 东南亚早期华文课本(世界书局版)图示目录 (Pages That Opened Our Minds III: A Pictorial Catalogue of Early Chinese Textbooks in Southeast Asia) (2020); 世界儿童, 童心永远 (World Children-Forever Young) (2014); and the Sing Chu Children’s Collection of Chinese picture books.


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