One of the pleasures of working in the National Library is that we are located in the Bugis area. There are plenty of shopping and eating options all within walking distance. As you might have guessed, Bugis Street got its name from the Bugis who came to Singapore and settled in the area. But what you may not know is that the Bugis settlement dates back to the 1820s and sprang from a misunderstanding during a royal wedding in Riau. Benjamin J.Q. Khoo’s lively essay takes us back 200 years to a wedding celebration gone terribly wrong that arguably altered the course for Singapore.
The National Library is also not far from one of the deepest underground places you can publicly access: Bencoolen MRT station. At 43 metres below the surface, this is Singapore’s deepest MRT station. Modern technology allows us to burrow deep but even in the mid-19th century, people were already creating structures below the surface, as Lim Tin Seng uncovers.
This year being the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, we have two essays about World War II. In the first piece, Janice Loo visits the Kranji War Cemetery and writes movingly about those buried or remembered there. The other essay by Lee Meiyu and Seow Peck Ngiam is in Chinese, and looks at the items relating to the Japanese Occupation period that have been donated to the National Library.
While on the subject of violence, we also have a story by Choo Ruizhi on the acts of terror committed in Singapore by the Communist Party of Malaya. While most people are aware of the Malayan Emergency, and of the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, few remember that the Communist Party was also active in the 1970s.
On a more peace-led note, don’t miss Kelvin Tan’s essay on how Chinese Buddhist women were behind some of the early iconic vegetarian restaurants in Singapore.
There are also interesting essays on the late forensic pathologist Chao Tzee Cheng by Goh Lee Kim, Chinese and Japanese photo studios in prewar Singapore by Zhuang Wubin, the forgotten history of Sennett Estate by Winnie Tan and the story of how Singapore Airlines took flight as told by Ang Seow Leng.
Plenty to read as usual in this issue so buckle up and enjoy the ride!