Not many Singaporeans know that Shuang Lin Monastery, the familiar landmark at one end of Toa Payoh, once played a significant role in the building of the Burma Road. In the 1930s, volunteers from around Southeast Asia were trained to drive at the monastery before they were sent to the Burma Road to transport material to China in the Sino-Japanese War.
Linking Burma and China, the Burma Road was used to ferry equipment and war material in support of China in the 1937 war between China and Japan. Cutting through rough mountain country and stretching 1,130 km long, it played a crucial logistical role in suppyling Chinese forces striking at the invading Japanese army.
That’s a lesson in history that we learnt from one of our Lee Kong Chian Research Fellows, one of the first two researches who completed the Fellowship recently. In this issue of BiblioAsia, you will get to see what they did, in two extracts from their papers that they presented soon after completing their research. The other feature explores the early education of Malayan gentlemen by British colonials. In case you think it is just another piece of research on early education, be prepared to be surprised: you’ll find that education in the 1800s wasn’t as straightforward as it would seem. The educators certainly had more than good English in mind, when they wrote textbooks and tried to teach locals the finer points of the English language.
The two research projects show how much benefit the Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship has brought to the National Library since we launched it in 2005. With their specific areas of interest and dedication, Lee Kong Chian Research Fellows have added to the field of research in Singapore, filling gaps in the National Library’s collections and adding to the veritable wealth of heritage and archival information on local history. The Fellowship has also helped us to develop the capability of reference librarians, and boosted the use of our heritage collections.
It is certainly what we hoped for when we launched the Fellowship. Open to local as well as overseas researchers who plan to make use of the excellent collections and facilities in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, the Fellowship is part of our efforts to establish the National Library as a preferred stop for Asian content. It welcomes researchers with interests in a wide range of topics. For proof, look out for papers and articles from more Research Fellows in subsequent issues of BiblioAsia, and you’ll see what we mean.
Other interesting topics coming your way include knowledge management in schools, and the influence of the Chinese press in the region on Chinese culture and ethnicity. But why wait for the articles to be published in BiblioAsia? Come down to the National Library to watch and hear the next batch of Research Fellows present their findings in person. At the sessions, you’ll get the chance to interact with them and ask them to follow-up questions on their research. It’s all part of the National Library’s interactive approach to learning and to stimulate a greater interest in research. Do look our for news on the next presentations on the NLB website at https://www.nlb.gov.sg/main/home.
This issue of BiblioAsia promises more than research pieces from the Fellowship. We continue to feature articles based on the collections in the National Library, to give you a glimpse into the rich heritage collections that we have in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. You’ll get to learn more about Indian festivals in Singapore, and find out about how people borrowed money in the early days of this country. Long before Shenton Way filled up with banks and ATM machines, the business district - as it was then - was already abound with opportunities and avenues for aspiring businessmen and hopeful investors to raise some capital for their businesses. Not all were official of course, but they certainly worked. Want to find our more? Visit our website, explore the Digital Library, or come down to the library for a closer look.
And, of course, if you are not inspired to do a little research of your own, I would like to encourage you to think about becoming a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow yourself. The details and application forms are available at all reception counters in all community and regional libraries, and also on our NLB website https://www.nlb.gov.sg/main/home. The next intake closes in August, so there’s still plenty of time. Meanwhile, happy reading!
Ms Ngiah Lek Choh