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This exhibition features learning from the Southern Fujian fieldtrips made in AY2018-2019 by students from the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore. Taking advantage of the immediate visual association with Thian Hock Keng, this site-specific exhibition highlights the connection between this predominant Hokkien temple in Singapore and the ancestral houses in Nan'an built by Towkay Lim Loh (Major-General Lim Bo Seng's father).
It features Chinese architectural influences in Singapore, as well as how the unique style and sense of aesthetics of Nanyang (South Seas) had been brought by the early settlers to their hometowns in Fujian. To commemorate Major-General Lim Bo Seng’s 75th death anniversary, this exhibition provides vignettes to his little known family life and attempt to piece together a richer picture of one of Singaporean’s well-known martyr.
What is the link between Thian Hock Keng and Lim Loh House?
Since 1840, Thian Hock Keng has been the spiritual centre of Hokkien community, and a prime example of Hokkien architecture in Singapore. In 1906, Thian Hock Keng underwent a large-scale renovation, during when decorative and flooring tiles were installed. Almost at the same time, Lim Loh built his ninety-nine room house in hometown Houpu, Nan’an. There is an old saying in Southern Fujian: “One may have wealth as much as Lim Loh, but one will not have a house like his!”, referring to the extraordinary architecture of Lim Loh’s house. The tiles used in Thian Hock Keng were also found in Lim Loh House. This coincidence shows his preference for this kind of architectural ornament, and therefore the influence of Nanyang in Fujian.
Who is Lim Loh?
Born in Houpu, Nan’an, Lim Loh (1852~1929) was a self-made man. He migrated to Malaya at a young age and became a successful building contractor, businessman and philanthropist. He was active in Chinese community and led the construction of many landmarks in Singapore. War hero Lim Bo Seng was his 11th son.
War Hero Lim Bo Seng and His Sacrifice
“General Lim was born in China. He came to Malaya when he was still a boy and made for himself a good name in business as well as in the political fields in Singapore. He fought for this land of his adoption, and he died for the freedom of Malaya.”
Lim Keng Lian
Chairman of Maj.-Gel. Lim Bo Seng Memorial Committee
29 June 1954
Lim Bo Seng's Birthplace and the Education He Received
Lim Bo Seng (1909~1944) was born and grew up in Lim Loh House, Nan’an. To nurture and educate his descendents, Lim Loh had the family maxims inscribed on the walls of the main hall, which was situated on the second level of the Stacked Block. The writings were quotes from Zhu Bolu’s “Maxims for Managing the Home”.
Significane of Lim Loh House
Lim Loh house shows excellent art-crafting, creative solutions to technical challenges and experimental use of vernacular materials to achieve western detailing. The House's ornamentation, design motifs, use of materials and building technique are indications of Nanyang influence. The study of Lim Loh House enables better understanding of the architecture history in Singapore.
Southern Fujian Fieldtrip
Historic buildings are physical links to our past. Revisiting hometown of our forefathers, we listened to stories in the past and gained insights to philosophy and world views of a generation that has helped built modern Singapore. These stories, told through memorabilia and architecture, are little known beyond local communities. Our fieldtrips in Southern Fujian provided a rare opportunity to study our forefathers' personal relationships with their hometowns. We hope that more people will visit their ancestral places where there are shared memories and common heritage.
Three Key Aspects of the Field Study
华侨宅邸 OVERSEAS CHINESE HOUSE
The three golden joys of an overseas Chinese is to build a house, grave and school in one’s hometown. We visited several overseas Chinese houses built in different periods of time by Hokkien from Singapore, including Lim Loh House, Teng Mah Seng House, Pan Shou House, Ng Aik Huan House, etc.
传统技艺 TRADITIONAL CRAFTSMANSHIP
The delicate art of stone carving, the tradition of timber architecture and the craft of making traditional straw raincoats are examples of excellent craftsmanship that still exists in rural areas of Fujian.
文化特征 CULTURAL IDENTITY
Embedded deep within the soils of townships and villages are distinct cultural and historical characteristics. Yet people are often unaware that such common and everyday lives showcase the beauty and uniqueness of rural landscape.
Pan Shou House
Pan Shou House in Nan’an comprises three blocks that are connected by two courtyards and flanked by two rows of annex buildings. The first block is the ancestral hall, while the inner two blocks are mainly residential, built by his father, Dr Pan Yongzhang. The residential blocks were built with Nanyang influence. Though abandoned and deteriorated, the scale of this complex remains impressive.
Teng Mah Seng House
Teng Mah Seng House is an example of a typical overseas Chinese residence in Southern Fujian. Funded by Mr Teng, his elder sister completed the hosue in 1949. The front part of the house was built in traditional Southern Fujian style, while the back part incorporated influences from Nanyang. The house was built with a juxtaposition of modern concrete and traditional timber/brick construction.
Ng Aik Huan House
黄奕欢故居落成于一九七六年，为一进五开间的传统闽南建筑，正中厅堂供奉祖先牌位，包括其父母，宅邸内有多幅由潘国渠 （潘受 ）题写的对联匾额。黄潘两人是挚友。
Completed in 1976, Ng Aik Huan House is typical Southern Fujian Style architecture with one courtyard and five bays. The ancestors’ tablets, including his parents’, were worshipped in the main hall. In the house, several couplets written by Pan Guoqu (Pan Shou) were inscribed onto the pillars and carved on plaques. Ng and Pan were good friends.
Jimei and Nanyang
Jimei in Xiamen was the hometown of Mr Tan Kah Kee (1874~1961). Since 1913, he had founded several educational instituions there. Comprising schools from kindergarten to college, Jimei Study Village is considered both an educational hub and a testament to Tan Kah Kee’s legacy. Reflected in the similar architectural style adopted in the school buildings is the strong relationship between Jimei and the history of Singapore education.
Located in Hui’an (currently Quanzhou-Taiwan Economic Zone), Baiqi is the only ethnic minority town of the Hui people in Fujian Province. The majority of its population has the surname of Guo. Hundreds of Baiqi Guo people migrated and settled in Singapore. Baiqi is one of the villages in Baiqi Town. The best way to experience Baiqi’s rich natural ecology, historical architecture and ethnic Hui culture is by foot.
Overseas Chinese Fasion
In Southern Fujian, overseas Chinese families preferred to decorate the important facade of their houses and the floor with imported colourful tiles. Influeced by people who had returned from Nanyang, they also favoured furniture with exotic motifs and intricate carvings, showing their dream for the Nanyang life.
Singapore Lam Ann Association (Fieldtrip & Publication)
Singapore Hui Ann Association (Fieldtrip)
Mr. Daniel Teo Tong How (Publication)
Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (Exhibition)
Thian Hock Keng (Exhibition)
Urban Redevelopment Authority (Exhibition)
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About ON-LABO 在线工坊
To promote research and conservation of overseas Chinese heritage
What we do
Research + Design + Education
研究 + 设计 + 教育