Lim Jen Erh

Director, Grassroots Book Room

Lim Jen Erh was previously a journalist and editor of Lianhe Zaobao's Fukan section. He is currently the director of independent bookstore Grassroots Book Room.

Traditional Chinese dancers in full costume. (iStock)

How the Chinese learned dance and music before there was YouTube or TikTok

Former journalist Lim Jen Erh reflects on two boxes of old books he chanced upon, containing dance manuals and guqin scores. Before the advent of technology, these old volumes were the only way to pass on such knowledge and instructions, which makes them invaluable today.
The woodcut of a satay seller at work, given to the writer. (Lim Jen Erh)

The stories behind the woodcuts

A gift from a friend prompts former journalist Lim Jen Erh to think about the stories behind the scenes depicted in woodcuts, from simple days in school to the final days of the tongkangs on the Singapore River, and the artform that can be traced back to China, especially the modern woodcut illustration movement led by literary giant Lu Xun in the 1930s.
A sketch of the photo of Tai Tong Hoi Kee Restaurant by the writer.

Large steamed meat buns: A flavourful memory of old Singapore

Former journalist Lim Jen Erh remembers the delicious da rou bao or large steamed meat buns he used to scarf down as a kid. They don’t make them like they used to, but the memory of its luscious taste is intact, triggered instantly by old photographs of bustling teahouses of old Singapore.
Old Chinese-language textbooks featuring language and math.

What old Chinese textbooks say about life and times in Singapore

Former journalist Lim Jen Erh gets nostalgic about the Chinese textbooks he used growing up in Singapore. He remembers the illustrations depicting daily life in the 1960s and 1970s, not to mention historical events and the larger social milieu. In fact, the textbooks are not only a window into times past but a peek into the minds of those who wrote and studied them.
An illustration and text by the writer. (Lim Jen Erh)

My secret manuals of life

Former journalist Lim Jen Erh describes his habit of carrying a notebook with him and filling them with his thoughts and doodles. For him, this process is as rigorous and rewarding as writing “secret manuals” of life. Rather than finding secret formulas to live by, he composes them for himself, leaving a trail of clues to look back and ruminate on as life goes on.