Unless one is of a certain age today, one would probably not have etched wax paper or made printings from them. Hua Language Centre director Chew Wee Kai recalls the days of painstakingly preparing sheets of wax paper full of the memories of youth.
An evening musing over an old wooden box of books prompted Hua Language Centre director Chew Wee Kai to embark on a personal journey of discovery into the history and legacy of the book box.
Looking back on the history of Union Book Co, one of Singapore’s oldest Chinese language bookstores, editor-in-chief of the Chinese Media Group Lee Huay Leng muses that Singapore has always been a crossroads of different cultures and thinking. Even today, the challenge is to remain open yet stay vigilant against competing influences. Responding with Singapore’s national interest at heart is the mark of a nation’s confidence.
With the arrival of a swanky new Chinese bookshop/gallery/cafe in the heart of town, Teo Han Wue recalls that such integrated spaces are hardly new in Singapore’s history. Several Chinese bookshops in the past held art exhibitions within their premises and were often the stomping ground of artists and the arterati. What were these art salons of days gone by like?
In December 2020, family and friends of Shanghai Book Co Ltd produced a commemorative book of the now-defunct bookstore. Founded in 1925, Shanghai Book Co Ltd played a pivotal role in shaping the consciousness of Chinese-speaking Singaporeans in the 1950s. It was a meeting point of ideas and voices, not only from greater China, but within Southeast Asia. In fact, it had helped to nurture the budding interest of Chinese-speaking young students in Malay language and culture. Teo Han Wue recounts how this bookshop in North Bridge Road, easily stereotyped as Chinese-centric, became instead an emblem of openness and cultural diversity.