Treasures of the Clans: An Exhibition Featuring Over 80 Paintings and Calligraphy Works from Various Clans in Singapore – The A-List

Treasures of the Clans: An Exhibition Featuring Over 80 Paintings and Calligraphy Works from Various Clans in Singapore – The A-List

You’ve probably seen traditional Chinese artworks on display at museums or online, but do you know the stories and inspirations behind them?

In a collaboration between the Singapore Chinese Culture Centre (SCCC) and the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), the Treasures of the Clans exhibition will showcase over 80 paintings and calligraphy works from the 16 Chinese clan associations in Singapore.

Running until 31 Jul at SCCC, the exhibition is a part of Cultural Extravaganza 2022.

Take yourself on a journey through history and discover the backgrounds of prominent clans – some having existed before Singapore was founded – and learn the stories behind the magnificent pieces displayed by each clan, together with intriguing information about the artists and their thought processes.

The A List has put together a brief history of the clans and a glimpse of a few paintings that are on display at the exhibition.

History of the clans

The first known Chinese clan association, the Cho Kah Koon, was thought to be established in 1819 for Cantonese immigrants with the surname Cho. It was founded by Chow Ah Chey, a carpenter who was on board the same ship as Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles himself.

As the island of Singapore was an unknown territory back then, Chow volunteered to go on shore to explore the island. This act of bravery was rewarded by Raffles in the form of a piece of land, upon which the first Chinese clan association was built.

Over the years, more Chinese clan associations started forming – more out of need than a want. Due to the lack of governance in the past, Chinese immigrants chose to band together with those of similar backgrounds. Founding clans helped one another while creating a sense of community for their kin. Eventually, the clans evolved to become the established associations recognised by the Government that we know today.

While their doors are open to people of all backgrounds, they continue to maintain their cultural ties to their dialects and now serve to preserve the history of their ethnic roots through various means such as outreach programmes, education, and art exhibitions.

A glimpse into the clans and their works

1. Choo Clan Association

Goldfish by Mr Choo Keng Kwang (1931-2019)
Goldfish by Choo Keng Kwang (1931-2019)

The Choo Clan Association was established 75 years ago but has origins dating back to more than one hundred years ago. For the Treasures of the Clans exhibition, they have contributed a painting by their late advisor, Choo Keng Kwang, titled Goldfish. The artwork’s beauty lies in its technique, and many regarded it as emblematic of the synthesis between Western and Chinese aesthetics.

Learn more about the Choo Clan Association and their artworks here.

2. Kim Mui Hoey Kuan

Coast of Changi by Shi Wu (1906-1984)
Coast of Changi by Shi Wu (1906-1984)

Although Kim Mui Hoey Kuan was officially registered in 1927, its pioneering members were known to have arrived in Singapore in the 1860s. During its earlier years, it focused on building its locale’s infrastructure.

Presently, Kim Mui Hoey Kuan strives to preserve its temple’s heritage by conserving its traditional values. They have five pieces on display at the exhibition by renowned clansmen artists, one of which is Shi Wu’s Coast of Changi. The artwork features coconut and banana trees, which are said to be a fixture in traditional local Chinese artworks.

Learn more about Kim Mui Hoey Kuan and their artworks here.

3. Teo Yeong Huai Kuan

Racing Horse by Choo Keng Kwang (1931-2019)
Racing Horse by Choo Keng Kwang (1931-2019)

Teo Yeong Huai Kuan was set up in 1926 by the many Chaoyang pioneers who came to Singapore to earn a living over 100 years ago.

Over the years, they have established clan groups that cover mutual aid, welfare, and recreation. They also founded what is known today as the APSN Chaoyang school, a children’s school that focuses on visual arts.

They have seven artworks on display in the exhibition, one of which is Racing Horse by local Singaporean painting master Choo Keng Kwang, which features an impressionist-style technique.

Learn more about Teo Yeong Huai Kuan and their artworks here.

4. Theng Hai Huay Kuan

Pigeons by Choo Keng Kwang (1931-2019)
Pigeons by Choo Keng Kwang (1931-2019)

Founded in 1965, Theng Hai Huay Kuan came into existence to fight for the welfare and interest of its fellow Teochews. But over time, they began to assist the communities outside of their own.

They maintain an active involvement in national campaigns to promote cultural and recreational activities, with the belief that by engaging the younger generation they can better impart the history, traditions, and knowledge of the Teochews.

For the exhibition, they have contributed a multitude of artworks – one of which is Pigeons by Choo Keng Kwang. The painting showcases Choo’s interest in still-life and animal art. Fun fact: a few of Choo’s paintings have been featured on stamps by the Singapore Post!

Learn more about Theng Hai Huay Kuan and their artworks here.

You can view some of the artworks from the comfort of your home via the Treasures of the Clans online exhibition here.

(Photos: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre)

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