Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (a) what is the current total number of Chinese clan associations; (b) whether the Government tracks the growth or decline in the number of such clans and their membership; (c) if so, what has been the trajectory over the past 10 years; and (d) what are the Government’s current efforts and plans to support clan associations in preserving the culture and heritage of Chinese Singaporeans.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth whether there are any current plans to promote greater learning and use of dialects by Chinese Singaporeans.
Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai: There are currently 242 Chinese clan associations representing more than 115,000 individual members, registered under the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), which is the umbrella body for Chinese clans in Singapore. There may be other clan associations that are not members of the SFCCA.
The Government recognises that clan associations play an important role in preserving and promoting our local heritage and culture. They reinforce uniquely Singapore Chinese traditions and build a connected and cohesive community. We often partner them in various ways to serve the community and celebrate our heritage.
To facilitate this, the Government set up the Chinese Community Liaison Group (CCLG) in 2000. The CCLG seeks to partner the Chinese community organisations to strengthen our Singapore society.
Our agencies also work closely with and support the SFCCA and other clan associations on a range of community and heritage programmes and initiatives.
The National Arts Council (NAC) and the National Heritage Board (NHB) regularly support initiatives by clan associations. These include digital performances and festivals that celebrate traditional art forms and intangible cultural heritage, heritage galleries, as well as documentation projects.
The NHB also partners with clan associations to document and identify intangible cultural heritage elements and curate exhibitions on the Singapore Chinese heritage. In addition, we co-fund the maintenance and upkeep of the National Monuments owned by clan associations via the National Monument Fund.
The Government also supports the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) as the pinnacle institution for the promotion and development of Singapore Chinese culture. As a community-led initiative led by SFCCA, SCCC works closely with various clan associations to develop programmes and initiatives that celebrate the many facets of our unique Singapore Chinese culture.
Every year, the Government also supports SFCCA and co-organisers on the annual River Hongbao celebration.
We are aware of the growing interest among clans to preserve various Chinese regional dialects. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) recognises that Chinese dialects are part of the Singapore Chinese culture and heritage and welcomes the clans’ efforts to do so even as the Government maintains its existing language policy of promoting the usage of Mandarin as one of our four official languages.
Chinese dialects continue to be used in informal communication and those who are interested can participate in classes organised by clan associations.
There are also arts and culture activities organised by clan associations or arts practitioners which feature dialects, such as Nanyin and Teochew Opera.
The NAC and NHB support such activities through their grant schemes as part of promoting Singapore’s traditional arts and intangible cultural heritage.
The efforts by the clans to promote the Singapore Chinese culture and heritage add to the diversity and richness of our cultural legacy and enrich Singaporeans’ appreciation of our unique multicultural identity.
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
6 February 2023