Further your exploration of Singapore’s unique multi-ethnic diversity with a tour of the Chinese Heritage Centre. With a historic and cultural insight into various overseas Chinese communities around the world, the CHC was founded in 1995 with the purpose of raising awareness of and celebrating what it means to be Chinese.
Ode to a Legacy
The Centre is located in what used to be Nanyan University, the sole Chinese university that existed outside of China. As you stand before it, you will notice that the building, which was constructed in the 1950s, has very distinctly and uniquely Chinese with its elegantly curving sloped roofs and elaborate columns. Fittingly enough, the building was officially designated as a national monument in 1998.
The meaning of being Chinese
Upon entering the building itself, you will find that all the exhibits are spread out and divided amongst seven different galleries. Interestingly, the displays are not just there to commemorate various individuals or people, but genuinely question the meaning of Chinese identity in today’s world. Here are some things you will see being narrated:
- How being Chinese varies depending one where one settles and which generation they belong to.
- What it means to be defined as a Chinese, not only by oneself, but by other Chinese and non-Chinese as well.
- How the defining of being Chinese gets increasingly complex as various communities settle and assimilate abroad.
You will see exhibits of how laborers and artisans around the world make their living in Singapore, and several simulations of the lifestyles of expatriate Chinese are delightful to see.
The most profound exhibition in the center would be that entitled “Exhibition: Chinese More or Less”. The display addresses the great heterogeneity of the Chinese and makes you wonder whether ‘Chinese-ness’ has degrees or types! Scholars specialising in Chinese study or even those interested in the historical process of globalization will be greatly intrigued by these questions and will hopefully see some meaningful answers within the centre’s vast variety of displays.
Nanyang University’s position as the first and only overseas Chinese universities is commemorated in the Nantah Pictoral Exhibition, outlining the 25 years of the institution.
As always, the Centre’s shop is bound to provide you a keepsake to remind you of this unique journey. For those who are interested in exploring the aspects of Chinese diaspora some more, the shop also offers discounted copies of encyclopedias chronicling the journey of Chinese overseas.
Relax in the beautiful outdoors
Outside the historical building are the lovely Nantah Lake as well as the Yunnan Garden, so before or after your tour you can simply stroll and enjoy the greenery.
The Chinese Heritage Center tells you about the roots of Chinatown in both the literal and grander sense: a tour of its exhibits will make you marvel at the evolution of cultures that stems from human migration. Do not miss out on this Centre: it will be more than worth your time.
Chinese Heritage Centre
12 Nanyang Drive (Nanyang Technological University)
Tel. (+65) 6790 6176
9.30am – 5.00pm (Mon – Fri)
10.00am – 5.00pm (Sat – Sun)
Free for guided tours.
Senior Citizens: $1.00