Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Association (SFCCA) Council Members,

Academics and Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and other academic institutions,

Members of Clan and Heritage Associations

Donors and volunteers

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening! 

I am delighted to be joining you all this evening. A few days ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched our Singapore Bicentennial commemoration activities. 2019 marks an opportunity to look deeply at our history and reflect on how Singapore has evolved. Singapore is where we are today because of the contributions of many individuals who worked hard, made sacrifices, and left a legacy. Some of these individuals are featured in the Singapore Biographical Database (SBDB) of Chinese Personalities, which I am happy to be launching today.

Inspiring Singaporeans to connect with, learn about and deepen appreciation for the contributions of prominent Chinese personalities

2 I would like to thank the SFCCA for initiating this project. It is encouraging that members of our community are coming forward to preserve and contribute to our shared history.

3 The SBDB documents the contributions of prominent Chinese personalities dating from the 19th to 21st century. This documentation of history is a valuable resource as future generations will be able to learn about their forefathers and their tenacity in forging innovative paths in the face of ever-changing circumstances and challenges, and contributing generously to society at large.

4 Many successful people in the Chinese community have offered what they had for public good.

5 As we sit atop this building, we remember Lee Kong Chian, a successful businessman and philanthropist who gave strong support to education and literacy. Through the Lee Foundation, he made numerous donations to the National Library and education institutions, including the building fund for the National Library Building right here on Victoria Street.

6 The same passion for public welfare was exemplified by Hoo Ah Kay, a prominent Chinese businessman, community leader and philanthropist. He bought a garden in Serangoon Road, beautified it with horticultural works and opened it to public to enjoy. Although the gardens are no longer here, the area has come to be known as Whampoa, in memory of this pioneer.

7 Similarly, Lim Nee Soon, respected community leader and one of the most influential businessmen of the day, contributed much in effort and donation to public affairs. Lim contributed to educational institutions such as The Chinese High School, which he founded with Tan Kah Kee, and also generously donated burial land for the Chinese community at Seletar.

8 Through this database, users can learn more about the connections between various prominent personalities like the individuals we have just mentioned. Beyond this, researchers will be able to tap on this comprehensive database to find more information about less well-known personalities.

9 While 200 personalities have been selected based on their impact on society and prominence to fit in with the Bicentennial theme, we appreciate the many others who have yet to be included. The number of individuals documented will continue to increase as the project team explores working with community partners and institutions to enrich the database.

NLB’s ongoing work to preserve and celebrate heritage through documenting Singapore’s history

10 This Database is just one part of the National Library Board’s (NLB) ongoing work to preserve and celebrate heritage through documenting Singapore’s history. For the past few years, NLB has undertaken extensive efforts to document Singapore’s history – the history of our development, the history of our institutions, the history of our people. Platforms like the SBDB make Singapore’s heritage more accessible to the public.

11 We are working with many communities to preserve their unique stories and make them available to the public. One example is the Community Oral History initiative, where the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and NLB works closely with Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian community stakeholders to build up and preserve oral records of history. Apart from these Community Oral History Committees, NLB has collaborated with the Tamil Digital Heritage Group to engage members of the Tamil community, including various creatives. This has led to digital archives for Tamil Literature, Theatre and Music. NLB has also worked with Malay theatre groups to document the development of Malay Theatre in Singapore. 

Collaboration made this innovative database possible

12 As NLB continually seeks to enrich its collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian history, documentation efforts have been made successful through the strong support of the public. This includes the organisations many of you here today are a part of. Chinese institutions and organisations have been integral in galvanising the Chinese community to anchor identity and sense of belonging, as well as instilling appreciation for culture and values.

13 The SBDB is an ex ample of how multi-agency collaboration can create innovative methods of preserving our heritage. SFCCA, NLB and NUS have leveraged each institution’s expertise in research, digital humanities and documentation of the contributions and relations of Chinese personalities.

14 Moving forward, I strongly encourage more collaborative projects both between organisations as well as with the public.


15 In just a few days, we will be celebrating the Lunar New Year, a special time for the Chinese community. As we observe traditions and appreciate our shared culture, let us remember those who came before us and their contributions to both the Chinese community and Singapore as a whole.

16 Once again, thank you to all agencies whose efforts have made the Singapore Biographical Database of Chinese Personalities possible.

17 I hope the SBDB will inspire more Singaporeans to connect with, learn about and deepen their appreciation for the contributions of prominent Chinese personalities to Singapore. I invite all of you to add to this database and play a part in documenting our history.

18 Thank you.


Please click here for the Chinese version of the speech.

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