MUSE SG – The last of Chinese effigy-making

MUSE SG is a collaborative effort between the National Heritage Board and NUS History Society. Every semester, students in the History community are given the chance to research on a selected topic and thereafter contribute an article to the publication.

In this series, we interview writers of MUSE SG Volume 13 – The Intangible Cultural Heritage Issue – and find out what it’s like to be part of this project!

Li An is a History student who graduated from NUS. In this volume, she explores the practice of Chinese effigy-making, and the traces that are left today. Check out her article here!

What have you written about in this issue of MUSE SG? Could you briefly share some of your findings?

I wrote about Chinese effigy makers in this issue of MUSE SG. It is interesting how artisanal effigy makers are now a dying trade, and Say Tian Hng is the only shop left in Singapore which still customises them by hand. I hope that more people would support our local artisans by admiring their work, and buying their products.

Why did you choose this topic? What fascinated you most about the topic?

I choose this topic because I was curious about Chinese forklore and how they play a part in human society. Effigies are one of the mediums in which myths and narratives are told. In the case of Chinese effigies, it is fascinating how every detail of a deity’s armour or weapon for instance, has a rich narrative behind it. They also impart age-old values such as showing compassion to other creatures, or learning how to humble ourselves.

What have you gained through this writing experience? Could you share about your research journey?

Through this writing experience, I have learnt to connect with shop owners and artisans to understand their histories and concerns. I hope that I would be able to utilise these skills in the future. Most information pertaining to Say Tian Hng shop can be found on the internet, so I combed through these articles and ask myself how I can give people a slightly different perspective of the shop. It helped a lot that Mr. Ng Tze Yong, the shop keeper’s son, was very enthusiastic about our project. He gave me a guided tour of the shop and related the shop’s history to me. This shaped my perspective of effigy making a lot.

Who would you recommend MUSE SG to?

I think that Singaporeans from all walks of life would be able to resonate with the articles published in MUSE SG, be it a history buff or a sentimental elder. The articles in MUSE SG allows people to explore the hidden heritage in Singapore, although many of us bypass them, unnoticed, in our daily interactions. They also teach us to pause and reflect, and to smell the flowers, so to speak, in the middle of the rat race. Many Singaporeans are so caught up with the future that we are unaware of places disappearing from our landscapes, and I hope that our articles would address that.

Published by hissocnus

The National University of Singapore (NUS) History Society is a student-run organization that aims to encourage an interest for history among NUS students and members of the public. Its members include all History majors and other NUS students interested in history. Regular projects that aim to engage NUS students include writing and editorial opportunities at the Society’s publication Mnemozine, career development programmes as well as welfare activities. NUS History Society is a student society under the Office of Student Affairs, National University of Singapore.

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