My Heritage


If I knew my history, what would that be?

Singapore is a migrant island, a growing fishing village when our forefathers came from various parts of Asia. My grandparents came from China so that makes me a 3rd generation Singaporean. Knowing where my grandparents came from gave me no further insight into my heritage, the roots of my own culture. When I was in school, I was taught that Singapore’s administrative language is English. My dad used to tell people how much of an influence the English language is here in Singapore by the fact that I went to school without knowing a single English word and graduated from University with a BA with double majors in English Literature and European Studies. Though I studied the history of China, I still knew little of my heritage. My spoken mother tongue is, smattering, at best, these days. Not proud of that; it sure calls for improvement.

I found myself unable to connect with my past, or understand what my grandparents went through in their days. In fact, from young, I found myself having trouble communicating with them beyond certain superficial conversations. The Speak Mandarin campaign implemented in 1979 (before I was born) was our government’s way of ensuring effective communications through the use of Mandarin, instead of our many dialects. I likened it to Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s unification of China through the common Chinese script which we have today. I could understand bits and pieces of my own dialect but am unable to speak it. Being educated in Mandarin, whereas my grandparents knew their dialects better further set a wedge in our communications. How am I to know my own roots if I am unable to communicate with my grandparents? Many of my generation have trouble communicating with their grandparents and for me, it’s more recent times that I know I need to put in more effort to polish up my Mandarin, so that I can communicate with my grandma, the last of my grandparents.

What do we have in Singapore that reflects our culture? As one who has travelled to other countries within Asia and Europe, I realise that even if I were to be away from Singapore for only a week, I would return to find roadworks at a road I normally travel on, or a new building will be in its formative stage, possibly being completed within a year or two. Things in Singapore move so fast. It’s great for the economy, my dad would say. I agree, but for the sentimental side of a regular human being like me, I can’t help but wonder if we might have taken away what is truly important, where we tear down things in too much of a haste and when we realise what we have lost, it’s too late to regret.

In my travels, I have seen countries rich in culture. Some buildings have been there practically forever and tour guides can fondly recount to any tourist the deep meanings of a statue, monument or symbolic meaning of a building and what they stood for. I’m not sure I can do the same as much in Singapore. After all we are a pretty young nation too. I am truly amazed by some who can trace their ancestry way back like this guy. He even knows he came from the Levites even though he’s in Salford, Lancashire now! I say, that’s pretty amazing 🙂

If I could trace my ancestral history, what would it look like? I suspect my forefathers would have been in China for many centuries. What before that? When I chanced upon the National Geographic Human Genome Project, I was totally hyped. Are we truly able to trace back on where we first came from? I’m a big fan of supporting research findings because I think that through science, we come closer to the Truth, not further.

Does my ancestral heritage define me and who I am? Who am I? Fundamental question that every thinking person would have considered at one point in their life, I’m guessing. Why do I like what I like, and hate what I hate? Why do I naturally get along with some people and have to try so much harder at other relationships? What defines me? This is probably a question we will continuously ask ourselves for the years of ours lives to come.


My heritage, who I am…..this is a moment where I take some time out to ask that again, and get some answers. I need to take little selah from my journey and listen to that still small voice and humbly ask where I am to go from here. We’re constantly on a journey to discovering the full person that He made us to be, and we’re called to be a good steward by fully developing the talents He has given us (Matthew 25:14-29). I think I’ve spent enough time NOT developing everything He has given me. The past 5 years has been truly an exciting time of discovery, sorta like a little girl who finally found her hidden treasure after a long hunt and is immersing herself completely in it every minute thereafter. In my search for answers, I have done all the research I could, spoken to all the wise counsels (Proverbs 15:22) I can think of at this point, for a clearer direction of the way to undertake. I’ve come to a point where I realise that I’ve been so focused on doing and doing, where I should take time out to be still. How will I know when the bush is burning if I am too busy hunting all over the place for answers? Why am I looking for all the answers when I know God wants to speak to me, personally? It is as if I feel like I owe people answers, reasons, explanations and I don’t know why I feel that way. Perhaps it’s just something I need to ignore altogether for now and just focus on hearing that small still voice of His. That being said, I still wanna thank everybody I’ve spoken to, who has taken the time to clarify my doubts, my questions, and deal with my incessant confusion 🙂 If you even wonder for a tiny bit ‘is it me?’, yes it’s you. THANK YOU. But now I need to retreat, to take time to be just me, before Him.

How am I to know my heritage, who I am, apart from Him who made me? I sense it in the wind – a new season approaches and perhaps a place of new discoveries, exciting beginnings, and a step closer to the Promised Land.


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