SINGAPORE — A 1978 fire in Weld Road, home to a Hinghwa enclave, left then 24-year-old loan officer Jason Ong despondent as residents had to uproot and resettle across the island.

Growing up in a nearby shophouse, he had been surrounded by all the familiar elements of his Hinghwa heritage, and his comfort zone was now removed.

“I felt helpless because I didn’t have the capacity to write a book at the time (to preserve his legacy), but I clung to the hope that I would do something one day,” said the Singapore-born rickshaw son. extractor.

On Friday, June 3, he got that wish when his book, Hinghwa – The History and Stories of the Hinghwa People, was launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong at the Furama Ballroom. RiverFront.

The Hinghwa community first came to Singapore in the late 19th century from Putian, also known as Henghua or Hinghwa, Hin Ann and Puxian. According to the 2020 Population Census, there are around 27,000 Hinghwa people here.

“The lack of English material convinced me even more that I should do an English book,” said Dr Ong, now 68 and founder of the Learning Playground education and enrichment center. “I hope the younger generations will be proud of our clan and not think that we are just rickshaw pullers and trishaw drivers like before.”

Although he had to drop out of Monk’s Hill High School early due to poor grades, he didn’t stop learning. He took evening classes in courses like English and IT, and passed O levels as a private candidate.

In 1995, he earned an MBA from the University of South Australia. This was followed by a doctorate in education from the University of Leicester in 2007.

The same year he completed his doctoral studies, Dr. Ong began his research work on the Hinghwa people and culture.

As he was educated in English and speaks English at home with his Indian wife, who is a retired head nurse, two adult children and two grandchildren, the biggest challenge was understanding and translating the documents. research, which are mostly in Chinese.

He enlisted the help of Hinghwa clan men and university scholars in Singapore, Southeast Asia and China, and interviewed around 100 Hinghwa people, including group founder Lippo Mochtar Riady and minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, whose mother is Hinghwa.

Addressing the 200 guests at the event, Mr. Tong said, “By preserving the Hinghwa culture, you are also part of the very unique Singapore Chinese culture that we are deepening, evolving and developing. ensure that it is preserved and passed on.

“By continuing to interact with different communities and remaining open to cross-pollinating different cultures, we will develop our own unique Singaporean identity like nowhere else in the world.”