Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Launch

My book 'A Penniless Boy, Chew Joo Chiat' will be launched on 29th July 2017 at the Marine Parade Public Library. It has been a long journey since March 2008 when I started to trace my roots, Chew Joo Chiat who was also my great grandfather.

The first stage of my journey was at the Lee Kong Chiang Reference Library.
Besides books, periodicals, journals and other printed matters, it had digitised newspapers on microfilms from early 1800 onwards. I made many discoveries about him. An article in The Straits Times 11.02.26 stated:

A striking example of the resourcefulness of the Chinese of making a fortune in Malaya, writes a correspondent, is recorded in the life Chew Joo Chiat ......
He was a Hokien and landed at Singapore from Amoy, some 50 years or more, a penniless boy..............” Chew's life story is a rags and riches story.

The book title 'A Penniless Boy, Chew Joo Chiat' is from the newspaper's article. I also discovered that Chew Joo Chiat was a jack of all trades. He was a housing developer, a planter (rubber, coconut and spices), a tin miner, a trader, a banker and many others.

From the library I moved on to the National Archives of Singapore (NAS). There were books and micro films too. I found building plans of shops and dwelling houses submitted to the building authority by Chew Joo Chiat. I also listiened to the recordings from past Joo Chiat residents at the Oral History Centre.

The search for my roots also took me to the Nanyang Chew Clan Association. It has moved from Chinatown to Lorong 24A Geylang. I talked the clerk in charge, who told me that all the records were lost when the clan association moved to Geylang. My visit there was in vain.

Ho San Kong Hoey is at 574A/576A Geylang Road. Its large signboard is facing the main road behind a bus stop. Every Sunday morning on my way to the church at Geylang, the bus I was on passed the premises, not knowing that it had connection with my roots until I visited Chew Joo Chiat's grave. On top his tombstone were two large Chinese character 禾山 (HoSan) which was the name of his village in China.I went to Ho San Kong Hoey to sign up as a member. The association had conducted tours to Xiamen. I interacted with the members and learned from them that the village had merged with Xiamen when Xiamen city expanded. All the villagers had been resettled to another location. Ho San village had been replaced by highrise buildings. A road named Ho San Road was there to indicate the site of the village.

                                                        The journey  to my roots

In 2015 I visited Xiamen with my wife and my younger son. From the hotel we took a taxi to Ho San Road. Ho San village had indeed disappeared. On both sides of the road were tall buildings with shops on the ground floor. The residents were from other areas and did not know the history of the place. Xiamen was my last destination and it concluded the search for my roots. See more... .....

The book A Penniless Boy, Chew Joo Chiat is a record of my journey to my roots. The aim is for all Chew Joo Chiat's descendants to know their roots and heritage in Singpore.