Life in TransitA Digital Nomad in Asia

Money by Mail at the National Library of Singapore

Money by Mail, an exhibit which gives us a glimpse into Singapore's past through letters sent home by early Chinese migrants.

While waiting for Eliz this past weekend I ended up venturing to the National Library of Singapore.

Now libraries and weekends never went together since I was done with university. However, the National Library of Singapore was more than just a place for the bookworms to gather. It had some interesting displays and programs and Eliz noted how crowded it was for a weekend.

The most intriguing exhibit was Money by Mail. An exhibition of letters, it gave us a glimpse into the lives of early migrants from China through the letters they sent home along with remittance money to their families.

As some letters were donated by families, you could track the lives of individuals through the amount of money they sent home and the letters.

One successful individual sent home 4 yuan when he arrived and not long after, owned 600 chickens!

The celebrations of events and toils of war in the past could all be seen through a slice of these peoples’ lives in their letters sent home.

Outside the Library doors, there was an event called XiQu. It showcased different forms of Chinese Opera in different dialects. There was even a workshop teaching different elements of the stage acting.

As I had only seen the Chinese Opera on occasion, it was a great opportunity to see the difference between the different performances in different dialects one after another.

For example, we found out the Cantonese painted their faces in the red and white paint scheme and because the faces were painted, used elements such as the directions they looked to convey expression. The Hokkien opera was much more animated with people using the whole stage and with very minimal make up, you could see the actual facial expressions.

Inside the lobby, there was a sample of the exhibit Raffles’ Letters that depicted Raffles challenges and concerns in forming Singapore through a series of letters he sent back to his family and superiors in England.

It was a great history and cultural lesson, though we could not finish the Money by Mail, Raffles’ Letters and XiQu exhibits in one evening. I will be back for more!

- Through Raffles' Letters, we learn about the challenges Raffles faced in founding Singapore.

- Xi Qu is a Chinese Opera workshop and performance.

Posted in: Journal