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Genealogy And Tradition Among The Chinese Of Malaysia And Singapore
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Genealogy and Tradition among the Chinese of Malaysia and Singapore[1]



P. Lim Pui Huen



The concept of genealogy is closely intertwined with Chinese ideas of family, kinship, lineage, and ancestor veneration. The migrant Chinese took these ideas with them when they went overseas and subsequently built up social institutions that gave them concrete expression. Today, the ethnic Chinese are no longer sojourners but settled communities committed to the countries of their birth. That the genealogy is still important can be seen in the fact that it is still being compiled by individuals and lineage organizations in Malaysia and Singapore.

The genealogy is one of the oldest historical records and has been produced by different people all over the world at different times and for different purposes. The composition of genealogies among the Chinese dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (Lo 1972b:53) and had settled to an accepted format by the Song Dynasty when the scholar Ouyang Xiu established what is called the Ouyang style of composition (Lo 1972a:14). He said that a genealogy should begin with the progenitor who first settled in a locality and end with the contemporary generation which draws up the genealogy, with the intermediate generations enumerated in between. The genealogy is a record of the common descent group or lineage (zu), which is defined as the group descended from this common ancestor (Hu 1964:18). Among the Chinese, descent is patrilineal and kin relationships refer to agnatic relationships.

The genealogy contains a wealth of information for the study of Chinese society although scholars caution that such information is to be used with discretion (Meskill 1970:160). Probably the only subject for which it has very little value is research on women and the incomplete data on women in fact detract from its usefulness as a research source to some extent.



Genealogies in Malaysia and Singapore


The genealogies that I have examined can be divided into three categories:


1. Jiapu or genealogy of a family

These are essentially private documents compiled by a family, the basic social unit. The genealogical information is a linear record of the descent line and ends with the immediate family of the compiler.


2. Zupu or genealogy of a zu or lineage

The term zu can be translated as ‘lineage’ or ‘clan’ and I shall use the term ‘lineage’ to refer to zu in a more specific sense and the term ‘clan’ to refer to zu in a larger sense. The zupu I have consist of genealogies compiled by the Huang and Lin ancestral villages in Guangdong and Fujian and contain genealogies of various families in the lineage up to contemporary generations. The zupu is therefore a genealogy of localized lineages and contains lateral information about the various sub-lineages in the same descent line.


3. Zongpu or genealogy of all lineages of the same surname

These are genealogies compiled by lineage associations and fall into two types. Firstly, there are genealogies published in commemorative volumes of the association. These generally reproduce only the ancestral segment relating to the founding ancestor, namely, the segment so far back in lineage history that it is acknowledged by all members, what may be referred to as the gongpu or ‘public pu’ (Meskill 1970:155). Secondly, lineage associations sometimes adopt a more ambitious undertaking and aggregate known genealogies of the same surname into one large volume. The genealogy published by the Nanyang Huang Shi Chung Huay (Federation of Huang Lineage Associations) in Singapore, which I shall refer to as the Singapore Genealogy, is such an aggregate Huang genealogy (Lim P.P.H. 1998a:11). The Linshi Dazongpu is the aggregate genealogy of Lin lineages published by the Quanguo Linxing Zongmiao (National Lin Surname Ancestral Temple) in Taiwan, which I shall refer to as the Taiwan Genealogy. Since the latter reproduces genealogies of Lin lineages which claim descent from lineages in Fujian, the information it contains is also useful to Malaysia and Singapore lineages because most of them originate from Fujian. The zongpu is therefore the genealogy of the larger non-localized kinship grouping.


To reiterate, the jiapu is the genealogy of a family; the zupu is the genealogy of the aggregate of a number of families; and the zongpu is the aggregate of a number of zupu.. The documents vary in length and detail but contain the same message: the importance of the lineage and genealogy in the social and value system. As a river has its source and a tree has its roots, they say, so a man must have his genealogy. The river and the tree or branch is the most common metaphor for the genealogy.

This is the third paper in a series of studies on Chinese genealogies in Malaysia and Singapore which I have undertaken as a means of gaining an understanding of the importance of genealogies to the ethnic Chinese. In the first paper, Myth and Reality: Researching the Huang Genealogies (1998a), I examine a number of Huang surname genealogies as a case study of what these documents contain. Hidden within the texts are the myths and legends of Chinese history and narratives of the rise and fall of dynasties and war and invasion seen through the record of ordinary people’s lives. The theme that stands out most clearly in the texts is the theme of a movement of people from North China to South China. A map of the migration route of the Huang lineages has been compiled by the Nanyang Huang Shi Chung Huay (Nanyang 1976, E10).

In the second paper, ‘Myth into Reality: Genealogies in the Cultural Landscape of the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore’ (1998b), I advance the discussion by analysing the myths buried in the genealogies to show how they are transformed into reality in the Malaysian and Singaporean context. Here, while using the Huang genealogies as the base, I also draw on the genealogies of the Lin surname.

In this paper, I intend to discuss the role of the genealogy in connecting the past (the ancestral village) and the present (the Malaysia and Singapore Chinese). I shall show how the genealogy relates to the cultural life and identity of the ethnic Chinese.



Genealogy and Family


As mentioned at the beginning of the paper, the genealogy is a very old type of historical document and is important in many societies and is compiled for different purposes. The Arabs, for example, take great care to maintain accurate bloodlines of the descendants of the Prophet as they are privileged to the title ‘Syed’ and to the special respect of the community.

However, in modern times, the genealogy has gained importance as a family tree. Regardless of their cultural background, people are interested in their roots and their past. Tracing one’s family history is a very popular hobby in many countries and there are many books and a number of computer programmes on the subject. Many family histories begin or end with a genealogy of the family. Frank Ching’s well-known book Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family is one such example. My forthcoming volume tentatively entitled Wong Ah Fook: The History of an Immigrant Experience is another.

There are many genealogies that are not published but kept in the family as private documents. Lim Hu Hup, for example, has compiled such a document, ‘The Genealogy of the Lims.’ In this genealogy, he has traced the history of his family from the origins of the Lin in the legendary period of Chinese history to its settlement in the town of Tapah in Malaysia.

The family tree connects the family to the recent past, in most cases it is the past dating from grandfather or great-grandfather who first settled in Nanyang. But when a family has access to a genealogy of its lineage, the genealogy will connect family memory further back in time, not only to the ancestral village but also as in the case of the Lim Ho Hup genealogy, to the dawn of Chinese history.





Genealogy and Lineage Associations


When the Chinese first migrated to Malaysia and Singapore, they were strangers in a strange land and needed to find ways of establishing mutual assistance and co-operation. They therefore established social organizations which provided for their social, welfare, and religious needs. Various scholars have studied these social organizations and there is in fact a considerable literature on the subject (see Tan C.B. 1989). Briefly, these can be divided up as follows:


1. Lineage associations

These are associations based on the principle of kinship and consist of members having the same surname. Some scholars have used the term ‘clan association’ in describing these organizations (Yen 1995:33), but in Singapore, the term ‘clan association’ is used officially to refer to all Chinese social organizations and I shall therefore refer to the surname organizations as lineage associations.


2. Geographical associations

These refer to organizations based on the principle of geography, that is, the place of origin which could range from a large geographical unit such as a province to a small village.


3. Dialect associations

These organizations are based on the principle of speech. Dialect-based associations used to be important at the time when immigrants came from different parts of China and could not communicate with each other. Today, these dialect associations have now come to represent sub-ethnic interests among the ethnic Chinese.


4. Guilds

These comprise trade and occupational associations and are sometimes further divided up by geographical or dialect requirements, e.g. Fuzhou Kafeishang Gonghui (Fuzhou Coffee Traders’ Association).


5. Others

This is an open category of social organizations that do not use kinship, geography, speech, or occupation as a criterion of membership. These are organizations which are open to all ethnic Chinese such as chambers of commerce, old boys’ associations, music associations, martial arts clubs and the like.

Generally speaking, Chinese social organizations are those which are based on Chinese customs and practices and have a Chinese outlook, and therefore differ from modern organizations such as trade unions for example. Each of these types of organization plays its own roles but I shall only focus on the lineage associations as they have a special significance with respect to the genealogy.

The lineage association is based on the concept of descent and kinship among the Chinese. It is based on the belief that all persons bearing the same surname are descended from a common ancestor and have a kinship relationship with each other. It is kinship not based on a known kin relationship but on an assumed kin relationship. This belief in common descent is deeply entrenched in Chinese culture and provides the basis for the formation of the lineage association.

Most of the immigrant Chinese came from villages in southern China with strong family and kinship ties. These ties were transported in the migration process and continued in the new country to which the remittances sent home to support family members and relatives and in the kinship pattern of migration bear witness. The lineage association was therefore one of the first social organizations to be established. The Boon San Tong (Wen Shan Tang) founded in 1816 was the earliest lineage association established in Penang (Soh 1990:69) while the Ts’ao Clan House (Cao Jia Guan), founded in 1919, is generally regarded as the earliest lineage association established in Singapore. Yen Ching-hwang’s list of ‘Early Clan Organizations in Singapore and Malaya, 1819-1911’ contains thirty-eight such associations (Yen 1995:66).

In a study of lineage associations in Penang, a city with more than 200 years of Chinese settlement, Soh Wei Nee divides them into eight different types which, using her terminology, are as follows:


1. Same surname associations comprise all persons bearing the same surname.

2. Lineage associations comprise members of a particular lineage.

3. Sub-lineage associations comprise members of a particular sub-lineage.

4. Provincial surname associations comprise persons of the same surname originating from a specific province.

5. County surname associations comprise persons of the same surname originating from a specific county.

6. Dialect surname associations comprise persons of the same surname speaking a particular dialect.

7. Joint surname associations are formed when a number of surnames combine to form one association. The most interesting of these is the Gucheng Huiguan, which is formed by lineages of the Liu, Guan, and Zhang, the surnames of the heroes of the te Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ who were said to have confirmed their friendship in Gucheng in Henan. Several Gucheng Huiguan can be found in Malaysia and Singapore.

8. General clan associations, by which she is referring to federations which bring together all lineage associations of the same surname under one umbrella body. The Nanyang Huang Shi Chung Hui already mentioned is a federation of eleven Huang lineage associations in Singapore. Its Malaysian counterpart is the Federation of Huang Associations of Malaysia in which there are twenty-seven member associations (Lim P.P.H. 1998a:3).


Soh Wei Nee’s analysis illustrates several features of ethnic Chinese society. Firstly, it confirms that the general pattern of social organization is formed by stressing place of origin and by dialect. Secondly, the many types of lineage associations formed show the divisive tendency in ethnic Chinese society, since many associations exist for every surname. Each serves the same purpose, only the clientele varies. Thirdly and most importantly, the number of lineage associations demonstrates the strength and importance of the concept of descent and kinship.

These lineage organizations display some common characteristics. Their organization and history can be studied through the commem­orative volumes a lineage association may publish from time to time. A genealogy is usually included as an integral part of such a publication. Normally, only the historical segment of the genealogy, which is the portion relating to the progenitor of the surname, the founder of the lineage, and other distinguished ancestors, is published. These personalities are included not only because they show that the lineage has an illustrious ancestry and glorious past, but also because they form the focus of its lineage memory and hence of its religious rituals.

The genealogy and the portraits are clues to the identity of the lineage. For example, a genealogy naming Huang Juzheng, a Song Dynasty scholar and official, as Ancestor of the first Generation would indicate that the text is a Cantonese genealogy as he is acknowledged to have led the Huang clan into Guangdong. Similarly, prominence given to Huang Qiaoshan, another Song Dynasty scholar and soldier, would indicate a Fujian lineage as he settled down in Quanzhou and is the ancestor of several Fujian lineages.

Many genealogies include a clan poem. The function of the poem is to identify the clan and to enable clan members to identify each other through reciting the words of the poem. Certainly this is part of the Huang Qiaoshan legend to be found in the genealogy of the Heping lineage of the Huang clan, one of the genealogies published in the Singapore Genealogy. Huang Qiaoshan is said to have had three wives each of whom had seven sons. Presumably because he was unable to provide for such a large family, he commanded his sons, with the exception of one son of each wife, to leave home to seek their fortunes elsewhere. He then commanded them to memorize a poem he had written and to teach it to their children as a means of identifying one another. This legend is particularly relevant to the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese as it provides a justification for migration. A filial son is released from the obligation to care for his parents when economic circumstances warrant such a step.

In the premises of the lineage associations, the portraits of the founder and other illustrious ancestors are hung in the place of honour above the altar. The clan poem and the genealogy are often displayed as well. The ancestral portraits, the ancestral altar, the clan poem, and the genealogy are the distinguishing marks of a lineage association. They provide the visible evidence of common descent and enable the concept of lineage to have a real and functional reality.

In this context, the genealogy becomes a social document as it provides the basis for the formation of one type of social organization among the ethnic Chinese. The genealogy has become an instrument of group cohesion and group solidarity. This sense of group cohesion expresses itself in two ways, locally and internationally.

Local groupings can be seen in the establishment of lineage communities. Since many of the immigrant Chinese came from small, single surname villages, they endeavour to reproduce the same kinship communities in their new environment. Today, despite the transformation of the urban space in the wake of rapid urbanization, remnants of such lineage communities still survive. For example, there is a Phua Village (Pan Jia Cun) in Singapore (Lim H.S. 1991), and in Malaysia, there are people who still live in surname groups in the waterfront houses at Weld Quay in Penang. There is a Tan (Chen) Jetty, a Lim (Lin) Jetty, a Chew (Zhao) Jetty, and Yeoh (Yang) Jetty (Ng and Ng 1998).

At a supra-national level, lineage organizations have developed international networks. In the trend towards globalization, lineage associations and other social organizations have begun internationali­zing themselves (Lim P.P.H. 1996). World conferences of the Gans, the Guos, the Lins, and the Shuns have been reported in Singapore newspapers. These world conferences illustrate the fact that world networks of lineage organizations exist, they keep in contact and interact with each other, and what is more, they show that lineage connections are still relevant.


[i].   I have used the term ‘Chinese’ when referring to all Chinese, and the term ‘ethnic Chinese’ (huaren), when referring to Southeast Asian Chinese. The term ‘overseas Chinese’ (huaqiao) which means sojourners, is often used to describe the Chinese outside China but is a term that is no longer relevant to Southeast Asian Chinese as they are no longer sojourners. See Suryadinata (1995:3) for a full statement of the argument.

Genealogy and Chinese Religion


In the nineteenth century, the Chinese immigrants were sojourners, regarded by others as well as by themselves to be a foreign and transient population. As a community the ethnic Chinese were therefore obliged to provide for their own needs. This was done by setting up the various social institutions and organizations already discussed whose functions included the maintenance of temples, the observance of annual festivals, the maintenance of schools, the care of the sick and destitute, the maintenance of burial grounds, and the promotion of Chinese culture. Time has passed and sojourners have become citizens and colonial territories have become independent countries. Social needs such as education, health and welfare, are the now responsibility of government. However, in Malaysia, because the national system of education is in Malay, the national language, Chinese schools are still maintained by the ethnic Chinese.

Although their original purpose has lost its relevance, these social organizations still have a significant role in the social and cultural life of the Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese. In particular, they continue to play an especially important role in providing for the religious needs of the community. They continue to maintain temples and burial grounds - and now increasingly important - crematoriums and columbariums. They organize the celebration of Chinese festivals and the performance of rituals on these occasions. Rituals arranged by other social organizations offer worship to various deities, but the rituals under the auspices of lineage associations are particularly meaningful because they are concerned with the veneration of the ancestors and enable lineage members to fulfil their religious obligations to their forefathers.

The Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore observe many religions, but I agree with the views of Tan Chee-Beng that the most important ones are those derived from Chinese civilization (Tan C.B. 1995:139). He identifies two such religions: firstly, ‘ Chinese Religion’ comprising that ‘complex mix of traditional Chinese beliefs and practices, together with variants of local transformation,’ and secondly, what he refers to as ‘Chinese Buddhism.’ He explains that Chinese Buddhism has evolved alongside Chinese Religion and differs from the Buddhism practised in Thailand and Burma. However, there are no hard and fast boundaries between these practices and a devotee may well attend a Chinese Religion temple, a Chinese Buddhist temple, and a Thai Buddhist temple at different times.

Other scholars who have done research on religion in Malaysia and Singapore, such as Majorie Topley (1956:76); Maurice Freedman (1974:20); Vivienne Wee (1977:2); confirm the concept of Chinese Religion as an overarching term describing the wide range of Chinese religious beliefs and practices. The term ‘Taoism’ refers to both the Taoist philosophy and indigenous Chinese religion (Tan C.B. 1995:142), but in the Malaysian and Singaporean contexts, it is popularly used to refer to the belief in the various deities and spirit-medium cults replete with their local variations and adaptations. An examination of a list of research on religion among the Chinese of Malaysia and Singapore (Tan C.B. 1989:150) shows that the bulk of the research has focused on Buddhism and Taoism. There are only three works on ancestor worship. The lack of attention paid to this facet of life is surprising given its central position in Chinese life and religion. After all, an individual may worship any deity he chooses, but in the family and kinship structure of society the observation of ancestral rituals is obligatory.

In this short paper it is not possible to enter into the debate about whether ancestor worship is or is not a religion. The term ‘ancestor veneration’ is probably a more accurate description but the term ‘ancestor worship’ has been more widely accepted in the literature. Besides, it must be acknowledged that ancestor worship encompasses aspects of family sentiment and social organization, as well as covering the performance of ritual observances. It is a continuum that at one end represents the Chinese worldview on the order of society and at the other end satisfies the need for ritual observances regarding death and the deceased. Individuals position themselves in this continuum depending on their own beliefs and philosophy of life. Ancestor worship contains elements of both remembrance and rituals.

If ancestor worship is ‘the ritualisation of kinship ties’ (Nelson 1974:252), then the genealogy is the documentation of these kinship ties. If Chinese Religion is defined as that ‘complex system of tradition Chinese religious beliefs and practices,’ then ancestor worship can be defined as that ‘complex mix of values, customs, traditions and religious practices based on Chinese concepts of filial duty (xiao), family, lineage and the after life.’

Ancestor worship is practised within the family itself and in a lineage association. Family worship includes observing the birth and death anniversaries, the celebration of annual festivals such as Chinese New Year, and visits to the graves (saomu, or among the Cantonese, baishan) at Qing Ming and Chong Yang. When the remains have been cremated and the ashes placed in a columbarium, visits would be made to the columbarium instead.

Lineage associations perform two important religious functions: they co-ordinate group worship and they maintain an altar where the spirit tablet (shenzhu or shenwei) of deceased family members may be placed. Nowadays, not many families maintain altars in their homes and there is a growing tendency to place the family spirit tablets in a temple of a lineage association.

Group worship is offered at least twice a year and committees are set up to orchestrate these activities (Soh 1990:78). Spring Worship (Chunji) is scheduled to coincide with Qing Ming when visits would be made to communal clan graves, if there were any. Winter Worship (Dongji) takes place on 22 December of each year. For the Penang Hokkiens this is the most important festival of all (communication Lim Ho Hup). Other important religious activities among Penang lineage associations include observing the death anniversaries of remote ancestors. Soh Wei Nee’s paper provides a detailed description of the lineage associations, their ancestral shrines, and the various kinds of rituals performed.

Lineage and kinship are among the most essential concepts in the Chinese social structure. The genealogy is the tool which captures and documents these concepts and gives them shape and form. The genealogical order is made visible in the ancestral temple (citang) where the spirit tablets, placed in order of generation, are in fact, a form of genealogy. In other words, the ancestral temple, the ancestral altar, the spirit tablets, and the genealogy are the physical manifestations of ancestor worship.

Generation ranking is a key element in both kinship structure and ancestor worship. In life, the junior in generation ranking owes the senior respect and deference, which are reflected in appropriate terms of address. Generation names are another device for maintaining and expressing generation order. Rituals of ancestor worship are performed in generation and birth order (wives follow their husbands’ rank) thereby reinforcing the senior/junior ranking within the family. Similarly in death, the junior offers worship to the senior and never the other way round. The establishment of generational order is therefore intrinsic in social relationships and religious observances. It is the function of the genealogy to record and maintain the ordering of the generations.

Therefore, although the genealogy is not a religious document, it performs a unique role in bringing about the merging of the Chinese social system and the Chinese belief system.



Genealogy and the Ancestral Village


The Chinese have had contact with the Malay Archipelago for centuries, but it was in the last 200 years that they began arriving in large numbers. Descendents of those who migrated in the nineteenth century would be in the sixth or seventh generation, while the descendants of those who migrated in the early part of the twentieth century would be in the third or fourth generation. The closeness of ties with the ancestral village depends on the generational distance. Those of the first and second generation, that is, those who migrated or whose parents performed the journey to the new country, are likely to maintain close ties with their relatives in China. Those whose ancestors migrated more than 100 years ago may have lost touch and, as far as they are concerned, the ancestral village may be only a faint memory from the past.

It may seem so, but for many ethnic Chinese tourists who visit China every year, one of the reasons for travelling there is to pay a visit to their ancestral village and distant relatives. One of the highlights of these visits is the opportunity to pay their respects at the graves of the ancestors. For some of them, this is mainly a sociable occasion, an excuse to provide a feast for the village. For others, rituals of ancestor worship are serious religious events.

The example that I have is the jinzu ritual, which my informant Zheng Jinbao attended. In 1996, he took his whole family to his ancestral village of Guoqiancun in Nan-an county, Fujian, to participate in this ceremony. He is a businessman whose father migrated to the village of Gelang Patah in the state of Johor in Malaysia in the late 1920s. I would not describe the Zheng family as being particularly religious in the sense of frequently attending temples or prayer sessions. Rather, it is a family deeply rooted in Chinese traditions which practise regular observations of Chinese Religion according to custom. When Zheng Jinbao took his family to Guoqiancun, he wanted more than for them to participate in the ceremony, he was determined to familiarize his children with their roots and the traditions of his father’s village.

The purpose of holding the jinzu ritual was to transfer the ancestral tablets from the old ancestral temple to a new ancestral temple called Fuzutang.[i] It began at two o’clock in the morning when a procession led by a female ritual specialist (nigu) went to a spot two kilometres outside the village. The purpose of this part of the ritual was to invite the ancestors of the lineage who had died in a foreign country (like Zheng Jinbao’s father who passed away in Malaysia) to come to the new ancestral temple. This part of the ritual ended at about 6 a.m., after which the jinzu ritual proper began at 8 a.m.

The ancestral tablets were taken from the altar and placed on trays covered with red cloths held by senior men of the lineage. A procession was formed and the ancestral tablets processed ceremoniously through the village. On arriving at the new building, the ancestral tablets were borne in to the sound of music and firecrackers and the performance of the lion dancers. Inside, altars bearing food offerings at which homage (bai) to the ancestors was then performed were set up. The ancestral tablets are new and each contains about ten names. The generational rank is written above each name and each tablet is inscribed with the names of the same generation. Each name on each tablet was ceremonially dotted; a rite which establishes the relationship between the tablet and the soul (hun) for whom it stands (Freedman 1979:297). The tablets were then placed on the new altar beginning with the spirit tablet of Zheng Zhongfeng, Ancestor of the fifteenth Generation, the head of the sub-lineage, which was laid at the highest level.

Zheng Jinbao returned to Guoqiancun this year for a merit making ritual called gongde, which invited the lost and uncared for souls of the lineage to the ancestral temple. The gongde was held on the twenty-sixth day of the third month and the lineage elders decided that, in future, this day would be fixed as an annual day of worship at which lineage members from foreign countries are welcome. Not every ethnic Chinese will display the same devotion to his or her ancestors, but ancestor worship will continue to be a factor in bringing ethnic Chinese to China and donations for the construction of ancestral temples and the observation of religious rites will continue to form part of the remittances sent to ancestral villages.





One of the valued objects that Zheng Jinbao brought back from his village is a genealogy of the Zheng lineage in Guoqiancun. Copies of such jiapu are treasured in many families, even in those that do not have strong ties with their ancestral villages. The genealogy connects the ethnic Chinese to their past, even though their present is firmly anchored in the country where they now live. The genealogy is a personalization and a particularization of the past. China is too large and too overwhelming a concept for most people to relate to in a personal sense. But one small village, one corner of the huge country called China, one particular strand of Chinese history, these they can relate to in a way that is meaningful and comprehensible. This connection with the past, with their roots and traditions, forms part of the ethnic Chinese heritage and awareness of their cultural identity.

Having described these links, I cannot end without mentioning that linkages with China and ethnic Chinese economic dominance are part of the so-called ‘Chinese problem’ (Suryadinata 1995b:4). The closer the ties with China, the stronger the expression of Chinese cultural identity, the more difficult it is to dampen lingering doubts about ethnic Chinese loyalty. Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese have to find a fine balance between maintaining their cultural identity as ethnic Chinese while expressing their political identity as Southeast Asians.





1. Lim Ho Hup. ‘Genealogy of the Lims.’ Unpublished manuscript, 1990. Linshi Dazongpu. Taipei: Caituan Fa Ren Linxing Dazongmiao, 1984. Referred to as the Taiwan Genealogy

2. Nanyang Huang Shi Conghui Yinxi Jinian Dekan. Nanyang Huang Shi Chung Huay 25th Anniversary Souvenir. Singapore, 1976. Referred to as the Singapore Genealogy

3. Wenming Zu Jiapu. circa 1910. Guangzhou and Singapore versions

4. Zheng Jinbao. Videotape of jinzu ceremony in Guotiancun, Nan-an county, Fujian. 1996





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1995     ‘Early Chinese Clan Organizations in Singapore and Malaya, 1819-1911,’ in: Yen Ching-hwang (ed.) Community and Politics: the Chinese in Colonial Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore: Times Academic Press, pp. 33-71




[i].   The description of this ritual is summarized from a videotape belonging to Zheng Jinbao and an interview with him.

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