Thursday, May 13, 2010
Chinese Calligraphy in Singapore 书法在新加坡
Generally speaking, Chinese calligraphy in Singapore can be divided into two periods, before and after the independence of Singapore.
The Chinese started to immigrate to Singapore in large number since 1820s. In China, due to the failure of the political reform proposed by Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, a number of famous artists came to Singapore to work and stay. These artists mostly worked in arts/calligraphy related organisations and education sector as teaching staff or administrators. With the influence of these artists, famous schools such as Chung Cheng, Tuan Meng and Dunman became the breeding grounds for learners of Chinese calligraphy.
The setting up of the Nanyang Fine Arts College (the predecessor of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, NAFA) provided the first opportunity for the development of Chinese calligraphy in Singapore. However, up to today, NAFA is not able to set up a professional Department of Chinese Calligraphy. During this period, while Singapore was famous for evolving the Nanyang Style of Painting, it had not been able to develop a Nanyang Style of Chinese Calligraphy. Singapore missed its first chance of developing Chinese calligraphy.
The decline of the Chinese education after the independence of Singapore in 1965 is an undeniable fact. The registration of ‘The Singapore Chinese Calligraphy and Art Research Society’ by a group of students from Chung Cheng High School as a civil organisation, provided another chance of developing Chinese calligraphy in Singapore. As its name implied, the Society was to be research based. However, as a civil organisation, its activities and method of organising activities follow the same ways of the other arts societies. The fact that it changed its name to ‘The Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore’ in 1979 confirmed that it is not to be research and development oriented. This is a second time that Singapore missed the opportunity of developing Chinese calligraphy.
In 1990s, there was a number of calligraphy societies registered in Singapore, a situation that can be described as letting a hundred flowers blossom. However, none of these new organisations is research and development based. This is the third time that Singapore missed the opportunity of developing Chinese calligraphy.
There are no statistical figures to show whether the number of learners of Chinese calligraphy has increased or maintained over the last hundred years. However, with the rise of China and a number of Chinese calligraphers follow their immigrant family coming to Singapore, one should expect the number of learners will maintain or even increase. The standard of learning Chinese calligraphy will also be improved. However, there is no proper system of Chinese calligraphy education here, and there is also no suitable platform for systematic study and research on calligraphy education, theories, aesthetic and philosophy. Therefore, it is not optimistic that Chinese calligraphy will be developed in foreseeable future, let alone the chance of developing a Nanyang Style of Chinese calligraphy.