Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations

Singapore Infopedia

by Ang, Seow Leng


The Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) is an umbrella body of Chinese clan associations in Singapore.1 The Federation was registered on 9 December 1985 and formally inaugurated on 27 January 1986. It was founded by seven clan associations, namely Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, Singapore Kwang Tung Association, Singapore Foochow Association, Nanyang Khek Community Guild, Singapore Hainan Hwee Kuan, and Sam Kiang Huay Kwan.2

The SFCCA aims to revitalise the roles played by Singapore’s Chinese clan associations, to promote Chinese language, values and traditions, as well as to organise and support educational, cultural and community activities. It also aims to promote social cohesion and harmony among all races and new immigrants in Singapore.3

The SFCCA’s first office was on the second floor of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Building in Telok Ayer Street.4 In 1997, the Federation moved to its new building at Toa Payoh Lorong 2. Seminars and talks have been hosted on its premises. Clan members and members of other associations have also rented function rooms in the building to run events such as exhibitions, gala dinners, as well as cultural and entertainment shows.5

The earliest clan association in Singapore, Sing Chow Chiu Kwok Thong Cho Kah Koon (星洲谯国堂曹家馆), was founded in 1819.6 Since then, numerous Chinese clan associations based on kinship or locality have grown with the influx of Chinese migrants. These associations played a critical role in the lives of the Chinese community by setting up schools, looking after clansmen’s funeral arrangements, managing cemeteries, building temples, providing healthcare and issuing marriage certificates, among other functions.7

Formation of the SFCCA
After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the role of clan associations diminished as the Singapore government took care of the people’s welfare issues and education needs.8 Along with the English-based bilingual education system and the Speak Mandarin Campaign came a decline in the use of dialects. In 1980, the Singapore population census showed that up to 60 percent of the Chinese in Singapore were aged 29 and below,9 and that this younger local born and bred generation had less affinity to their ancestral home villages and provinces.10 At the same time, other civic, charitable and sports organisations were also competing for memberships.11

To meet these challenges, the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations was inaugurated on 27 January 1986 with the following objectives:12

  • To promote the understanding and appreciation of the Chinese language, culture and values
  • To assist clan associations to rejuvenate and cooperate for mutual benefit
  • To work closely with other civic organisations to ensure a stable and harmonious Singapore

This signified a new era and a new direction in the development of Chinese clan associations in Singapore.13 Founding president Wee Cho Yaw iterated that the clans had to seek new directions and roles to remain relevant and to start recruiting younger members for leadership positions with the eventual goal of being open to Chinese from different groups and even to other races.14

SFCCA accepts applications for both ordinary and associate membership. In 2012, changes made to the SFCCA’s constitution meant that non-clan Chinese groups, such as sporting groups or those involved in the arts, education and academic research could join the Federation as associate members. It was hoped that doing so would enable Chinese community groups to attract more people and enhance the integration of new Chinese immigrants.15 As of 2012, the SFCCA had over 220 members.16

The SFCCA has contributed to the Chinese community and society at large in various ways.

Promoting an understanding of Chinese culture

Numerous activities related to Chinese culture have been organised by the SFCCA. These include conferences and seminars, exhibitions, inter-school Chinese debates, Chinese variety concerts, dragon boat races,17 as well as the yearly River Hongbao show which has been a feature event during Singapore’s Chinese New Year festivities since 1987.18

In 1989, the SFCCA set up a resource centre for materials related to the Chinese community.19 Following this, another resource centre – the Chinese Heritage Centre – was set up by the SFCCA in 1995 to support the study of the overseas Chinese, as well as Chinese history, language, culture and the arts.20

The SFCCA has supported individuals’ pursuit of education by providing scholarships and bursaries. In 1992, together with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it set up the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), a non-profit self-help group which offers programmes and assistance schemes, such as the CDAC-SFCCA Bursary, to help the under-privileged in the Chinese community.21

Strengthening ties

In 1997, the SFCCA set up its website and assisted its members to establish their own online presence to stay connected with clan associations around the world.22

After having led the SFCCA for almost 25 years, banker Wee Cho Yaw handed over the presidency to Chua Thian Poh in 2010. Chua introduced new initiatives to promote social integration and cohesion by welcoming new Chinese immigrant groups to join the SFCCA and participate in its activities.23 To strengthen communication between the government and the Chinese community, Chua also introduced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the Federation’s first patron.24

The SFCCA announced in 2012 that it would build a cultural centre known as the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre. This centre would showcase Singapore’s multicultural identity, and it would be a central venue for new immigrant groups to interact with the local Chinese clans.25 The 11-storey centre, located next to the Singapore Conference Hall at Shenton Way, was built at a cost of $110 million. Comprising a multipurpose hall, a 530-seat auditorium, a rooftop garden, a studio for recitals, and a multipurpose hall for talks and exhibitions, the centre was opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2017.26

Publishing output
Since 1986, the SFCCA has been publishing Yuan 《源》magazine with the aim of promoting and preserving Chinese culture and tradition.

The SFCCA has also published bilingual books such as 《华人礼俗节日手册》(Chinese customs and festivals in Singapore),27 Chinese Heritage, 《新加坡华人会馆沿革史》 (History of the Chinese clan associations in Singapore),28 and 《李光耀谈新加坡的华人社会》(Lee Kuan Yew on the Chinese Community in Singapore).29 《华人礼俗节日手册》was published in 1989 in response to an SFCCA-initiated survey in 1988 that revealed that younger Singaporeans, especially if they were English-educated, were losing interest in observing Chinese festivals and rituals.30 《李光耀谈新加坡的华人社会》, a book that includes Mr Lee Kuan Yew's speeches on Chinese language and culture, was published in 1991 in collaboration with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.31

In addition, the Federation's key Mandarin publications include 《新华历史人物列传》 (Historical Chinese personalities in Singapore) – which was published in 1995,32 as well as 《新加坡华人通史》(A general history of the Chinese in Singapore) – which was published in 2015 to celebrate Singapore’s 50 years of independence and the SFCCA’s 30th anniversary.33  

Supporting Chinese clans
The SFCCA continues to support the growth of Chinese clans in Singapore. In 2011, it introduced the Clan of the Year Award to recognise outstanding clans and the inaugural SFCCA Outstanding Youth Award in 2017 to young people who have made outstanding contributions in promoting Chinese culture or clan activities.34

Ang Seow Leng

1. Wang Hui Ling, “Chinese Clans at the Crossroads,” Straits Times, 22 May 1993, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “About SFCCA,” Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, accessed 6 August 2018; “January Launch of Federation of Clan Groups,” Straits Times, 12 December 1985, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Daryl Chin, “Chinese Clan Federation to Promote Social Bonding,” Straits Times, 18 September 2011, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Lin Wendan and Feng Qinglian 总编辑林文丹 and 冯清莲, eds., Xīnjiāpō zōng xiāng huìguǎn shǐ lüè  新加坡宗乡会馆史略 [History of Clan Associations in Singapore], vol. 1 (Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 2005), 19. (Call no. Chinese RSING q369.25957 HIS); Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “About SFCCA.”
5. “New Home for Clan Federation,” Straits Times, 9 May 1997, 24. (From NewspaperSG)
6. 新加坡宗乡会馆联合总会, 国家档案馆, 口述历史馆[联合主办 Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations and and National Archives of Singapore, Xīnjiāpō huárén huìguǎn yángé shǐ新加坡华人会馆沿革史 [History of the Chinese clan associations in Singapore], vol. 2 (Singapore: Singapore News and Publishing Company, 1986), 228. (Call no. Chinese RSING 369.25957 HIS)
7. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations and and National Archives of Singapore, Xīnjiāpō huárén huìguǎn yángé shǐ, 336–50; Pang Cheng Lian, ed., “Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations: Revitalising Clan Associations,” in 50 Years of the Chinese Community in Singapore (Singapore: World Scientific, 2016), 30. (Call no. RSING 959.57004951009045 FIF)
8. Pang, ed., “Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations,” 30.
9. Polo Cheng 郑普洛, Xīnjiāpō zōng xiāng huìguǎn de lìshǐ yǎnbiàn 新加坡宗乡会馆的历史演变 [The Historical Evolution of Singapore Clan Association], no. 7 (1988), 43. (Call no. Chinese RSING 369.25957 Y)
10. Pang, ed., “Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations,” 31.
11. Pang, ed., “Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations,” 31.
12.  Pang, ed., “Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations,” 35.
13. Koh Siew Tin, “The Old Clan Days, Revisited,” Straits Times, 13 March 1986, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Wang, “Chinese Clans at the Crossroads.”
15. Leong Weng Kam, “Community Groups First to Join Clan Federation,” Straits Times, 5 October 2013, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, “About SFCCA.”
17. Lin and Feng, Xīnjiāpō zōng xiāng huìguǎn shǐ lüè, 19.
18. Pang, ed., “Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations,” 39–40.
19. Han Shanyuan 韩山元,  “Zǒng huì 15 nián” 总会15年[15 years of association] in Lin Yuanfu 林源福等撰稿, Huígù 25: Zōng xiāng zǒng huì èrshíwǔ zhōunián wén jí, 1985–2010回顾25: 宗乡总会二十五周年文辑, 1985–2010 [Review 25: The 25th Anniversary of the SFCCA, 1985–2010] (Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 2010), 227.(Call no. Chinese RSING 369.25957 HGE)
20. “Make Distinction in China Ties: BG Yeo,” Straits Times, 18 May 1995, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
21. “About,” Chinese Development Assistance Council, accessed 16 July 2018.  
22. Han Shanyuan, “Zǒng huì 15 nián” 229.
23. Rachel Chang, “PM Is Named 1st Patron of Chinese Clan Federation,” Straits Times, 8 August 2011, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Chang, “PM Is Named 1st Patron.” 
25. Rachel Chang, “Chinese Clans Plan Centre for New Citizens,” Straits Times, 26 January 2012, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
26. “Singapore’s Approach to Diversity Has Created a Distinctive Identity Across Ethnic Groups: PM Lee Hsien Loong,” Straits Times, 19 May 2017. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
27. Leong Weng Kam, “Clans to Go Ahead with Manual on Chinese Rites,” Straits Times, 21 September 1988, 40. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Huang Shenhui and Lin Wendan 黄燊辉 and 林文丹, eds., Zǒng huì shí nián: Shí zhōunián jìniàn tèkān: 1985–1995 总会十年: 十周年纪念特刊: 1985–1995 [Ten years of general assembly: Tenth anniversary special issue: 1985–1995] (Singapore: Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, 1995), 23–26. (Call no. Chinese RSING 369.25957 ZHS)
29. “Lǐzīzhèng tán huárén shèhuì, shuāngyǔ bǎn jìniàncè miànshì” 李资政谈华人社会,双语版纪念册面市 [Li Zizheng talks about Chinese society, bilingual commemorative booklet is launched], Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报, 4 June 1991, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
30. Leong, “Clans to Go Ahead.” 
31. “Lǐzīzhèng tán huárén shèhuì.”
32. Huang and Lin, Zǒng huì shí nián, 23–26.
33. Leong Weng Kam, “Two Books on Chinese in S’pore to Be Launched,” Straits Times, 6 November 2015, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
34. Leong Weng Kam, “Wanted: A New Crop of Chinese Clan Leaders,” Straits Times, 16 January 2017, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at May 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 





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