Chinese Migration to Singapore : 雪地送炭 – Gifting Charcoal In A Snow Field

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Chinese Emigrants To Singapore

Chinese Migration To Singapore – Late 1890’s to 1940’s. – 雪地送炭 - Gifting Charcoal In A Snow Field


The Chinese emigrants from China during the 1890’s to 1940’s, faced triple jeopardy  in making their journey to Singapore and other parts of South East Asia. First, the China authorities frown on it. At the same time the emigrants were often badly treated during the journey and on arrival at their destination. Despite these hazards, the number of emigrants increased from 2,000 in 1838 to more than 190,000 in 1895.

Floods, droughts, famines, rebellions and over-population were to major factors which push the Chinese to emigrate. The “pull” came from  the “vigour of economic factor” with the British busy developing Singapore then.

Our grandfather and Founder, Mr. Tong Chee Leong was one of the earlier emigrants and was fortunate to have founded Chop Wah On as a viable business  in Singapore. It seemed the emigrants which arrived  after  him were required to be quarantined at  “Sulphur Island” which was probably St, John Island as it was called then.

He helped many of his clans men from his village who came after him by acting as their guarantor using Chop Wah On as “surety” to be responsible for the livelihood of the new arrivals. The clans men stayed  in our shophouse at Pagoda Street and were provided with board and lodging. They helped out with whatever chores  in Chop Wah On while they looked for permanent employment.

Our  grandfather extended his arm of kindness to his community  who ventured to Singapore at great risks to seek a better life for themselves and their families back home. .  Our father, Tong Seng Mun,  being English educated helped  to liaise with the authorities with the documentation.  All of them were very grateful for the help extended  to them during the time when they needed it most - akin to “giving some one coal in a snow field" 雪中送炭。 Even in later years, many turned to our father for help in reading English letters from the Govt and for help with the authorities and other parties using his network of friends in the civil service and other organizations.

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