The Straits Times, November 16, 2010
LI GONG si mi? The popular Hokkien expression for 'What are you talking about?' could well become a refrain soon in Fujian province where a centre for promoting better understanding between Singaporeans and Chinese is being planned.
To be built in tourist destination Gulangyu island near Xiamen in Hokkien-speaking Fujian, the Cultural Exchange Centre will be set up by Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong disclosed yesterday at a lunch hosted for him and China's Vice-President Xi Jinping.
It aims to 'showcase the strong historical and cultural linkages between Fujian and Singapore', he said.
Mr Goh noted that Mr Xi, who spent 17 years in various posts in Fujian province, 'would know that it is the province where the majority of Chinese Singaporeans come from'.
'The Hokkien Huay Kuan is therefore keen to contribute to the success of this Cultural Exchange Centre,' he added.
The clan's president Chua Thian Poh told The Straits Times that his association 'is fully prepared to support and take the lead in setting up the centre'.
Although details have yet to be finalised, Mr Chua foresees the proposed centre becoming a 'resource hub' for Singaporeans and Chinese to understand each other's culture, arts and heritage.
It will promote, among other things, exchanges in arts and culture, he said.
The 170-year-old Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, with about 4,000 members, is one of the largest clan groups here.
Its China project follows the setting up of a similar centre in Singapore by China.
The China Cultural Centre at 217, Queen Street is part of China's bid to help people understand Chinese culture and deepen ties with the host country.
Its ground-breaking ceremony was held yesterday, officiated by SM Goh and Mr Xi.
China has eight such centres worldwide and Singapore's is the first to be designed by a local architect: Mr Liu Thai Ker.
The centre will offer lessons in various areas, including Mandarin, calligraphy and wushu, said the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.
It will also house a library of books on China, screen films and hold exhibitions of Chinese and Singapore art as well as lectures on Chinese culture.
SM Goh said the centre will 'provide an excellent platform to showcase China's rich cultural heritage, and will also have a positive impact on Singapore's arts and culture scene'.
Reflecting on the two centres, he said: 'Our ties are more than just political and economic. We have deep people-to-people relations, too.'