Limited Edition Print #19: Sim Chi Yin

jetty steps


Edition of three, plus one artist’s proof
S$1200 per print*


These steps at the jetty in Songkou town, east Guangdong, are the ones my paternal great-grandfather — and many Hakkas from nearby impoverished mountains – walked down to get onto small boats to set sail for Shantou (Swatow) at the turn of the 20th century. From Shantou, they boarded larger ocean-going ships headed for Southeast Asia (known as Nanyang or the Southern Seas at the time), the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, as part of a broader wave of Chinese emigrants escaping poverty and civil war at home to become coolies, labourers and small businessmen abroad.

My paternal great-grandfather, Shen Shuixiang 沈水祥 left his ancestral village — about a day’s walk from this jetty (a mere 30 minute motorbike ride today) — as a poor peasant and settled in the small town of Selama, Perak, northern Malaya, setting up a small shop in a plantation there.

A generation later, in early 1949, his son, my grandfather, Shen Huansheng 沈焕盛 took those same jetty steps – back to our ancestral homeland. He had sailed back there after being deported by the British in Malaya for leftist activities during the Malayan Emergency which started in 1948. He joined a Chinese Communist guerrilla army unit near our ancestral village and in 1949 was arrested and imprisoned by the rival Kuomintang in Songkou, before being executed by them in July that year – two months shy of the Communist victory.

Today, this jetty and the town of Songkou has been spruced up for tourism. The local government wants to attract visitors especially among members of the Chinese diaspora, specifically the Hakkas who left from here. When I visited the jetty and Songkou in August 2014, workers were busy repairing and renovating the century-old steps leading down to the Meijiang River 梅江that our ancestors sailed down.

Roots is a project by China-based Singaporean photographer Sim Chi Yin to piece together the story of her grandfather who died a Communist martyr and her family history. A first-generation Singaporean born to Malaysian parents, she unwittingly did degrees in Chinese history and became a journalist and photographer like the grandfather that virtually no one in the family spoke about for six decades since his death. In 2011, she was the first in the family overseas to return in 62 years to visit her ancestral village, where a 3-metre high monument to her grandfather stands.

Many of the 200,000 Hakkas in Singapore – the fourth-largest dialect group after the Hokkiens, Teochews and Cantonese – were originally from the same part of southern China as Chi Yin’s family. In her on-going journey to make this work, she grapples with her family history, which turned on her grandfather’s death, but also her ethnic roots, and identity as a Singaporean Chinese and overseas Chinese living in China.

* By purchasing a print, you are making a direct and important contribution to the publications of twentyfifteen books. Without your generous support, the financial burden of self-publishing them will be significantly higher for us.

About the print:
– Paper size: 17″ x 22″
– Image size: 13.8″ x 20.8″
– Each print is carefully made with Epson professional printer, using original Epson inks.
– The paper for this edition is Museo Silver Rag, 300gsm.
– You can find out more about the paper specifications for Museo Silver Rag paper here.
– Signed with title, edition number and year, in ink, recto

Singapore shipping:
– Free hand delivery for any Singapore addresses.
– Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent.

Overseas shipping:
- we will work with individual buyer on the best shipping option.
– Additional charges to be borne by buyer.
- Each print is delivered in top grade Mylar or equivalent, with additional protection for shipping

More info about digital printing in general:
- Wilhelm Imaging Research is the world authority on stability and preservation of traditional and digital photographs.

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