In March this year, the Koh family returned to their hometown in Chaozhou, flying from Singapore to China, the oldest member of the family already in his 80's.
Wilson Koh stood in front of his family ancestral hall. [Photo provide to newsgd.com]
In the 1920s, Wilson Koh's grandparents and two great-uncles emigrated to Singapore after traveling across the sea from the town of Fa Yang in Chao'an County, Guangdong. After enduring many hardships, life finally settled down, and the family grew and prospered. Today, the Koh’s family history in Singapore spans four generations, but tradition and custom still links the family to their ancestral home. Every year, on the first day of the second month of the lunar calendar, the Koh's return to their hometown to pay respect to their ancestors.
"We still have a large extended family back home" Wilson Koh said. Ancestral Day is an important family event, with members from all across the globe gathering here for the festival.
The tradition of Ancestral halls
More than 20 years ago, when Wilson Koh first stood in front of his family ancestral hall, he was first drawn to the beautiful and historic architecture. But as time went on, he came to realize that the hall also housed an intangible heritage that has been passed on from generation to generation.
Seven years ago, Koh family in Singapore contributed a great deal of money to support the renovation of their ancestral shrines back home. During the renovation project, the family placed emphasis on preserving the family’s historic teachings, and set out the family’s rules and precepts in a prominent position in the hall, preserving the historic teachings for future generations.
"Honesty has always been our family’s byword" Koh said, adding that it has remained the family’s first rule in their personal and business lives. The principles of family discipline, an emphasis on filial piety, uniting family members, conducting oneself virtuously, have all had a subtle influence on the Koh family across the generations.
"I'll never forget my hometown"
Around Tomb Sweeping Day every year, many overseas Chinese will return to their hometowns to pay homage to their ancestors and visit their graves. Worshipping at these ancestral tombs or at the ancestral shrines, the drumming, burning incense, toasting wine are all ancient rituals paying homage to one's origins.
At the end of this year's ceremony, the Koh family invited a Chao Opera Troupe to perform two consecutive nights in the village.
During one of the performances an 80-year-old villager expressed his thanks for what the Koh family had done for the village. This touched Wilson Koh deeply.
The Koh family began to invest in Shantou in the 1980’s, undertaking many social welfare projects. In order to provide care for the elderly left in the village, funds have been donated to build schools and for the establishment of a Recreation Centre to provide care and a recreational space for the elderly in the village.
In recent years a new generation of Chinese living in Singapore have been increasingly visiting their extended families in China, and Ancestral Halls have played an important role in connecting Chinese living in Singapore with their ancestral homes.
Reported by Simon
Edited by Wing Zhang