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Reunited for the First Time

SINGAPORE | Wednesday, 30 July 2008 | Views [470]

Tan Family Reunion at The Pines

Tan Family Reunion at The Pines

I have just returned from the big family reunion in Singapore. There were over 150 relatives in attendance, all descendants of the late Tan Tock Seng, my great great great great grandfather (I'm 7th generation). We met for a huge banquet dinner the first night, followed by a visit to the Peranakan Museum and other festivities. I had a wonderful time learning about our shared culture and heritage. I had the opportunity to meet and get to know many relatives from around the world: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Great Britain, the U.S., etc. One of our members compiled an extensive family tree including over 1,300 relatives. When printed out, the paper stretches 62 feet around the room. I knew many things about my heritage, but I learned a lot more this past week!

A little background... Peranakan means "local born" in Malay, and identifies the Straits Chinese people. In the 16th century, merchants immigrated to the Malaysian peninsula in order to seek their fortunes. They often married local women, and their descendants became known as Peranakan. They maintained some ancient Chinese customs, but have also created their own culture and traditions based on what was practical within their local Malaysian environment, and under the influence of westerners from Portugal, the Netherlands, and England. Peranakans are known for their delicious spicy cuisine, elaborate dress, fancy dishware, unique customs, fluent spoken English, as well as a language which is like Malay but still very different. My mother's parents are from Singapore, where many Peranakans still reside. My mom, her parents and her elder sister fled the area following the Japanese occupation, settling in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Three more of her sisters were born in Malaysia.

Singapore was a great city to visit. It is nice and clean, but not spotless as I had imagined, and it's what some people like to call extremely civilized. Most things are very expensive, but you know what you're paying for and this wealthy city-nation rarely disappoints. Besides the reunion events, I also visited Merlion Park in Singapore Harbor, the famous Raffles Hotel (http://www.travelandleisure.com/hotels/raffles-hotel-singapore-singapore-asia), Chinatown, Little India and the National Theater. I think I enjoyed Chinatown the most, for it's food, shopping and ambiance. It was raining that day, so we had to duck in and out of the vendor stalls, but it was still a really good time and I found lots of great treasures. I also enjoyed seeing the Emerald Hill house where my Grandmother, a Tan lady and our connection to the larger family, grew up. Trendy bars and restaurants now occupy the mouth of Emerald Hill, but fortunately, the row house facades have been historically preserved.
Our Tan family reunion was covered by multiple news publications, including the Straits Times. I would post the article here, which contained a photo of my mother and three of her sisters, but they require an on-line subscription... so, I will have to share it at a later time (see last journal entry). Also, for anyone who's interested in learning more about the Peranakans, there's a nice article about them and their Singapore roots in the July 2008 issue of Travel+Leisure.

My cousin just sent me this news link... yours truly in photo 1 of 2 and in the short video clip!:

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