From Singapore Hotels & Singapore Lifestyle
Chinese - Singapore is mainly composed of Chinese, who make up almost 77 per cent of its 4 million population. This is no recent phenomenon. When Sir Stamford Raffles hoisted the Union Jack and founded modern Singapore in 1819, Chinese planters, pirates, fishermen and traders were already present. Five years after its establishment, Singapore had 3,000 Chinese and more were arriving weekly. Most were either traders or villagers from southern and eastern China fleeing the turmoil and corruption of 19th-century Chinese politics. By 1836, Chinese were the numerical majority, a pattern of racial demographics that has been with Singapore ever since. Most of today's Singaporean Chinese can trace their origins to these hardy migrants.
Singapore's present Chinese population can be broken down into nearly a dozen linguistic group:-
- Hokkien: Hokkiens from the southern Fujian province of China form the largest subgroup (42 per cent). The most economically successful among the Chinese, they are usually traders and businessmen dominant in areas such as banking, shipping, insurance and real estate.
- Teochews: Next are the Teochews, who originated from the Shantou region in Guangdong in China. They continue their traditional dominance of the fresh produce trade and other occupations like fishing and jewellery.
- Cantonese: The Cantonese, who hailed from Hong Kong and the lowlands of central Guangdong in China, form 17 per cent of the local Chinese population.
- Hakkas: Hakkas from central China make up 7 per cent.
- Hainanese: Hainanese from Hainan Island make up 6 per cent. The Hainanese are largely found in the hospitality and domestic service industries.
The Chinese speak a variety of dialects but their common link is Mandarin, (or hua yu), the language of the Beijing area, which is taught in Singapore schools as the official mother tongue of the Chinese. Other official measures to homogenise the Chiense population include the long-standing "Speak Mandarin" campaign, held annually to promote the use of Mandarin in place of the native Chinese dialects.
Linguistic differences aside, another fault within the Chinese community is the divide between the "English-educated" and the "Chinese-educated". The English-educated are the product oa an English-medium education, comfortable with Western culture. While the Chinese-educated are the product of Chinese-medium schools, Mandarin- or dialect-speaking, and with strong links to their Chinese heritage. The latter tend to view their English-educated co-ethnics as lacking in cultural roots, while the English-educated frequently look on them as conservative and unprogressive.
A unifying bond between all Chinese is a belief in superstition. Fortune tellers and geomancers figure largely in the Chinese world view, their advice meticulously followed to bring luck and prosperity. The older generation also place their trust in old ways, eschewing modern medicine for herbal cures for everything from warts to toothaches. Acupuncturists continue to practise an ancient science, only now becoming recognised by the West.
Food occupies a pre-eminent place in Chinese culture. A minister once quipped: "If a Chinese sees a snake in the grass, he'll think of a awy to eat it". Chinese Restaurants, stalls and private kitchens offer every sort of Chinese Cuisine, from Peking Duck to Cantonese herbal soups.
For the Chinese, "heatiness" has nothing to do with body temperature. It has to do with maintaining the body's well-being, having the right balance of hot and cold elements (ie. Yin and Yang). Certain food and dishes (eg. chilli, fried foods) are considered "heaty" while others (eg. steamed eggs, watermelon) are considered cooling. If one eats too much "heaty" food, does not sleep well or is under stress, the body will become too heaty and one is likely to fall ill. To counteract this, a person needs to take more cooling food so that a balance is achieved.