Chinese Christian Association



The Chinese Christian Association (CCA) was established in October 18891 and lasted for more than half a century.2 The group organised religious activities such as bible classes alongside secular activities including debates, lectures as well as drama and reading clubs.3 Through its literary and cultural movements, the CCA became a forum for the debate of a wide range of social issues pertaining to the Straits Chinese (Peranakan) community.4

History
In 1889, Lim Koon Tye, a young Peranakan, presented a lecture about the recreations of the Straits Chinese at a meeting of the Presbyterian Church’s Young Men’s Society.5 The 23-year-old Lim spoke of transforming the physical, moral and mental outlook of the Straits Chinese, and appealed to the church to take a special interest in the Straits Chinese community. Following the lecture, the Young Men’s Society formed a committee that included Arthur Knight, John Haffenden, W. Swan and Tan Boon Chin to explore how the church could affect the moral lives and welfare of the Straits Chinese.6


This led to the formation of the Chinese Christian Association (CCA) later that year.7 Through its literary and cultural activities,8 the CCA hoped to occupy the vacuum left by the dissolution of the Celestial Reasoning Association, a society that had been formed by local Chinese to debate ethical and social issues using English as the main medium of communication.9 The influence of the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church among the Straits Chinese had also dwindled after the demise of its leader, Benjamin Keasberry, and the CCA looked to rectify this state of affairs.10

Organisation and membership
Among the key organisers of the CCA at its inception were superintendent of the Sailors’ Home Charles Philips, church leader John A. B. Cook, military officers J. Johnson Tuck and R. S. Watson as well as Haffenden and Knight.11 Although it was formed by a predominantly European group, Straits Chinese personalities began to assume leadership roles in the CCA. Lawyer and writer Song Ong Siang was a strong influence on the association, serving as president from 1893 until as late as 1939,12 while church elder Tan Boon Chin was also a long-serving honorary secretary.13


The CCA gathered young Straits Chinese for bible studies, debates and other activities.14 However, being a Christian was not mentioned to be a prerequisite for membership. A 1892 Straits Times Weekly Issue article reported that the association wanted to provide for a “variety of wants”, and “to create a spirit utterly opposed to all the habits and characteristics of that despicable being – the fast young man”.15 Its main goal was thus to encourage “all Straits Chinese seeking religious and moral enlightenment and intellectual improvement”.16

Through its literary and cultural activities, the CCA also promoted the mastery of the English language among Straits Chinese youths.17 Its debates and lectures aimed to open up a range of perspectives for its members, as well as produce cultured young men.18

In the first year of its establishment, the CCA had 19 members, and 33 the following term.19 The figure comprised members as well as honorary and associate members.20 In the early years, the members were mainly of Straits Chinese origin.21 By 1912, the membership had risen to 72,22 and the CCA’s anniversary events in the 1930s saw hundreds in attendance.23 Membership was free of charge in its earlier years, but later became subscription-based.24

Activities
In its early years, meetings were held at the Prinsep Street Church,25 and later at a dedicated hall along the same street.26 In addition to organising bible classes and lectures, a debating society was formed within its first decade.27 The debates centred on topics such as women’s education, the freedom to choose a spouse, and other societal issues, while lectures ranged from the history of Singapore, Chinese education to patriotism. Lectures on travel and foreign cities utilised the magic lantern, an early projection technology.28


A library was set up in 1893 with a surplus of $124.75 from the association’s funds. In 1897, Song’s practice of printing articles for readings at the CCA led to the establishment of The Straits Chinese Magazine, a quarterly publication.29 In 1908, the Straits Chinese Reading Club was formed as a branch of the CCA to promote the habit of reading among the Straits Chinese as well as to improve their standard of English.30 Literature classes were conducted by the likes of Song, Philip Hoalim and the Reverend William Murray.31 The debating society and reading club were popular pillars of the CCA’s activities.32

In the early 1900s, the Dramatic Section of the Straits Chinese Reading Club was formed. Its members performed at various Straits Chinese social gatherings, literary society meetings33 and at the CCA’s annual anniversary celebrations.34

After its first decade, Song sought to ensure the CCA’s viability for the next generation and emphasise its Christian character of service. Courses such as those in first aid were organised and the CCA expanded its charitable activities, eventually offering grants towards educational and welfare institutions as well as scholarships for young Chinese men and women.35

By the 1920s, the CCA’s debating society regularly held debates with other associations36 such as the Eurasian Literary Association, Moslem Institute, Amateur Drawing Association and the Straits Chinese Literary Association.37 In the CCA’s annual report published in 1932, it was stated that activities in the previous year included five religious meetings, seven debates, an interclub debate, a mock municipal council where societal issues were discussed, two etiquette courses and five lectures.38

Demise
The CCA celebrated its 51st anniversary in February 1941 with a special collection for the war fund.39 However, after falling into inactivity during World War II and the Japanese Occupation, the association was not revived in the postwar period.40




Author

Bonny Tan




References
1. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 59, 254. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
2. Chinese Christian Association. (1941, February 20). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 254–256. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); Chinese Christian Association. (1913, January 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 254. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
5. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 230. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); The late Mr. Lim Koon Tye. (1921, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 230. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
7. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 254. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore: Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG); Wednesday, 14th August. (1889, August 15). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore: Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG)
9. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 254–256. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
10. Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore: Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG)
11. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 59, 254. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); The late Mr. Lim Koon Tye. (1921, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore: Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 83. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG); Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); Chinese Christian Association 49 years old. (1939, February 27). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); The late Mr. Lim Koon Tye. (1921, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 268. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
15. Singapore Chinese Christian Association. (1892, August 10). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 254. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
17. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
18. The Chinese Christian Association. (1893, September 12). The Straits Times, p. 4; Chinese Christian Association. (1893, September 9). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Chinese Christian Association. (1891, August 12). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); Chinese Cristian Association. (1893, September 9). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
22. Chinese Christian Association. (1912, January 20). Weekly Sun, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Chinese Christian Association. (1934, February 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3; Chinese Christian  Chinese Christian Association. (1935, February 23). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Chinese Cristian Association. (1893, September 9). The Singapore Free Press, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore (p. 255). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
26. Occasional notes – Chinese Christian Association [Microfilm: NL 268]. (1906). The Straits Chinese Magazine: A Quarterly Journal of Oriental and Occidental Culture, 10, 210.
27. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
28. The Chinese Christian Association. (1893, September 12). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 235, 245–246. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); Chinese Christian Association. (1897, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chinese reading club. (1909, April 30). The Straits Times, p. 7; Straits Chinese Reading Club. (1909, May 1). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 255–256. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON); Chinese Christian Association. (1934, February 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Chinese Christian Association. (1920, February 6). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 6; Straits Chinese Reading Club. (1930, January 15). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Dramatic Section of the Straits Chinese Reading Club (Branch of the CCA). (1927, September 10). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
34. Song, O. S. (1900). Our aims as a society [Microfilm: NL 267]. The Straits Chinese Magazine: A Quarterly Journal of Oriental and Occidental Culture, 4, 4.
35. Song, O. S. (1900). Our aims as a society [Microfilm: NL 267]. The Straits Chinese Magazine: A Quarterly Journal of Oriental and Occidental Culture, 4, 7–9.
36. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 384. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)
37. Chinese Christian Association. (1920, February 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
38. Chinese Christian Association. (1932, February 28). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Chinese Christian Association. (1941, February 20). The Straits Times, p. 11; War fund reaches $5,033,934 to-day. (1941, February 28). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. There are no reports of any activities by association after 1941.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Chinese--Singapore--History--20th century
Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Christianity
Ethnic Communities
Organisations>>Associations
Christians--Singapore--History--20th century
Heritage and Culture
Organisations