Low Ing Sing



Low Ing Sing (b. 1924, Sibu, Sarawak–d. 2002, Singapore)1 was a pioneer of Mandarin drama and theatre in Singapore. An all-rounded theatre practitioner, Low acted, wrote and directed plays, and was also a drama trainer. Furthermore, he was an established writer and a film and drama critic who wrote under various pen names such as Shao Fei, Kai Shan, Tian Shan and Jian Ke.2 For his achievements and contributions to the local theatre scene, Loh was awarded the Cultural Medallion Award for Theatre in 1985.3

Early life and career
Low was born in 1924 in the town of Sibu, which is located in what is today the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. He started acting at the age of seven, playing the part of a maid in a school play.4 Thereafter, he continued to take part in various school performances playing female roles. In 1939, Low joined a local drama group and took part in his first real play. He was a very active member and soon became the vice president of the drama group.5 In those days, the plays were performed in the Fuzhou dialect as the Chinese residents in Sibu were predominantly migrants from the Fuzhou Province of China.6

Upon graduation from high school in 1940, Low’s father decided to send him to China to further his studies. While in transit in Singapore, news came that Fuzhou had fallen into the hands of the Japanese. His father then decided that they would remain in Singapore instead and enrolled Low in Chung Cheng High School.7

While in Chung Cheng, Low continued to pursue his interest in theatre. He took part in a few plays and was a member of a drama group called Singapore Practical Drama Group.8

During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–1945), Low took on various jobs to make a living. He worked first as a coffee shop assistant and later as a provision shop assistant. Then he left for Thailand to work on the Japanese military’s Yunnan-Burma Railway construction project.9 Life was difficult there. Living conditions were bad and diseases such as malaria and cholera were rampant.10 Low managed to escape from the work camp but remained in Thailand where he worked in various occupations, including as a male nurse in a hospital, a sailor, a well-digger and a writer for a local newspaper.11 When the war ended in 1945, Low was repatriated back to Singapore by the United Nations.12

Low returned to Sibu in 1946 and in the following year, he returned to Singapore to continue his studies in Chung Cheng. In 1948, Low moved to Taiping (located in what is today West Malaysia) to teach before moving back to Singapore in 1951.13

Low worked as a full-time teacher in Malaysia and Singapore until 1979,14 teaching in schools such as Ai Tong, Chong Fu, Tao Nan and Kong Hwa. Despite having to hold down a full-time job and being the father of four children, Low continued to pursue his zeal for the theatre and his love for writing.15

After his retirement, Low taught in various organisations, including the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation, Rediffusion and Cathay Organisation. His passion was to promote theatre and drama to all, so he gave frequent talks on the history of local theatre and the art of performing to grassroots organisations, schools and cultural groups.16

Artistic career

After his return to Singapore from Thailand in 1947, Low returned to school and pioneered Mandarin drama activities for students. That same year, Low organised a play for the Chung Cheng High School’s drama association to raise funds for the school.17 The association’s success inspired other schools to set up their own drama groups. Chung Cheng High School students lent their support in various aspects such as make-up, lighting and wardrobe. Hence, from 1951 to 1959, drama groups in schools flourished.18


Low was a leader in the local Mandarin drama scene. In 1982, he rallied all the Mandarin drama groups together to put up the play Little White Sailing Boat for the Singapore Festival of Arts. Under his leadership, the Mandarin drama groups came together again in 1984 and put together an original play, Oola World. In 1985, Low wrote and directed Kopi Tiam with a multiracial cast drawn from drama groups of different language streams.19

Low was a self-taught artist; he did not have any formal training in acting or theatre. His many personal life experiences were the source of inspiration for his plays. For example, his play The Coffee Shop was inspired by his experiences working as a coffee shop assistant.20 Another play, Bai Nian Shu Ren, was inspired by his school days in Sibu.21

In addition to writing plays, Low also wrote many film reviews, poetry and two short novels, Shi Han Nu and Yi Ge Nu Ren De Gu Shi.22

Family23
Wif
e: Ee Yio Nion.

Sons: Law Ngi King (deceased), Lau Ngeh Pi.
Daughters: Law Hai Yang, Low Nguok Kwong.

Appointments24
1955:
Co-founded the Singapore Amateur Players (now known as the Arts Theatre of Singapore), a Mandarin theatre group.


List of selected works25
Plays
废除接待 [Fei chu jie dai].
黄色梦 [Huang se meng].
摇摆舞 [Yao bai wu].
金鱼缸边 [Jin yu gang bian].
从风城来的人 [Cong feng cheng lai de ren].
他并没有死 [Ta bing mei you si].

Novels
拾蚶女 [Shi han nu].
一个女人的故事 [Yi ge nu ren de gu shi].



Author
Chor Poh Chin




References
1. 陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 5). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/01, p. 1]. Retrieved  from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; National Library Singapore. (2013). NLS Resources Guide: 新加坡华语话剧  [Xinjiapo hua yu hua ju]
2.
骆明 (主编) [Luo, M. (Ed.)]. (2005). 新加坡华文作家传略 [Xinjiapo Hua wen zuo jia zhuan lue]. Singapore: 新加坡文艺协会, p. 531. (Call no.: Chinese RSING C810.092 XJP)
3.
National Arts Council Singapore. (2012). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award recipients for theatre. Retrieved from https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/theatre/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-theatre
4.
陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 5). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/01, pp. 1, 3]. Retrieved  from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Ngui, C. (1986, January 31). A dramatic life. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5.
陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 5). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/01, p. 6]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; National Library Singapore. (2013). NLS Resources Guide: 新加坡华语话剧  [Xinjiapo hua yu hua ju].
6.
陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 5). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/01, pp. 7–9]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
7. 陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 5). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/02, p. 15]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

8.
Ngui, C. (1986, January 31). A dramatic life. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 7). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/05, p. 49]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
10. 陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 7). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/05, p. 60]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

11. 陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.] (Interviewer). (1985, March 13). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/07, pp. 84–85];
陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 13). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/08, pp. 97–99]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
12. 陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.]. (Interviewer). (1985, March 13). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/09, p. 102]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/ 
13. 吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1986, January 31). 永远的舞台 [Yong yuan de wu tai]. 合早  [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 40; 现实社会中的镜子 [Xian shi she hui zhong de jing zi]. (1982, July 15). 新洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Ngui, C. (1986, January 31). A dramatic life. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
现实社会中的镜子 [Xian shi she hui zhong de jing zi]. (1982, July 15). 新洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
Ngui, C. (1986, January 31). A dramatic life. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17.
Ngui, C. (1986, January 31). A dramatic life. The Straits Times, p. 19; 吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1986, January 31). 永远的舞台 [Yong yuan de wu tai]. 合早  [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Ngui, C. (1986, January 31). A dramatic life. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19.
Purushothaman, V. (Ed.). (2002). Narratives: Notes on a cultural journey: Cultural medallion recipients 1979–2001. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 152. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 NAR)
20.
陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L. (Interviewer)]. (1985, March 7).  Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/03, p. 35]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
21. 陈鸣鸾 (访员) [Chen, M. L.] (Interviewer). (1985, March 5). Oral History Interview with Low Ing Sing [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000450/09/01, p. 11]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

22. 现实社会中的镜子 [Xian jing zi]. (1982, July 15). 新洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23.
Obituaries: Law Ngi Kin. (1989, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24.
National Library Resource Guides. (2013). NLS Resources Guide: 新加坡华语话剧  [Xinjiapo hua yu hua ju].
25.
吴启基 [Wu, Q. J.]. (1986, January 31). 永远的舞台 [Yong yuan de wu tai]. 合早  [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 40; 现实社会中的镜子 [Xian shi she hui zhong de jing zi]. (1982, July 15). 新洲日  [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




Further resources
刘仁心 [Liu, R. X.]. (1996). 戏剧与人生: 戏剧评论 [Xi ju yu ren sheng: Xi ju ping lun]. 新加坡: 新加坡潮州八邑会馆文教委员会出版组.

(Call no.: Chinese RSING 792.095957 LRX)

刘仁心资料夹 (手稿) [Liu Renxin zi liao jia (manuscript)]. (19--).
(Call no.: Chinese RCLOS C810.092 LRX)

刘仁心 [Liu, R. X.]. (1997). 新加坡颂 [Xinjiapo song]. 新加坡: 七洋出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING C895.11 LRX)



The information in this article is valid as at 5 February 2014 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
Personalities
Arts