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a collection of Singapore’s fading traditional crafts and trades

— a special edition publication



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part of singapore culture & design research project


The trade of traditional crafts once enlivened old Singapore’s social and economic fields. When our ancestors came to Singapore from the south-eastern coast of China in the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, and Hainan, the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, and the Indian subcontinent, Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and Puducherry during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, they brought along their values as well as their livelihoods. These livelihoods include various forms of traditional crafts, including songkok, Indian jewellery, and paper dragon boats, which have largely enriched Singapore’s rich cultural heritage.


This book documents 28 traditional craft trades of Singapore. Many of these invaluable trades have vanished or will vanish in 20 years. Nevertheless, some of these traditional trades, such as rattan weaving, textile dyeing, and candle making, have laid the foundation for the rise of modern craftsmen. Several traditional tradespeople have adapted and upgraded their crafts and businesses with the help of new technologies, such as laser engraving techniques for wood carving and blade-sharpening machines for improving the quality of grinding. Traditional crafts and trades have slowly dwindled in this modern Singapore due to the radically shifting cultural scene. But with the craftspersons’ continued ingenuity and perseverance, the crafts trade will continue to evolve and survive regardless of the changing landscape.


The book is fully embossed to signify the vanishing of Singapore’s traditional trades and crafts. The attached pastel chalk is for you to shade the pages and discover the lost arts of our ancestors. Only we humans can help conserve, support, and bring attention to the significance of this intangible cultural heritage of Singapore.


A collection of Singapore’s fading traditional crafts and trades is supported by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and the Ministry of Education, Singapore.

Research period: 2015–2018

Production period: 2019-2022


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