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Home | Singapore's Opporunity | Biography of Lien Shih Sheng | The Fund
 
 
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An opportunity— and challenge— for Singapore
   
Shanghai A massive cultural shift is currently underway of a magnitude not seen for centuries. In the span of just four decades, China has developed into one of the world’s preeminent nations. Its presence, power, and influence continue to expand in the realms of economics, culture, and foreign policy. As this monumental global shift progresses, the

potential exists for Singapore to play a strategic role as interlocutor between the East and the West. Singapore is unique in the advantageous position it might occupy. First, because nearly 80% of Singaporeans are of Chinese descent; and secondly because our recent history has provided us with many valuable insights in dealing with the West.

However, ancestry does not automatically bestow mastery of the Chinese language; nor the customs, social skills and etiquette that are required to be an effective conduit between East and West.

In fact, in the judgment of many; the Chinese language skills that one finds in Singapore today are not nearly as strong as they should be.

And this brings us to the point of this message: In every culture, mastery of language is a fundamental component in attaining success. Thus, I am writing on behalf of an endowment fund that seeks your assistance in strengthening and honing the Chinese language skills of Singapore’s young people. Our premise is this: That Chinese language is at the very core of Chinese culture and that by fostering the mastery of both by young people in Singapore will provide a competitive edge.

Now approaching its third year, the fund is called the Lien Shih Sheng Youth Chinese Literature Endowment Fund 连士升青少年文学基金 It was named after Lien Shih Sheng, one of Singapore’s most influential writers from the 1950s through early 1970s. He is remembered for his 20 volumes of essays, letters, biographies, and translations that focused on developing the skills necessary to succeed in life. Common threads in his writings are the importance of ethics, reason, and effort.
 

Thus, the Lien Shih Sheng Youth Chinese Literature Endowment Fund continues on this trajectory by involving and motivating young people to excel in Chinese language, literature and culture. Activities thus far have included sponsorship of seminars, writing competitions and publishing of prize-winning works.

The most recent example took place on 5 September 2009 at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre, where 1,000-plus engaged and eager young people gathered to strengthen their Chinese language skills and interact with one of our generation’s superb writers and philosophers, Yu Guangzhong 余光中. Mr Yu is one of only three individuals to ever be featured twice on the television program ‘Lecture Room’ 百家讲坛 produced by CCTV in Beijing. The other two notables who have been featured twice on the program are physicist Stephen Hawking and entrepreneur Bill Gates.
A stated goal is ‘Eight Plus Eight’ ‘八 加 八’ (八年加八年), which means that we want our activities to capture the hearts, interest, and imaginations of young people when they are eight years old and maintain and grow that interest for the next eight years. We believe that if we can accomplish this, then they will be with us for the rest of their lives.

In looking at the current cultural landscape of Singapore, we see influences of both East and West. But one might reasonably wonder if there’s an equitable balance. We believe that in the current environment— where English-language magazines, movies, newspapers, and television programming appear to greatly outnumber those available in Chinese— that it’s not surprising that Chinese-language skills have atrophied. Thus, we want to take decisive steps to ensure that young Singaporeans are educated and prepared to operate in a world where skills in Chinese will be increasingly important. This is not a small task. It will require resources. For 2010, our goal is to raise S$1-million.

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Centuries ago, those who needed funding to turn a powerful idea into a reality sought an audience with the emperor to make their request. In today’s world, we must ask you. And for each dollar that is contributed to the Lien Shih Sheng Youth Chinese Literature Endowment Fund, every amount contributed will be matched by the Singapore government. We all thank you for considering our mission and for your support.

 

 
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Copyright © 2010 Lien Shih Sheng Youth Chinese Literature Endowment Fund