The Straits Chinese Magazine

Cover of Volume 1, Issue 1

The Straits Chinese Magazine was a journal that appeared in Singapore from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century (1897-1907) that containing a mixture of news, editorials, essays and short stories modeled after the British periodicals Blackwoods and Macmillians. Unlike previous periodicals, the Straits Chinese Magazine sought to give a voice to the Chinese inhabitants of British Malaya, and did not only contain articles by the Europeans who were there. The journal was edited by two prominent young Malayan Chinese men who had recently returned from studying in England, Song Ong Siang and Lim Boon Keng.

Blackwood's Magazine Cover

Many of the essays and short stories in the Straits Chinese Magazine demonstrate how these hybrid, ethnic subjects found themselves torn between wanting to claim access to forms of Englishness through the practice of late Victorian ideals of masculinity such as honor and restraint, but to still assert a form of ethnic Chinese identity. One of the main editors of the magazine, Lim Boon Keng, was heavily influenced by the “Self-Strengthening Movement” within Qing China, which sought to modernize using Western technologies but maintaining Chinese cultural identity through the term Zhongxue weiti, xixue weiyong 中學為體,西學為用 or, “Chinese learning as the essence, and Western learning for application.”

  1. Alex Gil says:

    I love what you have so far. I find the framework for preserving and sharing these remediations extremely useful for my own thinking in archiving Aimé Césaire. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the project develops. In the meantime, have you guys considered submitting the project for digital peer-review at NINES. I suggest this in the form of a question. In order to decolonize the archive, at the moment when we remediate the archive online, do we join frameworks that have been dominated by Euro-American texts, or do we create new networks/platforms? Do we infiltrate and cannibalize, or do we build independent alternatives? Is this even a useful way of framing the question?

    • admin says:

      This is a fabulous question Alex. I don’t know if the problem are the platforms themselves, but rather the fact that there aren’t enough sites like these out there. I think the more “decolonizing” sites we have available the more we will be able to answer this question and how it plays out. And I love the idea of a Césaire archive. Maybe we could work together on putting together a Négritude archive with @readywriting…?

  2. Alex Gil says:

    I’ve been thinking about a Nègritude archive for a while. I want to remix some of the available technology, and maybe roll some of our own to incorporate geo-temporal visualizations and what I call an ‘archipelagic’ bibliography. I’ve offered a similar project on my post-doc applications centered around Césaire. Fingers crossed. I’ll hit @readywriting on twitter to set an exploratory chat. In the meantime we’re going to be talking decolonizing the archive at THATCampCaribe without a doubt. You should try to go!

  3. Another potential group could be the Anvil Academic Publishing group sponsored by NITLE and CLIR:

  4. […] ‘Chinese Englishmen’  focuses on how this group of intermediaries negotiated these tensions in The Straits Chinese Magazine, a journal that appeared in Singapore from the late nineteenth century and which contained a […]

  5. Askay Chang says:

    Thank you for digitizing parts of the Magazine. Just some small comments:

    regarding this Profile Image which is not representative of the topic. The image is of a 17th century Chinese Jesuit who is most known for his work in France. Apart from the few such as Sir Song Ong Siang and Lim Boon Heng, many of the Straits Chinese of early 19th century did not enjoy the luxury of long distance travel.

    The baba society was hideously unequal… men enjoyed colonial privileges while, in general, their women were kept in the dark ages. The two stalwart Straits Chinese I mentioned earlier, Song and Lim, were conscious of, and became champions of a more just Straits Chinese Society.

    The following links are pictures of life as it was led by the wealthy few
    {L-R) Lim and Song

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Straits Chinese Magazine