A Study of Chua Boon Hean (1905-1995): (Re)configuring the Hong Kong-Singapore Connection in Southeast Asia

Soo Ei Yap

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review


    Historian Craig J. Reynolds once reminded scholars that apart from understanding state formation in Southeast Asia, dynamics of the local-regional-central relations could also provide more interesting insights. He noted how “tiny centers had a sense of geopolitical significance and looked outward to the world”. Here, Reynolds seemed to suggest that these “tiny centers” had an intuitive sense of their geopolitical significance but over time, it was people who passed through these centers on their voyages who helped to reinforce this sense of geopolitical significance.

    A related question which could be asked is how are such knowledge or information being propagated. Do certain sites or centers produce particular kinds of interaction? In Southeast Asia, many scholars have noted how trading activities are key to defining these centers and as such, much focus have been placed on the role of merchants or entrepreneurs. Yet, little has been explored on the role of intellectuals who are involved in cultural industries such as that of publishing, advertising or film-making which connected multiple port cities in the 20th century. Are there any distinctive modes of economic and cultural exchange that arise in Southeast Asia when we examine the emergence of cultural industries in this region? This paper focuses on a particular “trans-media” Chinese intellectual Chua Boon Hean (1905-1995) who worked for Runme Shaw and Run Run Shaw in Singapore since the 1930s as editor, manager and scriptwriter. His various cultural outputs reflected the embeddedness of a Hong Kong-Singapore connection which was rarely discussed in Southeast Asia given the geographical disparity. This case study of Chua Boon Hean is useful in helping us to interrogate existing assumptions about the boundaries of regions and sub-regions which are crystalized along “hard boundaries” created by modern nationalisms in the 20th century.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019
    Event「東南亞華人之歷史角色」國際學術研討會 = International Conference on Positioning Chinese Diasporas in Southeast Asia - Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
    Duration: 1 Nov 20192 Nov 2019
    http://mhrc.hkbu.edu.hk/pdf/SEASIA%20CONF-schedule.pdf (Conference abstracts and program)


    Conference「東南亞華人之歷史角色」國際學術研討會 = International Conference on Positioning Chinese Diasporas in Southeast Asia
    Country/TerritoryHong Kong
    Internet address


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