The Chinese Heritage Centre (CHC) was founded in 1995 to advance knowledge and understanding of the ethnic Chinese communities in different parts of the world. Established as a non-profit organization, the Centre’s work is guided by an international Board of Governors. The current Board Chairman is Professor Su Guaning, President Emeritus of Nanyang Technological University. The Centre’s Deputy Chairman is Professor Wang Gungwu, Chairman of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong.
The Centre undertakes a range of public education, documentation and research activities. One of the major project CHC had undertaken was the publication of The Encyclopaedia of the Chinese Overseas in 1998.
Now into its second print, this publication is the standard reference on the Chinese Overseas and is printed in Chinese, English and French.
Journal of the Chinese Overseas(JCO) is an internationally refereed journal published in English twice a year in May and November under the auspices of the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas (ISSCO). This is a publication devoted to the multi-disciplinary study of the Chinese overseas. An inaugural issue was launched in May 2005.
The CHC also aims to be a leading research and resource center on the Chinese outside China. Its Wang Gungwu Library is an excellent resource center for scholars, researchers and students with over 30,000 books in its collection.
The Centre is also the coordinator for Huayinet which is an online website (www.huayinet.org) of the Inter-Agency Committee on Chinese Overseas Databank and Research Collection.The committee is made up of 13 Singapore-based organizations. Through this web site, information and material on the Chinese diaspora is easily accessible to the international community.
An exhibition in the CHC called Chinese More Or Less: An exhibiton on Overseas Chinese Identity has been unveiled in July 2005. It replaces the former permanent exhibition entitled From Segregation to Integration : Story of the Chinese Overseas which had attracted many student groups, scholars and overseas visitors.
Housed in the newly renovated galleries of the former Nanyang University Administration Building (a gazetted national monument), the exhibition will visually showcase themes related to “Chineseness” and the Chinese identity.
Through the generous donations by Chinese business leaders across Asia and major Singapore clan associations like the Hokkien Huay Kuan and Ngee Ann Kongsi, the Centre is able to fund these activities so as to realize its mission :
To promote awareness and understanding of Chinese culture and tradition among people in Singapore and the world through the collection, preservation and display of artworks and other objects of Chinese culture.
The Singapore Government had given the Centre a $5 million endowment fund, and interest from the fund had helped support the Centre’s work. Several reputable donors have also pledged $1 million each towards the Centre when it was first founded in 1995. They included prominent personalities like Dr Li Ka Shing, Mr Wee Cho Yaw, Mr Lee Seng Gee, Mr Liem Sioe Leong, Mr Chatri Sophonpanich and Dr Mochtiar Riady. In 1997, the Singapore Totalisator Board also gave a welcome $500,000 donation for the redevelopment of the ground floor and the second storey into a library and an auditorium.