Yap Koon Chan
(B.A. / Class of 1959)
Singapore’s Doyen and Champion of Chinese Literature
For his steadfast and trailblazing achievements in the development and promotion of Chinese literature in Southeast Asia, and for putting this region on the map of the Chinese literary world, Nanyang Technological University honours Mr Yap Koon Chan with the Nanyang Distinguished Alumni Award.
One of Singapore’s most famous writers in the Chinese language, Mr Yap Koon Chan is best known by his pen name Luo Ming. His other pen names include Situ Wen, Liu Xin, Liu Bu, Zhao Ming, Tang Ni, Hu Jia, Si Ma Lu and Qiu Ye.
His passionate advocacy for Chinese Literature began in the 1950s as an undergraduate at Nanyang University (Nantah), a predecessor institution of NTU. An excellent essayist, he co-founded with other budding Nantah writers the ‘Nanyang University Literary Creation Society’, which was to become a hotbed for literary creation and critique.
From the 1960s to 1970s, Mr Yap was an educator in Chung Cheng High School and Catholic High School, holding various positions from Teacher, Dean of Studies, to Principal. During that period, he was also the Secretary General of the Singapore Middle Schools Chinese Teachers’ Association. Apart from his contributions to education, he also helped bring back to life two publications, Nanyang Education and Singapore Youth. Mr Yap also published Journal on the Teaching of Chinese Language, and planned the publication of two book collections on the teaching of Chinese Language.
In 1980, he became the President of the Singapore Literary Research Association, later known as the Singapore Literature Society, and has held the position for the past 30 years. Under his leadership, the Society published many literary journals and book collections, including Singapore Chinese Literature Magazine, Singapore Chinese Literature Newspaper, and other publications.
A passionate literary activist, Mr Yap has spared no effort in the promotion of Chinese Literature. He has planned and organised many international seminars, camps, and symposiums on Chinese literature, such as the ‘Conference on International Chinese Literature’, the ‘Singapore Chinese Literature Award’, the ‘Lian Shi Sheng Award’, ‘Literary Salons’, ‘Focused Literature seminars’, ‘Yao Zi’s Literature Development Path’ and promoted Singapore Chinese Literature overseas, such as the inter-cultural programs, overseas exhibitions etc.
With a vision to promote ASEAN Chinese literature to the rest of the world, Mr Yap founded in 1988 the biennial ASEAN Literature Camp. The fist ASEAN Literature Camp was held in Singapore, allowing Chinese-language writers from the six ASEAN countries of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines and Brunei to come together. The camp created an important platform for exchange on Chinese creative writing, and opened for Chinese literature in ASEAN a window to the world.
In the 1990s, Mr Yap began to systematically publish collections of Chinese literary works, including a book collection of ‘Studies on Chinese Writers in Singapore’, ‘Singapore Chinese Literature Award Winners’, ‘Salute to the Elderly’, ‘Deceased Writers’, ‘Young Writers’, ‘Chronicles of Living in Flats’, ‘Chronicles of Flyovers’, amongst others. To systematically organise information for a fuller picture of Chinese literature in Singapore, Mr Yap also worked with Singapore’s National Library Board on A Photographic Catalogue of Manuscripts of Writers who Came South, Research Materials on Writers Who Came South and Yao Zi’s Literature Development Path. In addition, he worked with other Literature organizations to publish the Biographies ofChinese Language Writers in Singapore.
Mr Yap has not stopped writing for the last 50 years, publishing essays, travelogues and critiques. He has published to-date 25 books. They include works such as Travel Tracks, New to the World,ASEAN Chinese Literature – Another Realm of Influence, Wishful Thinking, Thoughts, Pilgrimage in September and The Works of Luo Ming.
To honour his pioneering work in literature, Mr Yap has received the Intercultural Literature Relations Award from the Beijing TV and Broadcasting station, and the Nanyang Chinese Literature Award from Confucius Institute, Nanyang Technological University (CI-NTU) in 2011, as well as accolades from Thailand and the Philippines.
In March 2012, the Singapore Museum of Chinese Literature is finally established – a project Mr Yap began a decade ago. The tireless scholar envisions the museum to be a valuable information repository for the research and promotion of Singapore Chinese literature, as well as for the international exchange of literature. It is an embodiment of the value of Singapore Chinese literature.
Mr Yap is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Southeast Asian Chinese Literature Research Centre of China’s Xiamen University.
九十年代起，他更是有计划地编撰出版新加坡华文文学丛书，如《新加坡华文作家研究丛书》 、《新华文学奖丛书》 、《向文艺敬礼纪念特辑丛书》、《已故作家丛书》、《资深作家丛书》、《青年作家丛书》、《组屋丛书》、《天桥丛书》，并与新加坡国家图书馆管理局合作编辑出版《南来作家手稿图片展目录》、 《南来作家研究资料》和《姚紫的文学历程》，也与其他文学团体合编《新华作家传略》，有系统地整理出新华文学全貌进一步向外引介。