Goh Yee Siang and Teochew Home News
Goh Yee Siang (吳以湘) was born in 1912 in Nio-ior village, Sou-uang town, Thenghai County (澄海縣蘇灣都蓮陽鄉) (now Nio-zie town, Thenghai district, Swatow city [汕頭市澄海區蓮上鎮]). He was the editor-in-chief of a well-known publication Teochew Home News (潮州鄉訊) that was founded in Singapore in the late 1940s.
Growing up during the "May Fourth Movement" period, Goh Yee Siang came under the influence of the "New Culture Movement". He loved reading books and newspapers since his youth and through this developed a strong interest in literature and a solid foundation in historical knowledge. After he moved south to Singapore, he became a teacher at Chung Cheng High School (Main) and taught the “National Language” (國文 [i.e. Mandarin]) Chinese (Chinese), history, geography and other subjects. With a desire for overseas Teochews to maintain warm feelings for home through matters connected to their hometowns, Goh Yee Siang used his spare time to run the bi-weekly Teochew Home News.
This publication was started in August 1947 when he headed an editorial board to establish the Malaya Teochew Home News Society (馬來亞潮州鄉訊社) at 173 Beach Road, Singapore. Nanyang Publishing (南洋印刷社) was engaged as printer and the publication was sold at bookstores and newspaper agencies in major cities in Southeast Asia at the price of forty cents (Straits Settlements currency) per copy. The publication of Teochew Home News was primarily funded by the sponsorship of Teochew leaders from Southeast Asia different parts of the region and revenue from advertising by businesses. One issue was published every fortnight and every twelve issues formed one volume. From its founding in 1947 to its cessation in 1962, a total of 26 volumes and 273 issues of Teochew Home News were produced.
As its name suggests, Teochew Home News mainly reported about the Teochew region in China and Teochews living overseas. Its contents were diversified and covered politics, economy, history, geography, culture, customs, local news, etc. There were also personal interviews and features on businesses and industries. In addition, nearly every issue of Teochew Home News has a “Happenings with Teochews in Nanyang” (南洋潮僑動態) segment that reported on the recent situation of Teochew communities in different parts of Southeast Asia. For example, there were editorial write-ups introducing places including Muar, Alor Setar and Kulim in Malaya (now Malaysia), Jambi in Indonesia as well as Thailand’s Bangkok.
Teochew Home News also contained "Half-Monthly Business Information" (半月商情), which reported the prices of important commodities in Swatow and other places in Southeast Asia, such as rice, oil, sugar, beans, coffee, and pepper, along with financial market information. Culture-wise, there were contents on Teochew ballads and rhymes (潮州歌謠), anecdotes (掌故), slang (俚語), riddles (俗謎), allegorical sayings (歇後語), vernacular expressions, and so on. At the same time Teochew Home News was supplemented by articles from varied sources, such as news agencies, newspapers and groups in the Teochew region in China. Individual article contributions were also enthusiastic.
However with the Chinese Communist Party establishing its regime in 1949, ties between mainland China and Southeast Asia became distanced and exchanges between the people in China and Singapore were subjected to many restrictions. Consequently contributions originating from China grew increasingly scarce. Teochew Home News shifted the focus of its contents to news on the Teochew diaspora and the activities of Teochew communities in Southeast Asia. Finally it ceased publication in 1961. Besides a falling number of written contributions, weakening sentiments towards “home” was perhaps another reason that brought the publication to an end. Following this, Goh Yee Siang started a new publication in 1964, Pan-Malaysia Teochew News (泛馬潮訊). Unfortunately this venture only lasted a few years and produced five issues in total.
According to Goh Yee Siang's descendants who were interviewed, apart from his job at Chung Cheng High School, he also taught part-time at two night-schools in Singapore, wrote articles for a number of societies and used his remaining time to edit Teochew Home News. Goh Yee Siang virtually ran Teochew Home News all by himself, from collecting materials, writing articles, soliciting advertisements, seeking manuscript contributions, etc. He worked till dawn every day. Whenever there were school holidays, he had to travel to different places in Southeast Asia for the manuscripts. Fortunately, he had help from his younger brother Goh Yee Nam (吴以南) and Cheng High School colleague Tan See Haw (陳詩豪) in editing articles and collating materials. As for manuscripts on Teochew folklore and stories, Teochew Home News had support with contributions from renowned Teochew literary figures Yeo Ah-Min (姚亞民) and Ng Chia Keng (黃正經).
Teochew Home News was widely circulated at the time and had a degree of influence. It was sold in different countries from Singapore and Malaya/Malaysia to Siam/Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, and had strong readership following among Teochews living in key cities throughout Southeast Asia. Notable Teochew literature from Singapore and Malaya, such as The Impression of Teo-chews In Malaya (馬來亞潮僑印象記) and Teo-chews in Malaya (馬來亞潮僑通鑑), all wrote about it and highlighted it as the sole periodic publication of the Teochews in Malaya. Teochew Home News was also available in Swatow in the 1940s and 1950s, and some local newspapers even cited its materials for their reports on the situation of the Teochew communities in Singapore and Malaya at the time.
As an overseas Teochew publication during that period, Teochew Home News played the role of connecting Teochews in Singapore and Malaya/Malaysia with their ancestral hometowns in China as well as other Teochew communities elsewhere in Southeast Asia. By bringing the Singapore and Malaya/Malaysia Teochews into a common social setting with kindred in other places, it created an imagined common homeplace for Teochews everywhere.
As Goh Yee Siang wrote in the inaugural issue: “… to all Teochews now working for a living overseas, whoever you are, with regards to everything about our motherland and hometown, the things that we care for and miss, I believe everyone of us is of one heart and mind… (thus) we created Teochew Home News. We will with sincerity and enthusiasm, take on the duty of communicating news about Teochew to fellow overseas Teochews, report factually, criticise seriously, enable even our kindred living in the most remote places, after reading our publication, to long for the sights of home and be kindled with patriotism and love for hometown”.
Even though Teochew Home News has stopped publication for many years, and Goh Yee Siang passed away following a heart attack in 1986, the publication remains an important resource for understanding the deeds and achievements of Teochews in Southeast Asia. It is an indispensable source of reference for researchers studying the Teochew diaspora and possesses scholarly value that cannot be overlooked.
PDF copies of Teochew Home News can be downloaded for free from here.