Ah Ma and her Beliefs: The Migrant Experience and Religious Practices of a Chinese Immigrant Woman in Twentieth Century Singapore

  • Jack Chia Meng Tat National University of Singapore


This essay aims to use my family history as a prism to examine the religious beliefs and practices of the Chinese diaspora in twentieth century Singapore. It contends that religion played a vital role in shaping the communal identity and contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Chinese migrants. By exploring the migrant experience, and analyzing the religious beliefs and practices of my Ah Ma as told to me, this essay attempts to answer three big questions: what did religion mean to the overseas Chinese community in general and my Ah Ma—a Chinese immigrant woman—in particular?; what were these religious beliefs and practices, and what functions did they serve?; and finally, how could the study of my Ah Ma’s religious beliefs offer an alternative narrative to Singapore’s history?


● Mdm Chan. Interview by author, 29 March 2007, Singapore.
● Mdm Kok. Interview by author, 28 March 2007, Singapore.