Book on Cultural Medallion Recipient Crowned Winner of Singapore’s Richest Book Prize

Book on Cultural Medallion Recipient Crowned Winner of Singapore’s Richest Book Prize

Singapore, 23 April 2024 - A biography about a former teacher and school principal who became celebrated as an artist in his 80s has won the Singapore University of Social Sciences’ (SUSS) inaugural Dr Alan HJ Chan ‘Spirit of Singapore’ Book Prize 2023.

Titled Soul of Ink: Lim Tze Peng at 100 and published by World Scientific, the book traces the artist’s humble beginnings and the controversies, innovations, and breakthroughs in his art. The author of the book, TV producer and writer Mr Woon Tai Ho, took home the top prize of $30,000, Singapore’s richest literary prize.

Winner of Book Prize Award

(From left): Mr Chua Hong Koon, Publishing Director, World Scientific Publishing Co, Mr Woon Tai Ho (Recipient of the Dr Alan HJ Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize), Madam Halimah Yacob, Chancellor, SUSS and Ms Judy Chan, Daughter of Dr Alan HJ Chan.

Described by judges as inspiring, thought-provoking, and beautifully written and produced, Soul of Ink was praised for its intimate portrayal of the artist, a Cultural Medallion recipient, who strove to improve, innovate, and challenge himself even at the age of 100. As one judge observed, this story ‘epitomises the spirit of Singapore through how life is valued, challenged and lived by Lim Tze Peng, who is a part of our national cultural identity.’

The runner-up, Khir Johari’s The Food of Singapore Malays: Gastronomic Travels Through the Archipelago, was awarded the merit prize worth $5,000. Published by Marshall Cavendish, the book delves into the culinary traditions of Singapore Malays, portraying food not merely as sustenance but as a cultural expression deeply intertwined with their identity. One judge noted that the book ‘conveys the love of food among Singaporeans and the connectedness with the region in defining Malay food, which shows the characteristics of Singapore as creative and inclusive.’

Runner-up of Book Prize Award

(From left): Madam Halimah Yacob, Chancellor, SUSS, Mr Khir Johari (Recipient of the Dr. Alan HJ Chan Spirit of Singapore Merit Book Prize), Ms Judy Chan, Daughter of Dr Alan HJ Chan and Mr Melvin Neo, Publishing Manager, Marshall Cavendish International Asia.

The winners were announced today at a dinner at Conrad Centennial Singapore, at which SUSS Chancellor Mdm Halimah Yacob was the guest of honour.

The other books in the competition’s shortlist included And the Award Goes to Sally Bong! by Sebastian Sim, Eat Here Or Take Away? All About Singapore Hawker Culture by Sylvia Toh Paik Choo and others, and Standing Tall: The Goh Chok Tong Years, Volume 2 by Peh Shing Huei.

Group shot with short-listed prize winners

(From left): Mr Sebastian Sim, Ms Sylvia Toh Paik Choo, Madam Halimah Yacob, Chancellor, SUSS, Ms Judy Chan, Daughter of Dr Alan HJ Chan, Mr Woon Tai Ho (Winner of the Spirit of Singapore Book Prize) and Mr Khir Johari (Winner of the Spirit of Singapore Merit Book Prize).

The inaugural competition, which attracted 43 entries, was made possible by a $1 million donation by the late Confucian scholar and philanthropist Dr Alan Chan, who passed away in November 2023. This is the first book prize that specifically aims to recognise authors whose works convey the spirit of Singapore, and which encapsulate values such as equality, diversity, religious harmony, meritocracy, pragmatism, and resilience, with an emphasis on education, innovation, and community.

The chief judge of the book prize, Mrs Triena Ong, noted of the entries: “The judging panellists were most impressed by the scope and depth of the spirit of Singapore as expressed by the authors in a variety of book genres. These included fiction, non-fiction, graphic content, and poetry.”

Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President Emeritus of SUSS and chair of the judging panel, added: “I am pleased that we now have an award that focuses on the Spirit of Singapore. There is so much to explore, discover, and affirm in our Singaporean make-up, the individual and community spirit that got us to this stage as a thriving nation, and how we can move forward to assure our future. The late Dr Alan Chan’s motive is laudable, and I hope the award will encourage many more writers and publishers to generate high quality works on this important topic.”

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