Coming from all corners of China, Tian Fu Association’s members find support and friendship in each other as they make Singapore their home.
Making friends in a new home
According to a Chinese adage, you can rely on your parents at home, but you have to count on friends when you are away from home.
Settling into a new country is often both exciting and nerve-wrecking. No matter how prepared one is, it helps to have friends for advice and company in a foreign land. And one of the quickest way to make friends in an unfamiliar city is to join an immigrant association.
Tian Fu Association (天府会 or tianfuhui) is one of the many immigrant associations in Singapore that have sprung up in the past two decades. Named after the ancient name of the Sichuan province in China, Tian Fu Association was formally registered in 2000 and has expanded beyond a club primarily for Sichuan natives to include immigrants from all over China today.
Currently, the association has more than 1,300 active members who are mostly working professionals in their 30s to 50s. They come together for the friendship and networking opportunities Tian Fu offers. More importantly, it is a platform for members to gain a deeper understanding of Singapore.
Wang Jie, who was from Xi’an and runs a Chinese tuition centre here, is one of the earliest “Tian Fu people” (天府人 or tianfuren
), a term that Tian Fu members call themselves. To her, the association is an added avenue to understand local culture.
“Over the years, I have made many friends among the parents who sent their children to my classes,” she shared. “But through Tian Fu Association, I participated in activities organised by clan associations and the People's Association, among others. These have broadened my understanding of life in Singapore.”
For busy professionals like Wang Jie, choosing which events to attend can be mind-boggling, since there are many in the line-up. Besides Tian Fu’s own events, members are invited to attend talks, dialogue sessions, charitable activities, concerts and social get-togethers organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations and other clan associations.
For the past eight years, Tian Fu Association is one of the co-organisers of the Singapore Amoy Association’s annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, where more than 1,000 “new” and “old” immigrants from different walks of life come together in a lively session of traditional games, performances and food.
And to help its members gain a better understanding of the multi-ethnic society in Singapore, Tian Fu has organised visits to mosques and the Malay Heritage Centre, as well as co-organised a multiracial carnival with the Radin Mas grassroots organisations and Nepalese Society in 2010. These activities bring Tian Fu’s members closer to the larger community in Singapore.
Creating positive energy
One new initiative launched by Tian Fu Association this year was a series of talks under the theme of Stories of Tian Fu. Tian Fu members working in different professions and industries were invited to share how they built up their careers in Singapore.
Jasmine Li, a member of Tian Fu for the past four years, remembered how she felt inspired and motivated from the sharing.
“Every immigrant has a story. It’s uplifting to hear others relate their experiences in Singapore. I feel positive and have gained new knowledge from the session,” said Jasmine, who also enjoys the brisk walking activities which Tian Fu Association organises at the Botanical Gardens and MacRitchie Reservoir Park.
“We bring our children to these healthy lifestyle activities too. All of us enjoy the easy atmosphere among friends and get a good workout while taking in the sights and sounds of different parts of Singapore,” said Jasmine.
The positive energy felt by its members also come from the ways in which Tian Fu Association contributes to Singapore. This could be when it hosts and introduces Singapore to visitors including businessmen from China or when it raises funds for charitable and social causes in Singapore.
Known to be a harmonious and close-knit group, Tian Fu Association offers more than encouragement, help and support to fellow members. Going forward, it knows that there is much more to do to help its members sink deeper roots in Singapore and build commonalities despite the differences in values, lifestyle and culture that arise from growing up in different environments.
The drive behind this resolve is best summed up by what Tian Fu President Tony Du Zhi Qiang shared at the association’s 15th anniversary celebrations in 2015:
Because we like this place, we came here from wherever we were. Because we felt deeply for Singapore, we chose to work, learn, reside, sink our roots and raise our family here. It was a difficult decision, but we made our choice—Singapore is our new home.
Mr Tony Du, President of Tian Fu Association