Foreword

‘Memories of Two Cities’ is a pictorial exhibition jointly presented by the Capital Library of China and the National Library of Singapore, signifying the goodwill and partnership between the two institutions. Through historical photographs drawn from the collections of both institutions, this exhibition presents Beijing and Singapore in earlier time periods, showcasing the many places, scenes and customs that have long vanished.

Renowned for its rich history and culture, Beijing was established more than 3,000 years ago, and has been as the capital of China for over 800 years. The glory and grandeur of the city and capital, as well as its historical aura, make up its unique cultural heritage. The charm of Beijing lies not only in its natural landscapes and architecture, but is also found in its streets, alleys, courtyards and marketplaces where people live their daily lives.

The Beijing component of this exhibition is curated by the Beijing Local Document Center of the Library, featuring 194 photographs of pre-1949 Beijing. The images are presented in seven sections – Ancient City Walls, Street Scenes, Imperial Palaces and Gardens, Customs and Festivals, Trade and Commerce, Everyday Life, and Transportation. They depict the majestic palaces and city walls, scenic gardens, myriad streets and alleys, and unique customs of old Beijing.

Beneath its modern façade, Singapore has a long history that dates back more than 700 years to its time as a trading port in late 13th-century Southeast Asia. After the founding of a British trading post on the island in 1819, Singapore developed into a thriving entrepot where people from around the world came to live and work. Cultural diversity characterised early Singapore and was manifested in its physical and social landscapes, lending the city a unique charm.

The Singapore component of the exhibition showcases 173 photographs from the 1880s to the 1960s, mainly drawn from the collections of the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore, both institutions under the National Library Board of Singapore. The exhibition comprises six sections – Places of Power and Worship, A Tropical Metropolis, All Walks of Life, Colourful Customs, Centres of Commerce, and A City in Motion. It transports the viewer to early Singapore, featuring its varied architecture, lively streetscapes, cosmopolitan society, and multi-cultural customs.

Embark on this visual journey to old Beijing and Singapore, and relive the memories of these two fascinating cities.