The Transmission of Flowers
Multimedia artist Tan Swie Hian recently donated more than 6,000 of his collection of books, manuscripts, artworks and artifacts to the new National Library. When the new National Library is completed, a section will house “The Tan Swie Hian Collection”. This is the speech Mr Tan gave at the donation ceremony.
Giving is a way of sharing. The fragrance wafts far and wide when the flowers are passed round. And certainly, as Hada Bejar said, “The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.” I have decided to donate my whole collection of books, manuscripts, artworks, and artifacts to the new National Library.
This is in line with the objective of the My Library Movement launched today: to do my humble part to help bring knowledge to life, making it real and inspiring for all Singaporeans. Knowledge is a living thing to be shared among people, as it does not belong to a dusty shelf. And shared joy is double joy.
I have 6000 books. Many a volume has a story behind it. The thin copy of the thesis on Baudelaire's Cat , jointly written in French by Roman Jakobson and Claude Levi-Strauss, which I had been searching for years, was found in a small bookshop in Paris. The now defunct Methodist Bookstore in Singapore helped me get most of the English translations of Kierkegaard's works. By the Side of Mr. Gandhi , a biographical account by Gandhi's only Chinese disciple, Shanti Zeng, who was a first-generation Singaporean journalist, was eventually autographed by the author during my first and last meeting with him. A friend flew in from Indonesia bringing to me the poetry of Chairil Anwar. I bought the autobiography of Ravi Shankar in India. My many trips to China enabled me to collect such extremely rare and ancient publication as the Yuan/Ming edition of Commentaries on the Four Books by Zhu Xi. And anthologies of poet friends Henri Michaux, Eugene Guillevic, Marin Sorescu, and Ya Xuan.
Among the donated items, there are also artworks of artist friends such as Arnaud d'Hauterives, Wu Guan Zhong, and Pratuang Emjaroen; calligraphy by Fan Zeng Xiang, Qi Bai Shi, and Li Ke Ran; a photo by Chin-San Long; three seals by Master Hong Yi; a Song Yue-Ware celadon Avalokitesvara figurine; a Tang ink-slab and an extra large ink-stick made by the greatest ink maker of the Ming Dynasty, Cheng Jun Fang.
When the truck carrying my whole collection was pulling out of the carpark of my studio, Ms Jennifer Yin of the NLB urged me to quickly take a last look at it. Suddenly I felt somewhat sad to part with the collection I have put together following forty years of efforts, love, and passion. But it was like marrying off my beautiful daughter. Knowing that she was off to a great family, I felt relieved.
When Somerset Maugham decided to quit writing, he thought to himself,“Thank God, I can watch a sunset without having to think how to describe it. I meant never to write another book.” It is not yet my case. “The Tan Swie Hian Collection” in the new National Library will be a space where I'll meet young Singaporean artists, writers and public members, discussing with them how not to fall asleep when the sun rises.
多元艺术家 陈瑞献 把6000册藏书，数十本创作手稿和数十件艺术珍藏品捐献给新建的国家图书馆；新馆落成后将特设“陈瑞献藏室”展示。这是他在珍藏捐赠仪式上的讲词。