To be a rambutan tree of multiple roots

In March 2018, Canopy editor Tan Dan Feng spoke at a forum on Singaporean Chinese identity organised by Lianhe Zaobao and the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre. In his presentation, he proposed the botanical concept of “inarching” as an alternative way to think about cultural “roots” and “lineage”.

An inarched plant is grafted together from different living trees and its rootstock (which continues to grow and extend into the soil) anchors it firmly to the ground. The genetic weaknesses from each parent are mitigated as the plant’s post-graft DNA slowly transforms, resulting in a healthier, more resilient plant.

This metaphor develops on cultural theorist Kuo Pao Kun’s ruminations on multiculturalism, of different cultures being separate trees whose roots draw sustenance from the same soil and whose branches and leaves touch and cross-pollinate. The name “Canopy” was inspired by this metaphor.

In this piece published in Lianhe Zaobao on 1 April 2018, columnist Chen Jing shares her thoughts as a China-born Singaporean after attending the forum.