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BOXES beyond borders

The Story of Late Chen Yuen Mei (Ma Che)

Chiang Jing Ying Ying
Singapore 2001

The work focuses on the life story of late Chen, a ma che or domestic servant, who came to Singapore from China in the early twentieth century. Despite having a hard life, she persevered for a brighter future. With her meager earnings, she supported her entire family in China, and contributed towards the purchase of 51 Neil Road. The premises housed the former Yuek Ann Tang which was a temple as well as an association that served as a refuge for ma ches; these women like Chen, were alone and poor. In her old age, Chen suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Chen gains my utmost respect, not only for her contributions to the association, but also for her outstanding character. She demonstrated strength and perseverance throughout her life. The work aims to develop an invisible space beyond the box, and includes a web site that walks one through the places where she lived. To fulfill Chen’s dream of a grand funeral and send-off on her last journey, the box serves as her coffin.


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