The Singapore Prize is a biennial award that honours writers in the island nation’s three languages: Chinese, Malay, and English. It is Singapore’s second-highest literary award, after the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, and comes with a cash prize of $3,000 and an engraved trophy.
This year’s prize ceremony was held on August 25 at the Victoria Theatre. The shortlist featured 49 titles in the four categories. The pool of submissions was smaller than last year’s, a result of the pandemic that hit the publishing industry. But the panel that chooses the winner said it was able to find strong works across the categories.
The winner of this year’s Singapore Prize is Prof Miksic’s book, Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea, 1300 – 1800. He said his work is “a fundamental reinterpretation of the story of Singapore’s early development”. “There have been bits and pieces of information about the history of Singapore, but no one had put them together until my book,” he added. The book examines the evidence from historical records, such as the 13th century Chinese merchant Wang Dayuan’s writings that mentioned names like Temasek and Longyamen (or Dragon Teeth’s Gate), which he claims are references to Singapore.
The prize panel was composed of academics from the Department of History at NUS, as well as historians and arts and heritage figures. The judges were selected for their expertise in different areas of historical research, including military and maritime history, urban and environmental history, and the study of Singapore’s multiethnic society. The prize is administered by the NUS Department of History and funded by an endowment from an anonymous donor.
Announcing the winners, Britain’s Prince William said that the 15 finalists demonstrated that hope remains despite the urgent challenges facing our world. He praised the “outstanding solutions” of the finalists, which included an Indian maker of solar-powered dryers, a company that turns carbon dioxide into rock, and groups that work to make electric car batteries cleaner and restore Andean forests.
The prince, who is visiting Singapore for a week of work and events, is set to meet local entrepreneurs and see how they are using technology and innovation to tackle climate change and save wildlife. He will also call on the country’s President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at The Istana palace — one of the city’s oldest heritage sites. He will also take part in a United for Wildlife summit featuring law enforcement agencies and conservation groups. William is a keen sportsman and will try his hand at dragon boating during his visit.