These charming drawings of a Singaporean childhood will make you smile

Nostalgia, heritage, kampong spirit and related terms are evergreen buzz words for the Singapore psyche. So much so that we’ve grown rather impervious to their pull lately. But this art project made us smile and melted our cold hearts a little bit. “100 Days of Childhood Memories is a series of illustrations by Ailian Gan, a Singaporean working in tech in the San Francisco Bay Area, made by creating one illustration of a memory from her Singapore childhood every day for 100 days. 

An amateur artist with no professional training, Gan was inspired by “100 Day Project” a common creative exercise where you do something creative for 100 days, and her last trip to Singapore for Chinese New Year, where her father regaled her with family stories. The project began with little more than stick figure drawings, but these slowly turned into full, detailed illustrations of familiar items like lanterns, a penguin toy and scenes like the daily morning assembly where you’d have to sing the National Anthem and recite the pledge, the Hungry Ghost Festival “wayang” (or Chinese opera), playing Zero Point with a rope made with a bunch of rubber bands and more.

She’s now looking to publish a book with all the illustrations; each one with a short description of the memory. She’s planning to run a Kickstarter campaign to fund making of the book on Sep 20, but you can read up more. Also, take a look at some of her illustrations below.


Day 100/100. Before it was a large condominium, before it was a four storey apartment block, One Leicester Road was a bungalow house. It was a blue house on concrete stilts with a verandah up front. This was the house my family lived in when I was born. We called it “sah ko jiok”, which means “third mile” in Hokkien. It was three miles from the city center, which was then the General Post Office and is now the Fullerton Hotel. This is the place where my earliest memories of home begin. I remember a time when we still hung mosquito nets, a time when air-conditioning was new, a time where we slept on mattresses on the floor, a time when the living and dining areas were practically open air. But there are more memories before my memories. This was also the house where my father’s memories begin. I am told that Leicester Road was once a dirt track and was paved only when he started going to school. He walked to the end of the road and climbed the same narrow stairs that I would later climb to go to school. I am told that when he was taught by the war heroine Elizabeth Choy, she called up all the skinny boys in class, scooped milk out of a pail into small tin cups, and made them drink up so that they might grow. Before all that, there was an earlier house at the edges of my father’s memories, a shophouse on Rochor Canal Road, which was a short walk away from my grandfather’s tire shop on Albert Street. Before that, there was my grandfather who, as a young immigrant, taught himself English and started his own business. Before that, there was my great-grandfather who left China to seek his fortunes overseas and brought his family to Singapore. He would one day buy the Leicester house of his great-granddaughter’s memory. Before that, there was a village in China, in Yongchun county of the Fujian province, where my grandfather as a small boy trudged through mud in bare feet and put on his shoes only when he arrived at school. And that childhood memory, belonging to my grandfather, told to me by my father, is the earliest childhood memory I know. #100DaysOfChildhoodMemories #The100DayProject

A photo posted by Ailian Gan (@ailiangan) on












Day 66/100. Today is actually the “bak zhang” festival, better known as “duan wu jie” or the Dragon Boat Festival. I have this memory of sitting on the steps of the old Leicester house, and watching my grandmother make bak zhang (zongzi), these pyramids of glutinous rice and meat wrapped in bamboo leaves. I remember looking at all those bowls of fillings and all those steps and thinking, “This will all be forgotten one day, I must write it down.” So I wrote down what I thought were the ingredients for bak zhang onto a piece of paper. I must have been just 7 or 8, so I don’t know how much I could spell, and of course I have since lost this paper. And the saddest part is that I was right – no one makes these at home anymore. #100DaysOfChildhoodMemories #The100DayProject

A photo posted by Ailian Gan (@ailiangan) on








Day 91/100. I remember when our Chinese New Year cakes and cookies were homemade. I have vague memories of my grandmother filling cast iron moulds with batter and out would come these cakes. As a child, I remember calling the fluffy flower-shaped round ones “kueh neng ko” (egg cake!), even though I think they are more commonly known as “kueh bolu” or “kueh bahulu”. They were essentially sponge cakes, Chinese madeleines. They were my favorite when I was really small. Then I remember really liking “love letters”, which were rolled up thin wafer cookies. And then there were pineapple tarts – balls of pineapple jam set within buttery, crumbly pastry. These are my favorite as an adult. I like them best when they’re open faced. These days I associate pineapple tarts with returning back to the US from a vacation in Singapore and bringing along those tasty treats to make the experience of home last a little longer. #100DaysOfChildhoodMemories #The100DayProject

A photo posted by Ailian Gan (@ailiangan) on