Daren Shiau

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Daren Shiau
Shiau in 2008
Shiau in 2008
BornJune 1971
Notable awardsJapanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Foundation Education Award (2003), National Arts Council Young Artist Award (2002), Commonwealth Youth Program Asia Award for Excellence in Youth Work (2001), Singapore Youth Award (Community Service) (2000)

Daren Shiau (Chinese: 萧维龙, born 1971), PBM, is a Singaporean novelist, poet, conservationist, and lawyer in private practice qualified in Singapore, England and Wales. He is an author of five books.

Shiau is a holder of the civil decoration the Public Service Medal (Pingat Bakti Masyarakat) which is awarded for commendable public service in Singapore, and for achievements in the field of arts and letters, et al. Other writers who have been conferred the Public Service Medal include Edwin Thumboo and Simon Tay.


Shiau was born in Singapore in 1971, and of Hakka and Peranakan grandparentage. He was educated at Raffles Institution, Raffles Junior College, and graduated from the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore on the Dean's List in 1996.

A Fulbright scholar, and an alumnus of the East-West Center in Honolulu established by the United States Congress in 1960,[1] Shiau was the Visiting Writer in Fall 2003 to the University of California, Berkeley (Centre for Southeast Asian Studies).

Literary career[edit]

Shiau is the author of Heartland (1999), Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands (2000), and Velouria (2007).[1] He is also a co-editor of Coast (2010), a seminal mono-titular anthology.

Travel guide Lonely Planet: Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei has cited Shiau as the author of the "definitive Singapore novel", and The Arts Magazine had described Shiau as "among the most exciting of the post-1965 generation of writers".[1]

Heartland (1999)[edit]

Shiau's first work, Heartland is an existential novel. It deals with the paradox of rootedness and rootlessness of Singaporeans born after the Japanese Occupation.[2] The book received the Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award in 1998,[3] together with Alfian Sa'at's Corridor. Heartland was named by Singapore's English daily The Straits Times in December 1999, along with J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace, as one of the 10 Best Books of the Year. In 2007, an academic edition of Heartland was adopted into a textbook for Singapore secondary schools offering English literature in their GCE O-Level curriculum.[1]

In 2015, Heartland was selected by The Business Times as one of the Top 10 English Singapore books from 1965 to 2015, alongside titles by Arthur Yap, Goh Poh Seng and Philip Jeyaretnam.[4] In the same year, MediaCorp commissioned the adaptation of Heartland into a telemovie directed by K Rajagopal.[5] Heartland, the telemovie, was broadcast in August 2015.[6]

Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands (2000)[edit]

A year after Heartland was published, Shiau released a poetry collection, Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands.[7] Poems from Peninsular have been included in several international and Singapore anthologies.

Emeritus Professor Edwin Thumboo wrote an essay about Peninsular titled 'Time and Place: History and Geography in Daren Shiau’s Poetry' [8] in which he commented: "The incisive revelations of Shiau's work begin with the significance and the reach of his themes.... Interrelated and overlapping, they explain both the intrinsic unity of his work and – for me at least – its importance in the present overall balance of Singapore literature in English".[8]

The Singapore literature platform, poetry.sg, observes in its ‘Critical Introduction’ to Shiau: “Shiau’s first collection of poetry, Peninsular, encapsulates through its structure and its themes the dual concerns of history and spatiality in his writing, which began early on in Heartland (both the original collection of poetry and the final publication conceived as a novel), and which persists in later work such as Velouria.[1]

Velouria (2007) and microfiction[edit]

Velouria is a seminal collection of Singaporean microfiction, published by Shiau in 2007.[9]

The title story of the book is named after a track by Boston-based alternative rock band, the Pixies. Other stories in the volume were named after songs by artistes such as My Bloody Valentine and Thelonious Monk.

In 2005, Shiau was first runner-up in the Golden Point Award creative writing competition for his short story, Take Your Wings Off, I Say.[10] An excerpt of the story appears as the last piece in Velouria.[8]

An editorial on Shiau’s writing on poetry.sg notes that his “wry observational poetry is transposed into [his] later collection of microfiction, Velouria, which also maintains the elegiac quality of poetry, while combining the compression and suggestiveness of poetic language with the broader narrative and character developments afforded by prose”.[2]

Coast (2010) and editorial work[edit]

On the editorial front, Shiau co-edited with Lee Wei Fen in 2010, an experimental anthology, Coast, which featured creative works by published and unpublished writers across a single title.

Literary critic, Dr Gwee Li Sui, has described Coast as "a manifesto, a call to stretch out the tent poles of language and go in search of an idiom for making destiny".[3]

Other literary involvements[edit]

Shiau has been invited to read in New York, Boston, and at venues across the United States, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[11] He has been a guest writer at the Melbourne Writers Festival, and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival.[12]

His works have also been translated into several languages, namely Italian, German, Chinese, Malay, Tamil, and have been featured in cross-discipline public performances by other artists.[11] In 2015, Shiau collaborated with indie band Riot in Magenta to present a performance at the Esplanade Recital Studio as part of the Singapore Writers Festival.[13]

Shiau has served as a writing mentor for the Creative Arts Programme administered by the Ministry of Education, and the National Arts Council's Mentor Access Project.[1]

He received the Young Artist Award (Literature) from the National Arts Council in 2002.[14]


At the National University of Singapore, Shiau was one of the first chairmen of the environmental activism NGO Students Against Violation of the Earth (SAVE). SAVE was involved in coastal clean-up and reforestation efforts in the 1990s, and spearheaded the university's campus-wide recycling programme.[15]

In 1993, Shiau, then a sophomore undergraduate, led SAVE in organising Water for Somalia, a project to raise funds for building water pipelines for Kenyan and Ethiopian refugees.[15] It was the largest national recycling effort at that time, and received recognition and praise by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.[15] in Geneva.

A year before his graduation, Shiau was elected the inaugural National Chairman of the Youth Environmental Network of Singapore (YEN), an umbrella organisation for school-based environment NGOs.[15]

Shiau was subsequently appointed as Director on the independently-managed Singapore Environment Council, and as Board Member of the National Parks Board, a statutory board of Singapore's Ministry of National Development.[15] He has also been named an international expert of the Commission on Environmental Law of the (IUCN) in Switzerland.[16] In 2016, Shiau was appointed to the Management Committee of the Garden City Fund, an Institute of Public Character in Singapore which complements the National Parks Board's greening and biodiversity conservation efforts.

For his outstanding contributions to preservation of the local environment, Shiau was awarded the inaugural Green Leaf Award, the predecessor to the President's Award for the Environment, in 1993.[15]

Shiau has also published a trade monograph, Communication and the Environment (2000).[15]


Shiau is a recipient of:

In 1993, he was selected by The Straits Times on Singapore's National Day as one of "50 Faces to Watch". A decade later in 2003, he was again named by The Straits Times on National Day as one of "38 Singaporeans Who Make a Difference to Singapore".[11]

The Japanese community in Singapore recognised Shiau's contributions to civic education by conferring on him the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Foundation Education Award in 2003.[11]

In 2016, Shiau was conferred the Public Service Medal (Pingat Bakti Masyarakat) by the President of the Republic of Singapore.

Public service[edit]

Shiau has volunteered actively in the community, particularly in the Central Singapore District. Over the years, he has been appointed by the Singapore Government and the private sector to sit on various national-level committees relating to the arts, education and conservation.[11] This includes working and focus groups of the Committee on the Future Economy (2016), the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Concept Plan Review Committee (both in 2011 and 2001), and the Singapore 21 Committee (1997).

Other appointments have included the Films Appeal Committee of the Media Development Authority of Singapore, and the Supervisory Panel of the Government's Feedback Unit. Shiau has also previously served as a Council Member on the National Youth Council.[11]

Shiau is a member of the founding Board of Directors for Crest Secondary School, the first Specialised School for Normal (Technical) students in Singapore, which was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech in 2010.[18]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Velouria (2007) Firstfruits, ISBN 978-981-05-9386-5
  • Heartland (Academic edition) (2006) Ethos Books, ISBN 981-056-0583
  • Heartland (1999, 2002) Raffles, ISBN 981-403-2433; Ethos Books, ISBN 981-04-5605-0



  • Communication and the Environment (2000) Singapore Environment Council, ISBN 981-04-2008-0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Daren Shiau | Infopedia". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Heartland". Ethos Books. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Singapore Literature Prize | Awards | NBDCS". bookcouncil.sg. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Tomes that show us how we live". The Business Times. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  5. ^ migration. "Poem of HDB life by Arthur Yap inspires telemovie". The Straits Times. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Heartland: Rites of Passage – Toggle". Toggle. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Peninsular: Archipelagos and Other Islands". Ethos Books. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Foreword– Time and Place: History and Geography in Daren Shiau's Poetry".
  9. ^ Literary Singapore – A Directory of Contemporary Writing in Singapore. Online PDF: National Arts Council. p. 24.
  10. ^ "Golden Point Award". www.nac.gov.sg. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Daren V. L. Shiau – Biography and Brief Introduction". www.postcolonialweb.org. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  12. ^ "HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL LITERARY FESTIVAL UNVEILS 2012 LINEUP". Art Futures. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  13. ^ hermes. "Singapore Writers Festival hopes to draw those who love speech and song too". The Straits Times. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Cultural Medallion – Young Artist Award Recipients for Literature". www.nac.gov.sg. Archived from the original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "Environmental Law – A Lawyer and Leader – Caring for the Community and Environment". www.lawgazette.com.sg. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  16. ^ "NParks Announces New Board Members". National Parks Board. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  17. ^ "Past Winners | JCI Singapore". jcisingapore.cc. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  18. ^ Singapore, Prime Minister's Office. "National Day Rally Speech (English) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 29 August 2010, at 8.00 pm at University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore". www.pmo.gov.sg. Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015.

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