Tan Kim Ching
Tan Kim Ching (Chinese: 陳金鐘; pinyin: Chén Jīnzhōng; Wade–Giles: Chen Chin-chung; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tân Kim-tsing; 1829-Feb 1892) was a Singaporean politician and businessman. He was the eldest of the three sons of Tan Tock Seng, the founder and financier of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He was consul for Japan, Thailand and Russia, and was a member of the Royal Court of Siam. He was one of Singapore’s leading Chinese merchants and was one of its richest men at that time. He was also the first Asian member of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. After his father, Tan Tock Seng's death, he became the Kapitan China of the Straits Chinese community. He is believed to have been the Head of the Triad in Malaya.
- 1 Businessman
- 2 British Ally
- 3 Man of the People in Singapore
- 4 Tan Kim Ching, Anna and The King of Siam
- 5 Philanthropy
- 6 Royal Asiatic Society
- 7 Klang Concessionaire
- 8 The Larut Wars and The Pangkor Engagement
- 9 Singapore Syndicates
- 10 Commendations
- 11 His Children
- 12 Final years
- 13 His Funeral
- 14 Testimonial
- 15 Posthumous Reference
- 16 Notes/References
- 17 See also
In his day, Tan Kim Ching was one of Singapore’s leading Chinese merchants, one of the richest men in Singapore and had sizable business interests in Singapore, Siam, Vietnam and Malaya. His business boomed with rice mills he owned in Bangkok and Saigon.
Upon the death of his father, the name of the firm "Tan Tock Seng" - mainly involved in the rice business - was changed to "Tan Kim Ching". The business was carried on at "River-Side" (now known as Boat Quay) from 1851 to 1859 by Tan Kim Ching as sole owner. In 1860, having admitted his brother Tan Swee Lim as a partner, the firm was known as "Tan Kim Ching & Brother", chop Chin Seng Ho, but a few months later Tan Swee Lim left the firm. The business which finally became known as "Kim Ching & Co." chop Chin Seng (成行) attained considerable success, and he bought rice mills at Saigon, Siam and elsewhere which supplied him with his milled rice. In 1888, the company opened a branch in Hong Kong.
Apart from the rice business he had mining concessions in Patani, whose workers he could supply with his own rice. He was one of the earliest merchants to import silk from China. He also involved himself in the shipping business.
In 1863, he came up with $120,000 to found and set up the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company (the forerunner of today's Port of Singapore Authority), purchased two steamships, "Siam" and "Singapore" and promoted the Tanjong Pagar Dock Co.
He helped Sir Harry Ord secure a new treaty with Kedah in 1867, and played an integral role in ending the Larut wars by getting Abdullah to seek British intervention, which led to the signing of treaties at Pangkor.
Man of the People in Singapore
When the Hokkien-Teochew Riots which broke out on 5 May 1854 over 400 people were killed during 10 days of violence. In a meeting with British Authorities, Tan Kim Ching represented the Hokkiens and with his assurance and that of Seah Eu Chin of the Teochews, the situation was brought to an end.
A man of influence in Singapore, Hokkien marriages were often solemnized in his office and the marriage certificates authenticated with the company rubber stamp.
In 1860 the Hokkien Huay Kuan was established in the premises of the Hock Keng Temple at Telok Ayer Street and Tan Kim Ching was installed as its first leader. He held the position of President for 30 years. He was especially noted for his establishment of a marriage registry for the Hokkiens.
In 1864, he was elected to the Grand Jury as one of five Chinese members on the jury.
In 1865 he was made a Justice of the Peace by the British Straits Settlements government.
In 1888, he was appointed to the Municipal Council.
He was also made a Kapitan Cina, responsible for the conduct and administration of the Chinese population in Singapore.
He was fluent in Malay and was arguably the most powerful Chinese leader in the region in the 19th century.
Tan Kim Ching, Anna and The King of Siam
This illustrious scion of the Tan family played a key role in strengthening ties between Singapore and Siam. Tan Kim Ching had a very close relationship with the royal family of Siam and often served as their go-between. In recognising the importance of his role, he was appointed ‘the first Siamese Consul in Singapore’ by King Mongkut in 1863 and in 1885, King Chulalongkorn elevated his title to that of Consul-General. He was bestowed the Royal Title Phraya Astongt Disrarak Siamprajanukulkij. He was also Special Commissioner for Siam in the Straits Settlements.
He introduced his business partner in Singapore, Read, to the Siamese King in the late 1850s when the King desired to get out of a disadvantageous treaty with France.
He had great influence on the Chinese outside the Colony, especially in the northern Malay States bordering Siam, viz. Kelantan and Patani (originally all the Malay states were vassals of Siam but British intervention brought them under the control of the British Empire as "independent states". Eventually Patani was reannexed in 1909 as part of the Kingdom of Siam). Exercising this influence, during the time of Sir Andrew Clarke, Tan Kim Ching was instrumental in settling a difficulty, that arose between the Siamese and Perak governments.
When King Mongkut of Siam also known as King Rama IV wanted to find someone who would help educate the members of his immediate family without attempting to convert them through use of Christian indoctrination it was to his Consul in Singapore, Tan Kim Ching, that he turned, pointing out "It is not pleasant to us if the school mistress much morely endeavour to convert the scholars to Christianity than teaching language literature etc. like the American missionaries here." In response, and upon a suggestion from William Adamson of The Borneo Company, Tan Kim Ching recommend a suitable teacher in Singapore at that time who happened to be Anna Leonowens, a young widow, looking for work to support herself and two children. The story of the schoolteacher and the King of Siam has been made popular through the films The King And I (Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr) and Anna and the King (Chow, Yun Fatt and Jodie Foster).
When the King and Queen of Siam landed in Singapore in 1890 they stayed at Tan Kim Ching's house, "Siam house", in North Bridge Road. It was reported that The King, who was expected to arrive in Singapore at Tanjong Pagar Wharf on board the royal vessel "Ubon Burratit" on 30 May 1890, had landed at Johnston’s Pier instead. Due to the late arrival, only Tan Kim Ching was at the Pier to receive him.
When His Majesty wished to acquire property in Singapore it was to Tan Kim Ching that he turned, resulting in the acquisition of "Hurricane House" in the vicinity of Orchard Road.
Tan Kim Ching And The Tan Tock Seng Hospital
On 25 July 1844, the foundation stone of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital was laid on Pearl's Hill. The stone was laid but the construction took 3 years. After that the hospital stayed empty for another 2 years because of insufficient funding. In 1852, in order to ease overcrowding at the hospital founded by his father Tan Tock Seng, Tan Kim Ching offered timely assistance - to bear the cost of additions to the building which was approximately two thousand dollars ($2,000). His generous gesture led to many other merchants increasing monthly subscriptions to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
By 1854 the additions were completed. An inscription engraved in stone at the hospital gate acknowledges the donation of $3,000 by Tan Kim Ching. After all of that it was decided that the Tan Tock Seng Hospital had to move as the government wanted to build a new building. Tan Kim Ching agreed to the move, on condition that the rebuilt hospital should not cost less than the original one. He also requested for a female ward, which his mother paid for in 1858 to perpetuate the memory of Tan Tock Seng. In 1858, two years after the government's decision to acquire Pearl's Hill, construction work began and Tan Kim Ching donated an additional $3,340.
Tan Kim Ching And The Tan Si Chong Su
In 1849, when the Chinese school Chung Wen Ge was built, he donated $100.
In 1854, he donated $150 towards the construction of the Chui Eng School.
Royal Asiatic Society
In March 1878 the The Straits Asiatic Society (formed on November 4, 1877) was renamed the The Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society and Tan Kim Ching was one of its founding members.
In 1866 Tan Kim Ching, along with William Henry Macleod Read (Chairman of the Straits Chamber of Commerce), secured the lease for Klang from Raja Abdullah bin Raja Jaafar, the administrator of Klang. Among the benefits of this lease arrangement was being able to collect taxes. Their attempts to collect taxes from Raja Mahdi whose father Raja Sulaiman was Klang's Headman, however, sparked off a civil war that became known as The Klang War or The Selangor Civil War.
The Larut Wars and The Pangkor Engagement
Tan Kim Ching was a member of the Ghee Hin secret society and a supporter of the Raja Muda Abdullah of Perak and the Ghee Hin in Larut. It was Tan Kim Ching who had encouraged Abdullah to write seeking the involvement of the British.
Released from his arrest at sea, and his temporary incarceration on Penang, and forbidden return to Perak, Abdullah ventured to Singapore in October 1873 to seek help from the Ghee Hin there. Had Ngah Ibrahim not already aligned himself with the Hai San, he would not have got it. As it was, he arrived at an accommodation with Tan Kim Ching whose influence among the Chinese, at that time, was without comparison. After going through the introduction provided by the Ghi Hin from Penang Tan Kim Ching offered to put Abdullah on the throne in return for five elevenths (5/11) of all duties collected between Telok Serah and Krian for a period of ten years.
Tan Kim Ching together with an English merchant in Singapore (W. H. M. Read) drafted a letter to Governor Sir Andrew Clarke, which Abdullah signed, in which Raja Muda Abdullah expressed his desire to place Perak under British protection, and "to have a man of sufficient abilities to show him a good system of government."
In British Intervention in Malaya 1867-1877 Parkinson tells us that Sir Andrew Clarke, just weeks after his arrival in Singapore, had already found evidence of the continuing disturbances in Perak and Selangor. Apart from his executive council, he talked to Tan Kim Cheng. Clarke decided that both the Hai San and Ghee Hin should have access to Larut with neither side being excluded, a complete reversal of the policy of his predecessor, Sir Harry Ord. Tan Kim Ching agreed and wrote to the Ghee Hin on Penang to put this to them and advocate peace.
Clarke then sent Pickering to Penang to talk to the respective headmen in Penang. Pickering gave Tan Kim Ching's letter to Chin Ah Yam. Twenty Ghee Hin headmen met through the night at the Ghee Hin Kongsi house considering Tan Kim Cheng's letter. In the morning they met with Pickering and agreed to surrender their forces in seven days time.
Following that outcome and the outcome of a meeting with Chung Keng Quee whom Pickering also met, Sir Andrew Clarke then gathered the main Chinese leaders (principally Chung Keng Quee and Chin Ah Yam and some Malays – including Abdullah – at Pulau Pangkor where the ‘Pangkor Engagement’ was formulated and signed, recognising Abdullah as Sultan, and getting the Chinese to agree to settle their differences in Larut under British arbitration.
During the tenure of Chiu Sin Yong's Revenue Farming syndicate in Singapore, backed by Khoo Thean Poh, Tan Kim Ching testified against Cheang Hong Lim and his group who had mobilized all of their allies and affiliates and organized a conspiracy to scuttle Chiu's farming syndicate. Tan Kim Cheng's testimony was a godsend for Chiu and Khoo. Tan Kim Ching and his father Tan Tock Seng, representing most of the Malacca-born Hockien, led the Haizhang group while their arch rivals Cheang Sam Teo and his son, Cheang Hong Lim led the Zhang Hai group, the division between Hockien migrants from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou.
- Commander of the Third Class of the Order of the Rising Sun of Japan.
- Special letter of thanks from the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir Andrew Clarke, for his role in settling a difficulty that arose between the Siamese and Perak governments.
- Special letter and honour from China for his contribution to the Famine Fund in 1890.
He had the following children through his marriage to CHUA, Yee Ren (1st marriage)
(also known as CHUA, Seah Neo; CHUA, Ee Jin; CHUA, Xiao Hui):
i. TAN Sian Kee (d: BEF FEB 1892)
ii. TAN, Soon Toh (1853–1892)
iii. TAN, Keck Geang (d: 1886 in Bangkok, Thailand)
iv. TAN, Cheng Gay Neo (d: AFT Feb 1892)
v. TAN, Lan Neo
vi. TAN, Hway Neo
vii. TAN, Woon Neo (b: ABT 1858)
He had the following children through his marriage to KHUNYING, Puen Anukulsiamkit (2nd marriage):
i. TAN Siew Kong b: BEF FEB 1892
ii. TAN Hay Leng b: BEF FEB 1892 in Thailand, d: 1943 in Singapore
iii. TAN Choon Neo b: 20 APR 1887 in Thailand
He had the following children through his third marriage:
i. TAN, Kee Chuan
ii. TAN, Boon Nin
iii. TAN, TAN Eng Say (b: 1878)
iv. TAN, Kuang Liang
v. TAN, Lai Neo
vi. TAN, Leng Neo (b: EST 1865)
vii. TAN, Kiat Neo
viii. TAN, Cheok Neo
ix. TAN, Koh Neo (b: ABT 1855; 21 MAR 1944)
His daughter, Tan Cheng Gay Neo, who had been taught Chinese and also a little English, was the first among those appointed trustees of his estate to take out probate of his will- one of the rare instances of a Chinese lady being appointed and assuming the duties of executrix of the will of a Chinese testator.
Towards the end of his life a prosecution was instituted against him for keeping slaves, but he was discharged. He died in February 1892 and his remains were interred at his private burial ground at the thirteenth mile on the Changi Road.
At his death, he was the owner of the steamers "Siam" and "Singapore", and of a large number of concessions, including some at Mount Ophir, Kampong Rusa, Patani and various others, which had not been prospected.
Reports from local and foreign newspapers of the time suggest the high esteem in which he was held and give us an idea of what it was like. For example, an Australian paper, The North Queensland Register, quoting The Singapore Free Press Reports:
"The remains of the late Mr Tan Kim Ching were this morning removed with more than usual pomp and display from his residence in North Bridge Road for interment in his private burial ground at Changi.
Judging by the long lines of spectators and the throngs of Orientals at all the windows and street corners, all along the route of the procession, the ceremony was one of more than ordinary interest to the many sections of the Chinese community who were, thus represented, and who had assembled in thousands to do honour to the head of the Seh Tan, the deceased having, been for years one of the leading citizens in Singapore.
Mr Tan Kim Ching was during his lifetime Consul-General for Siam, and as representing His Siamese Majesty there were in attendance three Siamese priests, who took part in the unwieldy yet orderly procession, which covered more than a mile in length.
Leading the procession, which was unusually picturesque on account of t e numerous, costly and rainbow tinted presentation banners freely subscribed for by the deceased's compatriots, was a gigantic figure which cost 40dol, some 15 feet or more in height, by name the Kye Loh Sin, a kind of Chinese Beelzebub whose functions was to act in some sort as a scarecrow for devils. And sufficiently terrible for this purpose he looked with his stark, staring red face and huge rolling eyes in violent oscillation with every jolt of his wooden car.
Following these were the bearers of the titles of the deceased, which were apparently many and varied, other Mandarin monstrosities, painted Kling, Malay and Malacca bands, and innumerable detachments of discordant Chinese with a never ceasing rumble of drums and banging of brazen instruments.
The coffin according to custom was carried in a most elaborate palanquin with a highly decorated a canopy the whole structure being carried by a band of 72 coolies in mourning costume. In the rear were the females of the deceased's family clad in sackcloth.The funeral cortege left the house in North Bridge Road shortly after eleven o'clock, and proceeded slowly along, via the Lochore Police Station, past the Gas Works to the thirteenth milestone is on the Changi Koai, the great body of the procession however, dispersing at a refreshment booth on the line of route. The interment proper, all things being favourable, and the astral influences sufficiently benign, will take place this evening about eight o'clock."
Vaughan, Jonas Daniel, 1825-1891 in The manners and customs of the Chinese of the Straits Settlements, 1879, p. 22
"It is usual in the Straits to speak of well-to-do Chinamen as gentlemen but as a fact, very few of them would be entitled to the distinction in China; and none with exception perhaps of the Honorable Mr. Whampoa, a member of the Legislative Council of this Colony, and Consul for China, and Mr. Tan Kim Ching the Siamese Consul who has some Chinese rank, none would be allowed to stand upright in the presence of a Mandarin."
The setting up of the Tao Nan School, established on 18 November 1906, financed by the Hokkien Huay Kuan (which was led by Tan Kim Ching before he died), was initiated by Tan Boo Liat, the son of Tan Kim Ching. Tan Kim Ching's residence at Siam House served as temporary grounds for the school which moved to its own premises in Armenian Street and later Marine Parade (1982).
Although he was buried in Changi, his grave was transferred to Bukit Brown in 1940.
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