Tan Lark Sye

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Tan Lark Sye
Born 1897
Died 11 September 1972
Known for Nanyang University
Relatives Tan Eng Joo[1]
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Tan.

Tan Lark Sye (simplified Chinese: 陈六使; traditional Chinese: 陳六使; pinyin: Chén Lìu Shǐ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tân La̍k-sái; 1897 - 11 September 1972) was a prominent Chinese businessman and philanthropist active in Singapore in the 20th century.

Early life[edit]

Tan was born in a poor Hoklo family in Fujian, China. He migrated to Singapore at 18.


In Singapore, Tan worked in one of Tan Kah Kee's factories, and within half a year he was promoted to a responsible position in Tan Kah Kee's Khiam Aik (Qianyi) company. Not long afterward, he left the company to set up a rubber enterprise with the help from his brothers, but the enterprise lost half its capital in a year.

Tan then ran it alone and after several years, he built up his Aik Hoe (Yihe) rubber company and became one of the leading rubber industrialists of the region. He expanded his business to all parts of Malaya, Thailand and India and diversified into insurance, paper and cement industries. His career as an industrialist peaked in the 1950s, when his company reaped huge profits from the rising price of rubber.

Tan was an activist, and like other entrepreneurs of his time, he believed in the value of education. As chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in the 1950s, he fought for citizenship for Chinese people in Singapore and for the Chinese language to be one of Singapore's official languages.

As chairman of the Hokkien Huay Kuan (Hokkien clan association), he developed many schools under the auspices of the association: Kong Hwa School in Guillemard, Tao Nan School in Marine Parade, Nan Chiau School in River Valley and Chongfu Primary School in Yishun. He also contributed to financing the Jimei schools founded by Tan Kah Kee.

In 1957 he donated considerable sums to Thailand's Hokkien clan association to build overseas Chinese schools. His contributions to education, however, were not confined to Chinese schools. In 1949, when the University of Malaya was set up, Tan donated S$300,000, and between 1950 and 1960 he contributed to the building of schools of different language mediums.

Tan's most outstanding contribution, however, was the initiating of the founding of Nanyang University in 1953, which was later merged with University of Singapore (partially funded by Lim Boon Keng and Lee Kong Chian) to form the now National University of Singapore. He donated S$5 million to its building fund, as well as 523 acres (2.12 km2) of land for its campus on behalf of the Hokkien Huay Kuan.

Between 1953 and 1963, he was Chairman of Nanyang University's Executive Committee, and was in charge of various aspects of the university by building, teaching staff, research facilities, library, student welfare and others.[2]

Tan was, however, stripped of his Malayan citizenship in Singapore in 1963 by the Malaysian government (Singapore was part of Malaysian Federation 1963-1965) as a suspected communist.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Tan died in 1972 in Singapore at the age of 76.[4] In 1974, a Tan Lark Sye scholarship was set up, and in 1998 the Tan Lark Sye professorship[5] in Chinese language and culture was established to honour Tan.[6]


Places named after Tan Lark Sye[edit]


  1. ^ "Tan Eng Joo". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Tan Lark Sye & Nanyang University (陈六使与南洋大学)". Youtube. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "The Nantah legacy that Tan Lark Sye left behind". If Only Singaporeans Stopped to Think. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Funeral of Tan Lark Sye". Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "Tan Lark Sye Professorship in Chinese Language and Culture". Nanyang Technological University. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Tan Lark Sye". National Library Board. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Tan Lark Sye Library".