Tan Ean Kiam



Tan Ean Kiam (陈延谦) (b. 1881, Tong’an, Xiamen, Fujian, China–d. 30 March 1943, Singapore1) was a rubber magnate and banker. In addition to being the managing director of the Oversea Chinese Bank and later the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC),2 Tan made many contributions to the Chinese communities in Singapore and China. A foundation providing welfare services was subsequently established in his name.3

Early life
Tan was born in 1881 in Tong’an, Fujian province, China. He attended a private school when he was 10 years old but did not complete his studies,4 and came to Singapore with his father in 1899, at the age of 18.5

Business activities
Rubber trading
When he was 28 years old, Tan established Joo Guan Company in partnership with a friend. The business grew and Tan began to invest in rubber estates and factories.6 However, Joo Guan had to exit the rubber business after prices began to fall in 1917.7 In 1919, the partnership split and Tan bought out his partner’s shares in Joo Guan.8

In 1922, when there was great slump in the rubber market, Tan established the milling firm Bin Seng & Company, purchasing large stocks of rubber. The Stevenson scheme was later introduced by the colonial government, under which the production of rubber was restricted in the British colonies including Singapore and Malaya. This led to a recovery in rubber prices from about $20 per ton to more than $200 per ton. Bin Seng profited from the price increase, and by 1933, it was operating two rubber mills.9

Oversea Chinese Bank
Led by rice merchant Khoo Kok Wah, a group of Hokkien merchants including Tan established the Oversea Chinese Bank on 28 June 1919.10 The bank was founded with a paid-up capital of $5.25 million. The bank set up branches in Southeast Asia and China in its early years. Tan was one of the first managing directors of the Oversea Chinese Bank.11

As a result of the Great Depression of the early 1930s and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931, local Chinese banks suffered.12 Against this backdrop, on 31 October 1932, OCB merged with Ho Hong Bank and the Chinese Commercial Bank to form OCBC. At the bank’s incorporation, each share in OCB or Ho Hong bank was equivalent to one share in OCBC. Likewise, one share in the Chinese Commercial Bank was equivalent to three OCBC shares.13 Tan served as OCBC’s managing director until his death in 1943.14

Social contributions
Tan was active in the local Chinese community and advocated social causes related to China. In 1916, he joined the Singapore branch of Tongmenghui, the nationalist revolutionary movement of Sun Yat Sen. He also contributed financially to the organisation.15

In 1921, Tan travelled to Amoy (today’s Xiamen) in Fujian, China, with his wife and established Chop Kiam Joo. Together with businessman Tan Kah Kee, he established the Tong Bee Motor Vehicles Company, which constructed a road connecting Tong Ann and Chip Bee to improve accessibility between these areas. Tan also donated a large sum of money to Xiamen University, for which he was made a committee member of the university.16

In 1922, Tan was elected as one of the honorary auditors for the Swatow relief fund, to which he also contributed money.17 In 1924, he promoted the formation of the Tong An Clan Association in Singapore and was elected its first chairman.18

In 1937, Tan and five other leading Chinese businessmen – Lee Kong Chian, Chew Hean Swee, Lee Choon Seng, Yeo Kiat Tiow and Lee Chin Tian – acquired the Sun Yat Sen villa in Singapore. The villa was subsequently donated to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce to be preserved as a historic site.19

In 1939, Tan became a committee member of the Chinese section of the Malaya Patriotic Fund’s Singapore branch.20 He was also the deputy chairman of the Southern Asia China Relief Fund Committee before the Japanese Occupation (1942–45).21

In addition to his business and social activities, Tan wrote Zhi Yuan Ji (止园集), a collection of poems published in 1938.22

Tan Ean Kiam Foundation
Tan died of a heart attack in 1943. Before his death he had left a bequest through the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation, which was incorporated in 1956. His son, Tan Tock San, was the chairman of the foundation.23

The foundation manages several properties, including shophouses located at Ean Kiam Place in the Katong area. Up to 80 percent of the foundation’s surplus is donated to charities and needy causes. Beneficiaries include the National Kidney Foundation, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Thong Chai Medical Institution, Singapore Clan Foundation and the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship Fund.24

It also supports educational projects such as the Tan Ean Kiam Service-Learning Resource Centre at the Republic Polytechnic, which was developed with a grant of S$200,000 from the foundation. The centre was officially launched on 25 April 2008.25 On 31 October 2009, the National University of Singapore’s Centre for the Arts launched the inaugural Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards, funded the foundation, to recognise excellence in the arts.26

Family
Wife: Ng Hoon
Sons: Tan Tock Seng, Tan Tock Sin, Tan Tock San, Tan Tock Kheng, Tan Tock Peng, Tan Tock Wah, Tan Tock Boon, Tan Tock Beng
Daughters: Tan Ai Lay, Daisy Tan Ai Guat, Tan Ai Geok27



Authors

Lee Hwee Hoon & Joanna HS Tan



References
1. Tong, C. (2006, March 2). Business unusual. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kunio, Y. (1988). The rise of ersatz capitalism in South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 219. (Call no.: RSING 330.1220959 KUN); 同安区委区政府. [Tong’an District Government] (2010). 《厦门同安人物传: 陈延谦》 [Biographies of personalities from Tong’an, Fujian: Tan Ean Kiam]. Retrieved 2016, June 6, from Tong’an District Government website:http://www.xmta.gov.cn/zjta/rwls/rwz/201110/t20111008_96632.htm
2. Tong, C. (2006, March 2). Business unusual. The Straits Times Special – The east is great, p. 4. Retrieved 2016, June 7 from http://east.asia1.com.sg/mar06/p1_6.pdf
3. Teo, A. (2012, November). Grantmaking entities in Singapore, p. 42. Retrieved June 1, 2016 from https://issuu.com/kameliashamsuddin/docs/grantmaking_entities_in_singapore
4. 《新加坡同安会馆特刊, 1931–1984》 [Tung Ann District Guild: Special issue, 1931-1984]. (1986). 新加坡: 同安会馆, pp. 483–484. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 369.25957 XJP); Xiamen Municipal Government Office, PRC. (2011). Xiamen Municipal Government, P.R.China. Retrieved 2016, June 7 from Xiamen Municipal Government website: http://english.xm.gov.cn/xiamenoverview/history/
5. Tong, C. (2006, March 2). Business unusual. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Huff, W. G. (1997). The economic growth of Singapore: Trade and development in the twentieth century. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 220. (Call no.: RSING 338.959570094 HUF)
6. Huff, W. G. (1997). The economic growth of Singapore: Trade and development in the twentieth century. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 220. (Call no.: RSING 338.959570094 HUF); Kunio, Y. (1988). The rise of ersatz capitalism in South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 219–220. (Call no.: RSING 330.1220959 KUN)
7. 《新加坡同安会馆特刊, 1931–1984》 [Tung Ann District Guild: Special issue, 1931–1984]. (1986). 新加坡: 同安会馆, pp. 483–484. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 369.25957 XJP)
8. 同安区委区政府 [Tong An District Government] (2010). 《厦门同安人物传: 陈延谦》[Biographies of personalities from Tong’an, Fujian: Tan Ean Kiam]. Retrieved 2016, June 6 from Tong’an District Government website: http://www.xmta.gov.cn/zjta/rwls/rwz/201110/t20111008_96632.htm
9. Huff, W. G. (1997). The economic growth of Singapore: Trade and development in the twentieth century. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 220. (Call no.: RSING 338.959570094 HUF); Sim, V. (Ed.) (1950). Biographies of prominent Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Nan Kok Publishing, p. 75. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.05957 SIM)
10. Kunio, Y. (1988). The rise of ersatz capitalism in South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 240. (Call no.: RSING 330.1220959 KUN); The other rich Oei whom few knew... (1981, March 23) The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Yeh, S. Y. (1972, October 30). The OCBC: A ‘monument’ of our enterprising pioneers. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Kunio, Y. (1988). The rise of ersatz capitalism in South-East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 241. (Call no.: RSING 330.1220959 KUN); Yeh, S. Y. (1972, October 30). The OCBC: A ‘monument’ of our enterprising pioneers. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Loh, G., Goh, C. B., & Tan, T. L. (2000). Building bridges, carving niches: An enduring legacy. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 22. (Call no.: RSING 332.1095957 LOH)
14. Sim, V. (Ed.). (1950). Biographies of prominent Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Nan Kok Publishing, p. 75. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.05957 SIM); Tan, A. (2001, July 20). OCBC moves further into China. The Business Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. 同安区委区政府 [Tong’an District Government] (2010). 《厦门同安人物传: 陈延谦》[Biographies of personalities from Tong’an, Fujian: Tan Ean Kiam]. Retrieved 2016, June 6, from Tong’an District Government website: http://www.xmta.gov.cn/zjta/rwls/rwz/201110/t20111008_96632.htm
16. Sim, V. (Ed.) (1950).
Biographies of prominent Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Nan Kok Publishing, p. 75. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.05957 SIM); 中国厦门市人民政府 [Xiamen Municipal Government Office, PRC]. (2014). 《历史上的今天(11月16日)》[Today in history (11 June)]. Retrieved 2016, June 6, from Xiamen Municipal Government Office, PRC website: http://www.xm.gov.cn/lsdjt/201111/t20111114_434958.htm; 杨雀林. [Yang, Q. L.] (1995). 《同集路与陈嘉庚》[Tong Ji Road and Tan Kah Kee]. 《集美校友》[Jimei Alumni], 2, 47. Retrieved 2016, August 8 from Jimei Alumni website: http://www.jmxyzh.cn/JMXY/199502
17. Swatow relief fund. (1922, August 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Sim, V. (Ed.). (1950). Biographies of prominent Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Nan Kok Publishing, p. 75. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.05957 SIM)
19. $7.5 m restoration of Sun Yat Sen villa starts. (1997, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chinese donations to war fund now total $67,575. (1939, September 26). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Chinese give full support to Poppy Day. (1940, November 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chen, Y. Q. (1938). 《止园集》[Microfilm no.: NL 29337]. 新加坡: 南洋印务公司印.
23. Tong, C. (2006, March 2). Business unusual. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tong, C. (2006, March 2). Business unusual. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Republic Polytechnic. (2008, April 25). Republic Polytechnic opens Singapore first service-learning centre [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, June 7 from Republic Polytechnic website: http://www.rp.edu.sg/uploadedFiles/Contents/RP/MEDIA/Press_Release/2008/25Apr_08.pdf
26. National University of Singapore. (2009, November 5). Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards promotes arts excellence on campus. Retrieved 2016, June 7from National University of Singapore website: http://newshub.nus.edu.sg/headlines/1109/award_05Nov09.php
27. Obituary – Ng Hoon. (1997, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography
Commerce and Industry>>Industries
Science and technology>>Manufacturing>>Rubber and latex
Business, finance and industry>>Finance>>Banking
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Bankers--Singapore--Biography
Rubber industry and trade--Singapore
Tan, Ean Kiam, 1881-1943
Trade and industry
Community leaders