Ngee Ann Kongsi



Ngee Ann Kongsi (义安公司) is a charitable welfare organisation set up by the local Teochew community1 in around 18302 to look after the needs of Teochew migrants. Derived from its properties and ventures, its income is mainly disbursed to fund schools and other charities.3

History
Originating from the Chaozhou (or Teochew) prefecture in China’s Guangdong province, the Teochew people formed a large portion of Chinese migrants to Singapore in the early 19th century. Around 1830, prominent Teochew businessman Seah Eu Chin (佘有进) gathered 13 Teochew clans (grouped by surname) including his own, and established a religious observance and social welfare organisation.4 The group was known as Ngee Ann Kongsi, or Ngee Ann Kun (义安郡) colloquially – the latter an older name for the Teochew prefecture.5 The Mandarin word gongsi (kongsi) refers to “organisation”. Ngee Ann Kongsi raised funds to acquire land for temples and burial grounds.6

Ngee Ann Kongsi was officially established in 1845 with Seah as its president, a post he held until his death in 1883. Seah was succeeded by his sons and later his grandson, Seah Eng Tong (佘应忠). The kongsi’s accounts were kept private by the Seah family, and undisclosed even to other members. In 1929, a rival Teochew faction led by Lim Nee Soon founded an association known as the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan (潮州八邑会馆), huay guan (huay kuan) meaning “clan association” in Mandarin. The huay kuan mounted a lawsuit against the Seah family, alleging that the latter monopolised kongsi affairs. The dispute was settled out of court; in 1930, Ngee Ann Kongsi was reorganised as a trustee organisation for properties owned by the Teochew community, with its management coming under control of the huay kuan.7

In 1933, the Ngee Ann Kongsi (Incorporation) Ordinance was passed in the Straits Settlements Legislative Council, formally recognising the kongsi as a charitable organisation. The ordinance continued to uphold the original constitution’s criteria for membership, limiting it to Teochews whose ancestors originated from one of eight specific districts in the Teochew prefecture. These districts were: Teo Ann (潮安), Theng Hai (澄海), Teo Yeonh (潮阳), Kit Yeonh (揭阳), Jeow Pheng (饶平), Phow Leng (普宁), Hui Lye (惠来) and Nam Oh (南澳). The legislation also mandated the reelection of the kongsi’s management committee every two years, and that it comprised between 17 and 25 members.8

The relationship between the kongsi and the huay kuan has deteriorated in recent years. In 2012, Ngee Ann Kongsi members, including its president and vice-president, formed the Teochew Federation (Singapore) to promote Teochew business interests. The Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan saw the move as a challenge to the leadership in the local community, and resulted in public discord.9

Religious initatives
The original role of the kongsi was to serve the religious needs of local Teochews. Since 1845, the kongsi has been managing Singapore’s oldest Teochew temple, the Yueh Hai Ching Temple (or Wak Hai Cheng Bio; 粤海清庙), dedicated to the worship of the goddess Mazu.10 Gazetted as a national monument in 1996,11 the temple has been restored several times.12 In 2011, the kongsi committed S$5 million to repair works for the temple.13


Ngee Ann Kongsi also oversaw the burial of Teochews who died in Singapore, and purchased multiple plots of land to use as cemeteries. These plots included Tai Shan Ting (泰山亭) in the Orchard Road area14 and Guang Shou Shan (广寿山) in Clementi.15 Over the years, many of these cemeteries have been cleared by the government for development.16 The unclaimed remains of some 34,000 burials from the exhumed cemeteries were cremated and stored at the Teochew Memorial Park, set up by the kongsi in Yishun.17 The kongsi also operates the Teochew Funeral Parlour located in Ubi, which was built in 1989 at a cost of S$2 million. The parlour has six funeral halls.18

Properties

Ngee Ann City, an office complex and shopping mall located along Orchard Road, is the kongsi’s flagship commercial property. Built in 1993 for S$520 million, the complex sits on part of the Tai Shan Ting cemetery, which was cleared in 1957. Following the exhumation, the government acquired large portions of the land, while other parts were leased out to tenants to develop buildings such as the Mandarin Hotel. The site of Ngee Ann City was previously occupied by the 10-storey Ngee Ann Building,19 which was demolished in 1985.20 Disagreements between the kongsi and its joint-venture partner, Metro Holdings, delayed the development of Ngee Ann City, and construction only started in 1989.21 Besides Ngee Ann City, the kongsi also owns properties on Balestier Road and Grange Road.22

Education and other activities
One of Ngee Ann Kongsi’s major functions today is education. It manages Ngee Ann Primary School and its affiliate Ngee Ann Secondary School.23 Established in 1940 as Ngee Ann Girls’ School, Ngee Ann Primary School gained its current name in 1980 and shifted to its campus in Marine Parade two years later. Ngee Ann Secondary School was opened in Tampines in 1994 to replace Tuan Mong High School, another school previously managed by the kongsi, which had closed that year due to declining enrolment.24


Ngee Ann Kongsi is closely associated with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, which is located in Clementi,25 on the old Guang Shou Shan cemetery grounds.26 Founded initially as Ngee Ann College in 1963 under the direction of then Ngee Ann Kongsi president Lien Ying Chow, the college was later converted into a public pre-tertiary institution, managed independently by a college council. In April 1982, the college was renamed Ngee Ann Polytechnic.27

Ngee Ann Kongsi continues to support the polytechnic financially.28 Before 2007, it donated 75 percent of its annual income to the polytechnic; an amendment to the kongsi’s Incorporation Ordinance reduced the sum to 25 percent. The rest of the funds are channelled to other educational institutions. Besides schools, the kongsi also donates to other organisations such as the Chinese Heritage Centre, the Chinese Development Assistance Council and the Singapore International Foundation.29



Author

Yong Chun Yuan




References
1. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 10, 24, 27—28. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Chinese benefactor of 1845. (1932, September 24). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.义安公司 [Ngee Ann Kongsi]. (1969). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆四十周年纪念暨庆祝新加坡开埠百五十周年特刊,1819–1929》 [40th anniversary of Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan and 150th anniversary of the birth of Singapore]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,p. 205. (Call no.: Chinese RSING q369.25957 XJP)
3. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 11, 27—28, 85. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
4. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 10, 24, 27—28. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Chinese benefactor of 1845. (1932, September 24). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 义安公司 [Ngee Ann Kongsi]. (1969). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆四十周年纪念暨庆祝新加坡开埠百五十周年特刊,1819–1929》 [40th anniversary of Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan and 150th anniversary of the birth of Singapore]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,p. 205. (Call no.: Chinese RSING q369.25957 XJP); 李集庆 [Li, J.]., & 陈再藩 [Chen, Z.]. (2014). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆八十五周年纪念特刊》 [Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan 85th anniversary]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,p. 50. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 305.859105957 LJQ)
5. 义安公司 [Ngee Ann Kongsi]. (1969). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆四十周年纪念暨庆祝新加坡开埠百五十周年特刊,1819–1929》 [40th anniversary of Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan and 150th anniversary of the birth of Singapore]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,p. 205. (Call no.: Chinese RSING q369.25957 XJP); 李集庆 [Li, J.]., & 陈再藩 [Chen, Z.]. (2014). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆八十五周年纪念特刊》 [Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan 85th anniversary]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,p. 50. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 305.859105957 LJQ)
6. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 27—28. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
7. 义安公司 [Ngee Ann Kongsi]. (1969). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆四十周年纪念暨庆祝新加坡开埠百五十周年特刊,1819–1929》 [40th anniversary of Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan and 150th anniversary of the birth of Singapore]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,pp. 205–206. (Call no.: Chinese RSING q369.25957 XJP); 李集庆 [Li, J.]., & 陈再藩 [Chen, Z.]. (2014). 《新加坡潮州八邑会馆八十五周年纪念特刊》 [Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan 85th anniversary]. 新加坡:新加坡潮州八邑会馆,pp. 18, 51. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 305.859105957 LJQ)
8. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 10, 28—29. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Straits Settlements. (1933, March 10). Straits Settlements Government gazette. (G.N. 440). Singapore: Mission Press, pp. 369–372. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51 SGG)
9. Huang, L. J. (2012, February 7). Tension between clan bodies brewing for years. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 89—90. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Ngee Ann Kongsi. (n.d.). Wak Hai Cheng Bio (Yueh Hai Ching Temple). Retrieved 2017, April 8 from Ngee Ann Kongsi website: http://www.ngeeann.com.sg/en/wak-hai-cheng-bio/
11. National Heritage Board. (2015, December 8). Yueh Hai Ching Temple. Retrieved 2017, April 8 from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/national-monuments/yueh-hai-ching-temple
12. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 89, 92. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
13. Lin, Y. (2010, October 18). 155-year-old temple to be restored. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
15. Ngee Ann Kongsi. (n.d.). Teochew Memorial Park. Retrieved 2017, April 10 from Ngee Ann Kongsi website: http://www.ngeeann.com.sg/en/teochew-memorial-park/
16. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
17. Poon, Y. (2007, March 20). Prayers to free ‘lost souls’. (2007, March 20). The New Paper, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
19. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 29, 95—105. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
20. Aleshire, I. (1985, July 9). Clearance begins at Orchard Square. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, p. 97. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Work begins on Ngee Ann City, finally. (1989, July 19). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Ngee Ann Kongsi. (n.d.). Ngee Ann Property Management Pte Ltd. Retrieved 2017, April 10 from Ngee Ann Kongsi website: http://www.ngeeann.com.sg/en/ngee-ann-property-management/
23. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Ngee Ann Primary School. (n.d.). School management committee. Retrieved 2017, April 8 from Ngee Ann Primary School website: http://ngeeannpri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/school-management-committee; Ngee Ann Secondary School. (n.d.). Background. Retrieved 2017, April 8 from Ngee Ann Secondary School website: http://ngeeannsec.moe.edu.sg/about-us/background
24. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 65—67. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
25. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, p. 64. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
26. Ngee Ann Kongsi. (n.d.). Teochew Memorial Park. Retrieved 2017, April 10 from Ngee Ann Kongsi website: http://www.ngeeann.com.sg/en/teochew-memorial-park/
27. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 73, 76—78. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE)
28. Ngee Ann Kongsi. (n.d.). Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Retrieved 2017, April 10 from Ngee Ann Kongsi website: http://www.ngeeann.com.sg/en/ngee-ann-polytechnic/
29. Tan, S. (2005). Ngee Ann Kongsi: Into the next millennium. Singapore: Ngee Ann Kongsi, pp. 15, 79, 85. (Call no.: RSING 366.0095957 NGE); Ching, L. (2007, July 18). Why is Ngee Ann City using our name? The New Paper, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2007 and correct as far as we can 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
Chinese clans and associations
Charities--Singapore--History
Organisations>>Associations>>Chinese Clans
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Ngee Ann Kongsi--History
Chinese--Singapore--Societies--History