Koh Yew Hean Press



Founded in the 19th century by a Chinese businessman-scholar, Lim Kong Chuan (林光铨), Koh Yew Hean Press (古友轩印务私人有限公司) was possibly one of the earliest Chinese printing houses in Singapore. The press was well known for publishing two Chinese-language newspapers and numerous other publications in English, Chinese and Malay.

Establishment
Koh Yew Hean Press was a Chinese printing press founded in Singapore by Lim Kong Chuan (林光铨) a merchant from Jinmen, Fujian province, China.1 Although the exact date of its founding cannot be determined, the press was likely to have been set up in the 1860s. This is based on two accounts. The first is given in the genealogy of the Lin clan printed by the press in 1877 where Lim wrote that he had learnt the craft of printing from the British when he arrived here in 1861.2 The second account is found in an introductory article published in the 15 February 1890  edition of Xing Bao (《星报》; also spelled Sing Pau, Sing Po or Sing Poh), a newspaper published by Koh Yew Hean Press. The article revealed that the press had been in operation in Singapore for more than 20 years by that time.3 This meant the press would have been established some time in the 1860s.


Proprietor
While most Chinese accounts of the press list Lin Hengnan (林衡南) as the proprietor,4 the name “Lim Kong Chuan” appeared in most English documentation and some of the press’ publications.5 Lin Hengnan and Lim Kong Chuan were in fact the same person.6


Lim was regarded as an authority of the Malay language.7 His Chinese-Malay dictionary, Tong Yi Xin Yu (《通夷新语》), published by the press in 1877 was well received by the local Chinese population and it was reprinted in 1883 under the title Hua Yi Tong Yu (《华夷通语》) with a preface by Tso Ping Lung (左秉隆; Zuo Binglong), the first Chinese consul to Singapore appointed by the Qing imperial court.8

To date, there are no known public records of Lim’s  birth and death dates, and places.

Premises
Koh Yew Hean Press was first established at 52 Telok Ayer Street.9 By the time the press was publishing Xing Bao, it had moved to larger premises on the same street, occupying units 100, 101 and 102.10 The press then moved to 18 North Bridge Road11 and its last known location was in Ubi.12

Newspapers
Xing Bao
Koh Yew Hean Press is closely associated with Xing Bao, a Chinese-language newspaper it published between 1890 and 1898. The first issue of Xing Bao, the second Chinese daily newspaper in Singapore after Lat Pau (《叻报》), was dated 14 February 1890.13


The commercial paper was published daily, except on Sundays and public holidays. Each issue had eight pages, which were printed in red ink,14 and mainly comprised advertisements and world news. Although it did not have a clear political agenda, the paper tended to be pro-China and relatively conservative.15

It is believed that Lin Hengnan was the editor of the newspaper.16 It has also been reported that Huang Naishang (黄乃棠), Lim Boon Keng’s father-in-law, was a one-time editor or chief writer of the newspaper.17 However, no dates had been recorded for the various editorships.

Xing Bao reportedly had good circulation. At its peak in 1896, the newspaper’s daily circulation was 970, exceeding its closest rival, Lat Pau.18 Despite its relative success, Xing Bao closed down in 1898, possibly due to mismanagement.19

Rixin Bao
Another newspaper printed by Koh Yew Hean Press was Rixin Bao (日新报) or Jit Seng Po, also a Chinese newspaper. Published and edited by Lim Boon Keng, the paper set itself up as a successor to Xing Bao. It used the serial number “2876” for its inaugural issue on 5 October 1899 which followed the last issue of the defunct Xing Bao.20


Rixin Bao was managed by Lim Boon Keng, Tay Cheng Kee and Lim Seng Kee, while Huang Naishang edited the newspaper for several months.21 In addition to local news, Rixin Bao also published translations of news and views in the Western press, possibly a reflection of the outlook of its publisher, Lim Boon Keng.22

The newspaper ceased publication in 1903, likely due to stiff competition and financial difficulties.23

Other publications
Besides newspapers, Koh Yew Hean Press also printed magazines and books. At present there is no comprehensive record of its publications but these include the first volume of The Straits Chinese Magazine, edited by Lim Boon Keng and Song Ong Siang, and published in March 1897.24 The subsequent volumes were published by other presses, including the Straits Chinese Printing Office and the Colonial Press.25


The press also published books in various languages, including English, Chinese, and Malay.26 Some of its key publications include Lim’s Malay-Chinese Dictionary (two editions),27 Mohamad bin Moor Takap’s Karang Karanjan (1888), Walter Makepeace’s Straits Law Journal (1888),28 Lim Hiong Seng’s A Manual of the Malay Colloquial (1887) and Handbook of the Swatow Colloquial (1886), Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir’s Hikayat Abdullah (2nd edition, 1880),29 Herbert Hudson’s Malay Orthography (1892),30 J. F. Kesselar’s The Straits Schools English-Malay Vernacular (1895) and G. D. McIntyre’s Dollars and Rupee Exchange Tables (1895).31

In addition, the press also printed Chinese New Year greeting cards during the pre-World War II years.32

Subsequent ownership
Koh Yew Hean Press was put up for sale in 1898. An advertisement in the 6 October 1898 issue of The Singapore Free Press listed the press for sale through auction. The sale was for the equipment and the publishing of Chinese newspaper Seng Poh at the premises of 100 and 101 Telok Ayer Street.33 On 15 August 1899, a notice in The Singapore Free Press again listed the business, in the estate of a “Lim Kong Chan” (likely a misspelling), to be sold by auction.34


In 1905, the press, including its equipment – book press, hand press, lithographing machines, cutting, perforating and rolling machines, and English and Chinese type – was again listed for sale.35

In the 1980s, an article in the Lianhe Zaobao newspaper reported that the Koh Yew Hean Press was owned by a Zhang Gensong (张根松). According to Zhang, the business had been in his family for the preceding 70 or 80 years. It was first managed by his grandfather, and later his father.36

The last known public mention of the press was in a 1989 Lianhe Zaobao article that featured a list of companies in Singapore that were at least a century old.37 In 2006, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority received an application to strike off the company’s registration, ending Koh Yew Hean Press.38



Author

Jaime Koh



References
1. 北京图书馆 [Beijing Library]. (2000). 《北京图书馆藏家谱丛刊 – 闽粤 (侨乡卷》[Collection of genealogies in the Beijing Library – Fujian & Guangdong provinces]. 北京: 北京图书馆出版社, p. 425. (Call no.: Chinese R CO q929.10720512 BJT)
2. 北京图书馆 [Beijing Library]. (2000). 《北京图书馆藏家谱丛刊 – 闽粤(侨乡)卷》[Collection of genealogies in the Beijing Library – Fujian & Guangdong provinces]. 北京: 北京图书馆出版社, p. 425. (Call no.: Chinese R CO Chinese q929.10720512 BJT)
3. 《星报》[Xing Bao]. (1890, February 15). [Microfilm no.: NL14380]; Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE)
4. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, p. 7. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ); 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. 新加坡華文报业缀述 [A history of Singapore Chinese newspapers]. (1983, January 1). 《星洲日报》 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 《星报》[Xing Bao]. (1890, February 15). [Microfilm no.: NL 14380]
5. Page 15 advertisements cClumn 1. (1890, August 20). Straits Times Weekly Issue, p. 15; 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. (1983, January 17). 古友轩二三事 [About Koh Yew Hean]. 《星洲日报》 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 林衡南 [Lin, H. N.]. 《华夷通语》. Singapore: Koh Yew Hean Press. Retrieved from BookSG; 《星报》[Xing Bao]. (1890, February 15). [Microfilm no.: NL 14380]
6. 北京图书馆 [Beijing Library]. (2000). 《北京图书馆藏家谱丛刊 – 闽粤(侨乡)卷》[Collection of genealogies in the Beijing Library – Fujian & Guangdong provinces]. 北京: 北京图书馆出版社, pp. 425–426. (Call no.: Chinese R CO q929.10720512 BJT); 吕世聪 [Lu, S. C.]. (2015, October 25). 古友轩 本地最早华人印务馆 [Koh Yew Hean, Singapore’s earliest Chinese printing press]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao]. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
7. 郑文辉 [Tay, B. H.]. (1973). 《新加坡华文报业史》[History of Chinese newspapers in Singapore 1881–1972]. 新加坡: 新马出版印刷公司, p. 26. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CWH)
8. Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE); 薛残白. (主编) [[Xue, C. B.] (Ed.). (1986). 《新加坡金门会馆大夏落成暨成立壹一六周年几年特刊》[Singapore Jin Men Association building completion and 116th anniversary commemorative magazine]. 新加坡: 新加坡金门会馆, p. 139. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 369.25957 XJP); 林衡南[Lin, H. N.]. 《华夷通语》. Singapore: Koh Yew Hean Press. Retrieved from BookSG; 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. (1983, January 17). 古友轩二三事 [[About Koh Yew Hean]. (1983, January 17) 《星洲日报》 [Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. 薛残白.(主编)[Xue, C. B.] (Ed.). (1986). 《新加坡金门会馆大夏落成暨成立壹一六周年几年特刊》[Singapore Jin Men Association building completion and 116th anniversary commemorative magazine]. 新加坡: 新加坡金门会馆, p. 138. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 369.25957 XJP)
10. 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. (1983, January 17). 古友轩二三事 [About Koh Yew Hean]. 《星洲日报》[Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 薛残白 (主编). [Xue, C. B.] (Ed.). (1986).《新加坡金门会馆大夏落成暨成立壹一六周年几年特刊》[Singapore Jin Men Association building completion and 116th anniversary commemorative magazine]. 新加坡: 新加坡金门会馆, p. 138. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 369.25957 XJP); Page 2 advertisements column 3. (1898, October 6). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; 《印务同业公会银禧纪念特刊》[In Commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of the Master Printers’ Association Singapore 1937–1962] (1963). 新加坡: 新加坡印务同业公会, p. 12. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 686.20605957 COM); see Xing Bao masthead: 《星报》 [Xing Bao]. (1890, February 15). [Microfilm no.: NL 14380]
11. Lee, K. L. (1982, March 10). Koh Yew Hean Press: Exterior [2] [Image of Photograph], [Online]. Retrieved from PictureSG.
12. 百年印务馆–古友轩 [Century old printing press – Koh Yew Hean]. (1988, September 4). 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
13. 王慷鼎 [Wang, H. T.]. (1989). 《新加坡华文日报社论的沿革》[Editorial column in the Chinese dailies in Singapore]. 新加坡: 新加坡国立大学中文系, pp. 2–3. Available via PublicationSG.
14. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 259. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS])
15. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, pp. 7–8. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ)
16. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, pp. 7–8. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ)
17. 王慷鼎 [Wang, H. T.]. (1989) 《新加坡华文日报社论的沿革》[Editorial column in the Chinese dailies in Singapore]. 新加坡: 新加坡国立大学中文系, p. 4. Available via PublicationSG; 韩山元 [Han, S. Y.]. (1987, January 21). 一纸人情 [Paper lover].《联合晚报》[Lianhe Wanbao], p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 57. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE); 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. (1983, January 1).  新加坡華文报业缀述星洲日报》[Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, p. 9. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ); Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 57. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE)
19. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, p. 9. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ)
20. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, p. 12. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ); Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE)
21. 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. (1983, January 1). 新加坡華文报业缀述 [A history of Singapore Chinese newspapers]. 《星洲日报》[Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE)
23. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡 : 海天文化企业, p. 12. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ); Chen, M. H. (1967). The early Chinese newspapers of Singapore, 1881–1912. Singapore: University of Malaya Press, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 079.5702 CHE)
24. Our Programme. [Microfilm no.: NL 267]. (1897, April). The Straits Chinese magazine: A quarterly journal of oriental and occidental culture, 1(1), 1–2. 
25. See The Straits Chinese magazine: A quarterly journal of oriental and occidental culture [Microfilm no.: NL 267].
26. 崔贵强 [Cui, G. Q.]. (1993). 《新加坡华文报刊与报人》[Singapore Chinese newspapers and journalists]. 新加坡: 海天文化企业, p. 7. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 079.5957 CGQ)
27. 林衡南 [Lin, H. N.]. (1900). 《华夷通语》[Hua Yi Tong Yu]. Retrieved from BookSG.
28. The Straits Law Journal. (1888–1892). Singapore: W. Makepeace. (Call no.: RCLOS 340.05 STR-[HWE])
29. Munshi Abdullah. (1880). Hikayat Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munshi. Singapore: Lim Kong Chuan. Retrieved from BookSG.
30. Hudson, H. (1892). The Malay orthography [Microfiche: MFC NL0012/005-006]. Singapore: Kelly & Walsh.
31. 庄钦永 [Zhuang, X. Y.]. (1983, January 17). 古友轩二三事 [About Koh Yew Hean]. 《星洲日报》[Sin Chew Jit Poh], p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. 韩山元 [Han, S. Y.]. (1987, January 21). 一纸人情 [Paper lover].《联合晚报》[Lianhe Wanbao], p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Page 2 advertisements column 3. (1898, October 6). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Untitled. (1899, August 15). The Straits Times, p. 2; Page 2 advertisements column 3. (1899, August 15). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Page 6 advertisements column 5. (1905, November 28). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. 百年印务馆–古友轩 [Century old printing press – Koh Yew Hean]. (1988, September 4). 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38; 区如柏 [Ou, R. B.]. (1988, September 4). 一纸一票当初来自肇庆人. [Printed pages from Zhao Qing People]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 38. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. 百年老字号 [Century old brands]. (24, September 1989]. 《联合早报》[Lianhe Zaobao], p. 65. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority website, Bizfile, indicates that Koh Yew Hean Press Private Limited applied to cease operations on 27 April 2006. See website: https://www.bizfile.gov.sg




The information in this article is valid as at 6 April 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
Heritage and Culture
Organisations>>Companies
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Organisations
Publishers and publishing--Singapore
Commerce and Industry>>Communications
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Communications