Ee Hoe Hean Club
by Wee, Jane
Located at 43 Bukit Pasoh Road, Ee Hoe Hean Club is one of the oldest clubs for millionaires in Singapore. Founded in 1895, the social and business club was where like-minded Chinese businessmen networked and exchanged ideas. The club became the headquarters of the anti-Japanese South Seas China Relief Fund Union from 1937 to 1942, when Tan Kah Kee was its chairman. In 1995, the National Heritage Board marked the club as a historic site.
Ee Hoe Hean Club was founded on 18 October 1895 by Lim Chwee Chian, Lim Ho Pan, Tan Cheng Seong, Lee Cheng Yan, Tan Luan Jin, Tan Meng Guan, Gan Eng Seng and Lim Boon Keng.1 It was exempted from registration under the Societies Ordinance 1889, and functioned as a social and business club.2
Originally located at 28 Duxton Hill, the club moved to 38 Club Street in 1911 before relocating to its present site at Bukit Pasoh Road in 1925.3 The members first rented the three-storey building before purchasing the property on 30 December 1927.4
For many years during the colonial period till after World War II, the club was a meeting place for its members to discuss economic, social, cultural and political issues, such as raising funds for the local Chinese hospitals, the Republican revolution in China, anti-Japanese war, Singapore’s independence, and the establishment of Nanyang University.5
In the early years, club members were actively involved in China’s political developments. Members such as Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Nam and Lim Nee Soon took part in the revolution led by Sun Yat Sen to overthrow the Qing dynasty in 1911 as well as the establishment of the Republic of China thereafter. When Sun and his Tongmenghui (Chinese Revolutionary League) representatives from China visited Singapore, Ee Hoe Hean Club became one of their meeting places.6
Between 1937 and 1942, the club served as the South Seas China Relief Fund Union’s headquarters. In 1938, 170 overseas Chinese representatives from the region met at the club to establish a regional body to coordinate regional relief work in support of China against invasion by the Japanese. As chairman of the South Seas China Relief Fund Union, Tan Kah Kee spent so much time in the Ee Hoe Hean Club’s office that he eventually moved in and lived at the club.7
The South Seas China Relief Fund Union was disbanded just before the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), the Japanese military used the premises as a club.8
Post-war and recent developments
When World War II ended, Ee Hoe Hean Club once again functioned as a club for social and business interactions.9 Following Singapore's independence in 1965, the club continued to be a social and business club for local Chinese businessmen and play an active role in community services, such as charity work and organising cultural talks for the public.10
On 18 October 1995, Ee Hoe Hean Club was marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board. In 1999, the club building’s structure was damaged by the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit system’s Circle Line, which ran beneath the building. Cracks appeared on the walls of the clubhouse, and the club building was declared unsafe in 2002. In collaboration with Tan Kah Kee Foundation, the club underwent a S$2.5 million reconstruction project in 2006 to preserve the century-old historic building.11
On 9 November 2008, the reconstructed clubhouse, with a new 2,000 square feet (190 sq m) memorial hall to honour Tan Kah Kee and other early Chinese community leaders, was officially reopened by then Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam.12 Located on the ground floor, the new hall was named Xian Xian guan (先贤馆, The Pioneers’ Memorial Hall).13 It contains exhibits such as a wax figure of Tan Kah Kee, old photographs and documents, and interactive multimedia.14 The auditorium on the second floor is used for public lectures, and the social club is on the third floor.15
The club’s current list of honorary presidents and advisers include former Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo, chairman of the United Overseas Bank Wee Cho Yaw, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chua Thian Poh, former nominated member of parliament Tay Beng Chuan, and managing director of City Developments Kwek Leng Joo, among others.16
Ee Hoe Hean Club remains an all men’s club, and membership is by invitation only.17
Past and present chairmen18
1914–23: Lim Chwee Chian (based on oral accounts as most of the club records were destroyed during the Japanese Occupation)
1923–26: Tan Kah Kee
1927: Lim Nee Soon
1928–30: Tan Kah Kee
1931–32: Lim Nee Soon
1934–35: Lee Choon Seng
1935–47: Tan Kah Kee
1948–63: Tan Lark Sye
1963–65: Ko Teck Kin
1966–2001: Soon Peng Yam
2002–07: Oei Hong Bie
2007–13：Lim Chin Joo
2013–15: Chia Ban Seng19
1. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, ed., Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985 [Ee Hoe Hean Club: 90th anniversary commemorative book, 1895–1985] (Singapore: 大水牛出版机构,1985), 48. (Call no. Chinese RSING 369.25957 YHX)
2. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, ed., Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承 [A century of legacy] (Singapore: Ee Hoe Hean Club, 2008), 48, 54. (Call no. Chinese RSING 369.3951095957 SJC)
3. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan 怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985, 48.
4. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 91.
5. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan 怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985, 40–41.
6. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan 怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985, 222.
7. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan 怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985, 40.
8. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan 怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985, 40, 214.
9. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 53.
10. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 103, 111.
11. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 103; Leong Weng Kam, “Historic Gentlemen’s Club Opens Its Doors,” Straits Times, 19 October 2008, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Leong, “Historic Gentlemen’s Club Opens Its Doors”; Serene Luo, “‘Hall of Fame’ for Pioneers of Finance,” Straits Times, 10 November 2008, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 50.
14. Leong Weng Kam, “Hall to Honour Chinese Pioneers,” Straits Times, 17 July 2008, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 108, 111.
16. Leong, “Historic Gentlemen’s Club Opens Its Doors.”
17. Leong, “Historic Gentlemen’s Club Opens Its Doors.”
18. Huang Yi Hua 黄溢华, Yihe xuan jiushi zhounian jinian tekan 怡和轩九十周年纪念特刊, 1895–1985, 37, 199; Zhou Zhao Cheng周兆呈, Shiji zhuancheng世纪传承, 48–50.
19. Ee Hoe Hean Club怡和轩俱乐部, Bai ge zheng liu: Yi he xuan 120 zhounian jinian wenji百舸争流 : 怡和轩120周年纪念文集 [Ee Hoe Hean Club: 120th anniversary commemorative book] (Singapore: Ee Hoe Hean Club, 2015), 188–201. (Call no. Chinese RCLOS 369.25957 BGZ-[YOS]).
The information in this article is valid as at August 2021 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.