Saturday, 24 December 2011

Chan Kim Boon 曾锦文


Chan Kim Boon was a famous, writer, poet, novelist, translator, and had profound knowledge in Chinese literature and mythology. He was well versed in English, Chinese and Malay. Born in Penang in 1851 to Chan Yong Chuan. His father was a merchant at Padang, Sumatra, who later moved to Penang. Chan Kim Boon was first educated at the Penang Free School, and later enrolled to the Foochow Naval School in China. In 1867 he became an assistant tutor in mathematics and from 1867 to 1871 he studied military intelligence but refused to become an army officer due to his ill-health. 

Chan Kim Boon was a book-keeper and cashier at Messrs Donaldson & Burkinshaw Co. Amongst his students at the naval school were Admiral Yin, Commander of the South Squadron of Guandong, Admirah Sah, the Rear Admirals Liu and Lin, Sir Chih-Chen Lo Feng Luh 罗丰禄, former Chinese Ambassador in London. 

In January 1872, he left Foochow and returned to Penang on a visit to his widowed mother in Foochow, In March 1872, a month before the Dutch-Acheh War, he joined a Singapore legal firm, Aitken & Rodyk (later known as Aitken & Co and thereafter Donaldson & Burkinshaw). Chan Kim Boon was best known for his excellent work in translating several Chinese legendary works into Malay language, this tedious work was written in series and claimed to be the earliest Chinese – Malay translations. His books were popular among the Straits Chinese who cannot read Chinese.

Chan Kim Boon in Singapore

Chan Kim Boon used a pen name in all his writings, where he named himself after a cemetery, Batu Gantong (Hanging Stone) in his writing. He had four sons, two daughters and six grandchildren. When he died in 1920 in Singapore, his body was sent to Batu Gantong Cemetery, Penang for burial. Chan Kim Boon was a member of the Celestial Reasoning Society, Chinese Philomathic Society and Lee Cheng Yan Club.

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