Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cheah Choon Seng 謝春生

KAPITAN CHEAH CHOON SENG 謝春生, STV

Cheah Choon Seng or Tjia Tioen Sen (spelled in Dutch) was born in 1848 in Pontianak, Indonesia and received Chinese education. He was also known as Cheah Meng Chi (謝夢池) and Hsie Yung Guang (謝榮光). He married daughter of Chong Hi, the Burgermeester (Mayor) of Pontianak. With the help from his father-in-law, during his early time, Cheah Choon Seng was a contractor supplying food and daily provisions for the Dutch East Indies Government. For eight years he secured various government contracts in Pontianak, before moved to Kota Raja (now Banda Acheh) and took the contracts for railroad constructions and other government contracts. Cheah Choon Seng also engaged in opium, liquor and gambling farm interests in those Dutch colonies.

He was appointed Lieutenant of China and served the position for 21 years before given the title Kapitan. During his time in Dutch East Indies, Cheah Choon Seng was the catalyst in forming goodwill and friendship bonds between the Chinese and Dutch governments. He was decorated with the Ster voor Trouw en Verdienste (Gold Star Loyalty and Merit)  for his significant and meritorious services rendered to the Dutch Government. 

Cheah Choon Seng was the founder of Deli Bank in Medan and became the Managing Director of the firm. He also owned considerably property at Kota Raja and several parts in the Dutch colony. In 1895, Cheah Choon Seng was appointed as the third Chinese Vice-Consul to Penang. He took this post seriously, where in 1897, he ceased all his business in Dutch East Indies and passed it to Leong Mok On. In return, he focused his task as the Chinese government representative in the Southeast Asia. 

Cheah Choon Seng who was then a well-known Hakka Chinese merchant, retired from the government post in 1903 and handed it to his son-in-law, Leong Fee. But had been reappointed as Acting Chinese Vice-Consul to Penang from 1906 to 1907. In the British colony, Cheah Choon Seng took great interest in tin mining. He owned the Tambun mines in Perak and Bentong mines in Selangor. He was also an active member in the social circle in Penang, where he joined the Penang Chinese Town Hall and various Chinese associations and co-founded the Chung Hua School in Penang. Cheah Choon Seng had one son, four daughters and three adopted sons. He died on 4 February 1916 at his Penang residence, 8 Leith Street, and was buried at his ancestral village in Songkou (嵩口镇), Meixian County of Guangdong.

Cheah Choon Seng's mansion at 8 Leith Street, Penang was situated next to Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion, it was later demolished to make way for adjoining Northam Road and Farquhar Street. The legacy of Cheah Choon Seng in supporting Chinese education was passed to one of his grandsons, Cheah Sinn Kee. Where the Cheah Sinn Kee Shield was founded to support Chinese schools sport events in Penang.

On 31 March 1912, Cheah Choon Seng made his will and appointed Cheah Hee Nyan as the will executor and trustee.  

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