Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Cheah Kok Phin


Cheah Kok Phin was born in 1881, and educated at Taiping. He was the son of the Cheah Fook, who was a tin miner in Larut. At the age of 16 years old, Cheah Kok Phin joined the police force. After four years’ service, he left the profession and left for Kampar. In Kampar, Cheah Kok Phin commenced tin mining business with the help from his father-in-law. Cheah Kok Phin was also the Mine Manager for his father-in-law’s mines. His tin mines at Sumput, near Gopeng had employed more than 500 miners and were generated by two pumps, with the capacity of 10 h/p and 12 h/p, respectively, and were able to produce 300 piculs of tin per month. Cheah Kok Phin had one son and two daughters.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Lee Choon Guan 李浚源

Lee Choon Guan, JP

Lee Choon Guan was born in Singapore in 1868. He was the eldest son of Lee Cheng Yan and Tan Leong Mow. Choon Guan received home education at the very young age. He began to assist his father’s business at the age of 16. During his life time, Choon Guan had six wives and ten children. He was a generous philanthropist and a smart businessman in Singapore. Being the sole proprietor of Lee Cheng Yan & Co. (Singapore), Choon Guan had made the company run by family members, including his cousins and nephews. Besides the business he managed, Choon Guan also an enthusiast tennis player, he was a committee member of the Chinese Recreation Club in Singapore and was the president of the Weekly Entertainment Club. His concern for public welfare was shown by his participation in various positions in the society. Choon Guan was an elected member for Central Ward on the Municipal Board in Singapore, member of the Chinese Advisory Board and the Committee of Management at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Choon Guan had given liberally to charitable and educational institutions, including a handsome gift of $ 50,000 to the proposed Methodist College, and another of $60,000 to the endowment fund of Raffles College. He and his wife, Tan Teck Neo each gave $5,000 to the building fund of the St. Andrew's Hospital for Women and Children. During the absence of Dr. Lim Boon Keng in China towards the end of 1918, Choon Guan was acting Chinese member of the Legislative Council. He also served on the Singapore Housing Commission and on the Board of Food Control. Choon Guan also posted as director of the Straits Steamship Co. Ltd. and the South British Insurance Co. Ltd. (Malaya Branch) and was the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Chinese Commercial Bank. He died in Singapore in 1924 at the age of 56.

Lee Choon Guan’s wives and children:

Wee Guat Kim (1st wife) daughter of Wee Boon Teck
  1. Lee Pang Seng (M) 
  2. Lee Pang Chuan (M) 
  3. Lee Poh Lian (F) m. Choa Eng Wan son of Choa Giang Tye 
  4. Lee Poh Choo (F) m. Tan Soon Keng

Tan Teck Neo, MBE (2nd wife) daughter of Tan Keong Saik
  1. Lee Pang Soo (M)
  2. Lee Poh Neo (F)
  3. Lee Cheng Lian (F) 

Ang Ah Lee (3rd wife) 
  1. Lee Bah Chee (M) 

Wee Seah Lew (4th wife)
  1. Lee Poh Tin (F) 

Tan Ah Gan (5th wife)

Tan Chwee Neo (6th wife)

Lee Cheng Yan 李清渊

Lee Cheng Yan, JP
Lee Cheng Yan was born in Malacca in 1841. He was the third generation of Chinese immigrant in Malacca. His grandfather, Lee Toon Hong came to Malacca in 1775 and married a Malaccan woman, Tan Siok Kim. Lee Cheng Yan’s father Lee Chan Bee moved to Singapore in 1840s and earned a living there until he died in 1849. Lee Cheng Yan’s father died when he was only eight years old; therefore, he was put under the custody of his elder brother Lee Quee Lim of Malacca. When Lee Cheng Yan reached the age of 17, he and his younger brother Lee Cheng Gam commenced a commission agents and general merchants firm in Singapore under the name Chin Joo. The two brothers were famed for their hard works and well established their firm among the Europeans. In merely ten years, they managed to expand the company’s business into financial and property sectors, and managed to secure a large assets and properties in the Straits Settlements. Lee Cheng Yan first married Tan Leong Mow and blessed with two sons. During his lifetime, Lee Cheng Yan had other six wives. Knowing the importance of education, he sent his second son Lee Keng Tye to Herne Bay College and Haileybury College for English education, where the studies lasted for four terms began on 1 October 1916. Meanwhile, his first son Lee Choon Guan was responsible in assisting his business in Singapore. Lee Cheng Yan fully retired from active business life in 1900s and lived in Singapore. At the beginning of the 20th century, he built four villas; Magenta Cottage in Killiney Road, Hampstead Bath in Upper Bukit Timah, Mandalay Villa in Amber Road and a seaside bungalow in Changi Point. Lee Cheng Yan took a great deal of interest in all matters concerning the Chinese community. He was  in the Committee of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the Chinese Advisory Board and the Po Leung Kuk. Realising the necessity of doing something in the matter of education for the poor; he founded and endowed the Hong Joo Chinese Free School in Serangoon Road which was attended by over seventy scholars. He was also one of the trustees of the Gan Eng Seng Free School (now known as the Anglo-Chinese School), and in the Committee of the Toh Lam Chinese School in North Bridge Road (now in Armenian Street). Lee Cheng Yan died in May 1911, leaving his business to his eldest son, Lee Choon Guan.


Lee Cheng Yan & Co. was a successful commission agents and general merchants company in Singapore. The firm was founded in 1858 by Lee Cheng Yan under the name Chin Joo. Lee Cheng Yan the founding father of the firm first began his business in small scale at Telok Ayer Street, Singapore. His determinations and resilience had led him as a prolific figure in real estate business and banker as well as a respectable leader in the Chinese community in Singapore and Malacca. 

Lee Cheng Yan’s brother Lee Cheng Gam also joined the firm as shareholder. As the firm had prospered in a short time of ten years, the Telok Ayer Street premise was shifted to No.10, Malacca Street and expanded the business as banker and property investor. The directors were also on the boards of several important companies, the best known which were the local board of the South British Fire & Marine Insurance Co. and the Straits Steamship Company.

When Lee Cheng Yan died in May 1911, the management of the firm was handed to his eldest son Lee Choon Guan. Where, Lee Choon Guan had been the sole proprietor of the firm since then. The interest of Lee Cheng Gam in the firm ceased upon his death. This had led to destruction among the shareholders of the firm, where Lee Choon Guan finally moved his company to 127-A, Tanjong Katong and a branch office at No.81, Amoy Street. Meanwhile, the Malacca Street property was under Lee Cheng Gam’s son, Lee Keng Hee.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Chin Ah Yam 陈亚炎

Kapitan Chin Ah Yam

Chin Seng Yam or commonly known as Chin Ah Yam (of Ho Hup Seah) was a famous Chinese Kapitan of Perak. He was a powerful leader of a notorious triad of Ghee Hin during the early 1850s. His main opponent was Kapitan Chung Keng Quee of Hai San triad. Chin Ah Yam of Dapu Hakka origin, was given a seat in the first Perak State Council and earned the title Kapitan following with his appointment.

Chin Ah Yam was originally a Hakka chief in Larut District of Perak, where he represented the Ghee Hin tribe based in Penang. Chin Ah Yam of Ghee Hin and Chung Keng Quee of Hai San were long-time enemies, they fought for power and control of tin mining rights in Perak. However, their little quarrels had never thought that it could lead to a great turbulence to the State's economy by waging a series of twelve years wars.

In the late 1880s, the importance of Ghee Hin in Larut had ceased, with the control of tin mines was transited to the Hai San. Following with the British Colonial intervention in Perak for peace keeping, in January 1874, the infamous Pangkor Treaty was signed among the two leaders of the triads and the Malay rulers and chiefs and marked the end of the Chinese wars. Where Chin Ah Yam, signed a separate Chinese Engagement at Pangkor, undertaking to cease the wars between the two triads, resulted Chin and his triads were immunized from the obligation to pay the claim for causing chaos in the State, thus gaining more popularity from his triad members.

Chin Ah Yam was known to have founded the Kwantung Association and the Ku Kong Chow Association (古冈州公会) in Taiping. Before Chin Ah Yam died in 1899, it was said that he had visited England. Chin Ah Yam died in his house at Eastern Road, Taiping and was buried at the Kwantung Cemetery, Tupai (in Taiping). The Chin family later spelled their surname as Chan. Chin Ah Yam's children were Chin Guang De, Chin Guang Yuan, Chin Yu Lin, Chin Yuet Ming, Chin Yuet Qing and Chin Ng Zi.

Choong Cheng Kean 庄清建


Choong Cheng Kean was born on 16 June 1857 in Xianglu Village, Amoy to Choong Chuo. Being the only son of a poor family, he first came to Tongkah in 1875 and worked at a provision shop. It was shortly afterwards he moved to Kedah and worked at a provision shop. It was in Kedah he married his employer’s daughter Lim Gek Kee in 1881, and was also known as Lim Cheng Kean. Though he first married a wife in China named Teoh Kuan Neo, but the couple had no issue and lived all her life in China had adopted several children. And when Choong Cheng Kean died in 1916 she was disgraced for not named in the Will of Choong Cheng Kean’s Estate. Choong Cheng Kean’s success was through the help from his father-in-law in Kedah. Choong Cheng Kean first started his own provision shop at Alor Star, and had then befriended with the Regent of Kedah, Tunku Abdul Aziz who often stopped by his place for drinking and gambling habits. It was through this friendship ties with the Kedah Royalties, Choong Cheng Kean enjoyed a long term paddy rice monopoly in the state, including held the opium, liquor and gambling syndicates. When his career thrived, he adopted several secondary wives distributing over Penang, Kedah and Thailand. Following with his successful career, in 1894 he built the Choong Mansion in his ancestral village. And 13 years later he funded the construction of the Choong Clan Temple. Choong Cheng Kean was a shareholder of Eastern Shipping Company and several other Chinese companies in Penang and Kedah. His sons were Choong Lye Hock , Choong Lye Hin and Choong Lye Teong. Eldest son, Choong Lye Hock married Lim Liew Saik (1884 – 1936) and they had two sons and four daughters. One of Choong Lye Hock’s sons, Choong Soo Ghee was the appointed trustee of his Estate and in 1940 one of his daughters, Choong Sim Gay married to Chua Keat Siew eldest son of Chua Lye Hock. When Choon Cheng Kean died on 23 June 1916, he was then a well-established millionaire in Penang, where his amassed wealth was able to pass down five generations after him.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Choo Hu Seong


Choo Hu Seong was born in 1863 in Fujian, China to Choo Geok Han. He received Chinese education in Amoy, before preceded to British Malaya in 1880. Choo Hu Seong first came to Taiping, Perak and worked in tin mines for some time, before commenced on his own account. His business life in Perak lasted for only 13 years, as he then moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1893 and established a tin ore trading firm, Chop Seng Eng Guan. In partnership with other miners in Selangor, he formed the Eng Ann Mining Company, where he was the mine manager. His mine was equipped with modern machinery had employed more than 300 workers. Choo Hu Seong was a member of the Merchants Club in Penang and Selangor. He married daughter of Taoh Kim Leong and had one son and three daughters.

Choo Cheeng Khay 朱睛溪

Choo Cheeng Khay was born in 1868 in Penang to Choo Hoon Siew. Choo Hoon Siew who was born in China, was then a successful trader plying from Penang to Kedah thence to Aceh. In 1888, Choo Cheeng Khay left Penang for Kuala Lumpur and commenced business in partnership with his old schoolmate. His business thrived and few years later the partnership was dissolved. Choo Cheeng Khay later joined Loke Yew as a manager of the Attap Farm, leased from the government. When the farm lease was superseded by the government, he became assistant manager of Loke Yew’s infamous firm, Tong Hing Loong (Kuala Lumpur branch). At the same time, he acquired lime-kilns at Kuala Lumpur and later in partnership he ventured into tin mining at Kajang. His two-year experiment in mining business was a success, where he acquired more mining lands at Sungei Besi. He named his mines as Old Blondin, as a mark of the use of Blondin apparatus into mining activity. Where, he was among the first miners in the Malay States to use that quarry equipment. In order to manage his mining interest, he founded a company named after him with an estimated capital $40,000. The company capital value was too trifling to attract investors, and due to Choo Cheeng Khay’s insistence, the capital remained at that meagre value. Thus, Choo Cheeng Khay was left to run the business on his own expense. Nothing daunted, he acquired another mine at Sungei Krayong, Cheras known as the New Blondin, this time instead of using the Blondin apparatus, he applied the open-cast system to cast tin ore. With this new mine, he approached back the old shareholders, with the hope they would invest in his new mine, despite all the persuasions, they refused his offer. The Sungei Krayong mine was later closed down in 1913. By the age of 40 years, Choo Cheeng Khay was already a well-established businessman in Kuala Lumpur. In 1907, he was unanimously elected as the honorary secretary of the Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce. However, shortly afterwards he vacated his post in order to go for a business trip in China and Japan, where he planned to venture in timber business in Manchuria. In his later life, Choo Cheeng Khay became a contractor and founded the Choo Cheeng Khay & Sons Limited, a property developer firm at Birch Road, Kuala Lumpur. Choo Cheeng Khay was famed for being a staunch supporter of the anti-opium movement. On 3 November 1906, he co- founded the Selangor Anti-Opium Society, and had been generously helped the opium addicts to eradicate their smoking habits by giving free anti-opium decoctions. His devotion to the movement was further proved when he leased his house at 8 Weld Road to the Anti-Opium Society. In 1907, there were more than 400 patients cured of the habit of opium smoking and following with the success, it was reported that more than 2,000 patients seek treatment at the Society per day. Choo Cheeng Khay was also active in promoting education, where he had financially helped the establishment of several schools in Kuala Lumpur including being a co-founder of a prominent Chinese girls’ school, where many rich Chinese families in Kuala Lumpur sent their daughters to have Chinese education. In 1914, he retired from business affairs, and three years later he made a world-tour. It was in England, Choo Cheeng Khay thought that he will die soon, so he bought a special oak coffin which cost him £50. The coffin was kept in a room of his home in Gurney Drive, Penang. It was only after 42 years the coffin was made to use, when he died in June 1959 in Kuala Lumpur. He was buried at Mount Erskine, Penang. Choo Cheeng Khay lived most of his life in Kuala Lumpur and returned to Penang in his final two and a half years of life. In 1917, he built a spacious bungalow for his family at Birch Road, Kuala Lumpur. Choo Cheeng Khay was the Vice-President of the Selangor Anti-Opium Society, and member of Yin Han Club, Penang, Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce and many other clubs and associations in Selangor and Penang. One of his sons, Choo Thiam Khin was a Managing Director of Choo Cheeng Khay & Sons Ltd in 1964, he married Rosalind Wong Yuet Hing and they had one son (Choo Kook Yin) and two daughters (Choo Hooi Peng & Choo Hooi Sim). The family residence was then shifted to 104 Choo Cheeng Khay Road, Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Chee Yam Chuan 徐炎泉


Chee Yam Chuan also known as Chee Yean Chuan was born on 24 May 1818 in Malacca to Chee Kim Guan (died on 13 January 1839). Chee Yam Chuan’s family had long settled in Malacca, with his great grandfather, Chee Soo Sum first came in around 1750s. The family lineage then passed down from one generation to the other, with Chee Yam Chuan as the fourth generation of the early Chinese settlers.

Chee Yam Chuan’s father and grandfather, Chee Tiow Seng (died on 16 December 1832) were already well-established trading in the British Colony. And by the time of Chee Yam Chuan, he had no difficulty to commence business on his own account.

When the British took over Singapore and founded a colony there, Chee Yam Chuan and his parents (Chee Kim Guan and Goh Him Neo) were among the early settlers. It was in Singapore he co-established the Leack, Chin Seng & Co., a general store selling food stuffs and etc. The business in Singapore could not make him rich but able to meet the end of the day. He then moved back to Malacca and his life changed when he came to know Raja Jumaat, where both were business partners in tin mining.

Chee Yam Chuan was a good example in forging friendship bonds and partnership with the Malay community, he was an ally of Raja Jumaat, the son of a Riau prince in Selangor. When Raja Jumaat was granted the Lukut district by Sultan of Selangor in 1846, where he and Chee Yam Chuan were the main partners in developing tin mines at there. Raja Jumaat's son Raja Bot, lived with Chee Yam Chuan in Malacca for some time, where he acted as Chee's business intermediary with the Malays. In 1849, Raja Jumaat's brother, Raja Abdullah also borrowed large sums of money from Chee Yam Chuan to open up mines in Klang.

Chee Yam Chuan died on 28 July 1862, leaving behind his wife Tan Lian Kian, ten sons and two daughters, and also bequeathing a large estate in Malacca and Singapore. His sons were, Cheah Jin Siew (also Chee Gin Siew), Chee Him Bong, Chee Pee Bong, Chee Teck Bong,Chee Hoon Bong, Chee Lim Bong, Chee Hee Bong, Chee Quee Bong, Chee Beck Bong (also Chee Peck Bong) and Chee Siang Bong.

Chee Swee Cheng 徐垂青

Chee Swee Cheng was born on 13 December 1866 in Malacca to Chee Hoon Bong. His family was well-known in the Malacca for being among the earliest Chinese settlers, where he could trace his direct lineage to five generations before him.

Chee Swee Cheng was educated at the Malacca High School and at the age of 16, he was employed at Lim Tiang Wah & Co. in Singapore and remained there until 1886. He then joined Leack Chin Seng & Co., a firm where his grandfather founded, in which he remained for four years. Chee Swee Cheng was later became the manager of Soon Tye & Co. and served for ten years, before ventured into the Opium and Liquor Farm in British North Borneo in 1900.

In 1890, Chee Swee Cheng was appointed as secretary of the Widows and Orphans’ Fund of Singapore and Malacca. Six years later he became a Visiting Justice of Prisons and was a committee member of the Chinese Weekly Entertainment Club of Singapore. Apart from that, he became the Chairman of Ho Hong Bank Ltd, Singapore founded in 1917, and also expanded his business to rubber, coconut and tapioca plantations.

 In 1906, Chee Swee Cheng and his brother Chee Sim Cheng leased the General Spirit and Opium Farms for British North Borneo and Labuan. He was also the principal shareholder in the Straits Industrial Syndicate, Singapore. Chee Swee Cheng also had an ice factory known as Atlas Ice Company, which able to produce five to twenty tons a day. This factory who recognised that the price of ice was expensive and as an outcome of his generous venture, the price of the commodity had been reduced to such an extent that even the poor can afford to buy it. Today the company is still owned by the family, and is run by the Chee members.

Being a generous philanthropist, he endowed a ward to the Medical Mission Hospital in Malacca, and a sum of $10,000 was donated to build a hall for the Chinese High School in Singapore.

Chee Swee Cheng had been married twice, by his first wife he had one daughter, and through his second wife who was daughter of Lee Keng Leat he had one son. His son, Chee Guan Chiang (3 April 1896 – 29 March 1959) had two sons, Chee Bay Hoon (b. 16 June 1924) and Chee Swee Hoon (b. 24 July 1943; d. 9 May 1972). Chee Swee Cheng's biggest contribution to his family was building the Chee family temple at 117 Heeren Street, Malacca, dedicated to his father, Chee Yam Chuan. Chee Swee Cheng died in 1938. 

Chee Sim Cheng


Chee Sim Cheng was born in 1873 in Malacca to Chee Hoon Bong, and a grandson to Chee Yam Chuan. He was educated at the Malacca High School. In 1905, he was a business partner in the Batam Paya Rumput Rubber Estate with his brother Chee Swee Cheng and brother-in-law, Chan Cheng Siew. The 1000-acre rubber estate was well-maintained under Chee Sim Cheng. and had interest in Opium and Liquor Farm in Malacca, Singapore and Labuan. He married daughter of Chan Kung Swee and had four sons.