Tan Boo Liat 陈武烈


Tan Boo Liat (陈武烈) (c. 1874 – 1934) was the great-grandson of Tan Tock Seng and grandson of Tan Kim Ching. Like his great-grandfather and grandfather, he was a leader in the Hokkien community and was one of three key figures heading the renovation of Tian Hock Keng Temple (天福宫) in 1906. He was also one of the founding members of the Straits Chinese British Association, established in 1900. He was also conferred a title by Thai royalty. Tan helped to establish the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School in 1899 and was one of the trustees of the Anglo-Chinese Free School. Tan was also a member of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance (中国同盟会) and contributed to the Chinese revolution, hosting Sun Yat Sen when he stopped over in Singapore en route to China after the success of the revolution.



Selected books on Tan Boo Liat

  • Chong, A. (Ed.). (2015). Great Peranakans: Fifty remarkable lives. Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum, pp. 117 – 118.
    Call no.: RSING 305.895105957 GRE
    This book was published in conjunction with an eponymous exhibition and includes the biographies of 50 Peranakans as well as articles on the politics, community and society in Singapore from 1819 to 1965. The 50 featured Peranakans had all made contributions to their respective fields. Tan Boo Liat’s biography highlights some of his social involvements and strong international connections.


  • Dhoraisingham, K. D. & Samuel, D. S. (2003). Tan Tock Seng: Pioneer: His life, times, contributions and legacy. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Publications (Borneo), pp. 88 – 91.
    Call no.: RSING 338.04092 KAM
    This publication charts the life of Tan Tock Seng, the growth of his business, contributions to society as well as the history of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The chapter, “The Legacy of Tan Tock Seng”, in particular, highlights the prominent personalities among his descendants and their contributions. The biography of Tan Boo Liat, Tan Tock Seng’s great-grandson, is included.


  • 方百成, 杜南发. (编委主任). [Fang, B. C. & Du, N. F. (Eds.)]. (2012).《世界福建名人录, 新加坡编》. [Prominent figures of the world Fujian communities: Singapore]. 新加坡: 新加坡福建会馆, pp. 71 – 72.
    Call no.: Chinese RSING 920.05957 PRO
    The book contains the biographies of 155 Chinese-Hokkien personalities, including Tan Boo Liat, in Singapore from 1819 to 2012.


  • 柯木林. (主编). [Ke, M. L. (Ed.)]. (1995).《新华历史人物列传 》[Who’s who in the Chinese community of Singapore]. 新加坡: 教育出版公司, p. 83.
    Call no.: Chinese RSING 959.570092 WHO-[HIS].
    This book contains the biographies of 1,175 Chinese personalities, including Tan Boo Liat’s, in Singapore from 1819 to 1990. Each biography contains information on the birth and death dates, dialect group, occupation and affiliated organisations of the Chinese personality.


  • Song, O. S. (1975). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. San Francisco: Chinese Materials Centre, pp. 314 – 315.
    Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON -[HIS].
    A reprint of a 1923 publication, this book is a chronological history of the Chinese in Singapore written by Song Ong Siang. It comprises 13 chapters and divides the history of the Chinese in Singapore into 10 decades (from 6 February 1819 to 6 February 1919). In each decade, Song includes prominent personalities, companies, organisations, events and phenomena that concerned the whole or part of the community. Tan’s brief biography is included in Chapter 10, “The Nineth Decade (1899 – 1909) First Part,” and highlights his involvement in the community.



Selected newspaper articles on Tan Boo Liat

  • Domestic Occurrences. (1934, October 4). Malaya Tribune, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This is a notice of Tan Boo Liat’s passing, which states his date and place of death as well as the names of his children.



  • The Late Mr. Tan Boo Liat. (1934, October 16). Malaya Tribune, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    Referring to Tan Boo Liat as “Chen Wu Lieh” (Mandarin pronunciation of Tan’s name), this article reports on Tan’s passing in Shanghai and traces his life. The article highlights his involvement in the Chinese revolution, his close relationship with the Thai royalty as well as his interest in pony racing.


  • 殷商陈武烈前日在沪逝世享寿六十岁. (1934, October 5). 《南洋商报》[Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This is Tan Boo Liat’s obituary published by the Chinese newspaper, Nanyang Siang Pau. It states Tan as the grandson of Tan Kim Ching and highlights his major appointments besides the news of his passing.



Selected oral history interviews on Tan Boo Liat

  • Ooi, Y. L. (Interviewer). (1989, July 8). Oral history interview with Seow, Betty Guat Beng @ Lim Koon Teck (Mrs) [Accession No. 001048, reel 1 of 20]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
    This is an interview with Lim Koon Teck, the niece of Tan Boo Liat. In this selected reel, she briefly mentions Tan Boo Liat, who is her mother’s brother.

Written by Mervin Teo