Tan Kheam Hock 陈谦福

Introduction

Tan Kheam Hock (陈谦福; Chen Qianfu) (1862, Penang–21 April 1922, Singapore) was a Straits Chinese born in Penang to wealthy merchant Tan Teng Poh (陈登榜). Educated at the Penang Free School, Tan worked for eight years at the Penang branch of the Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London and China, before spending two years in Calcutta, where he started a produce business. Tan then came to Singapore in 1889 and became part of the syndicate that monopolised the spirit and opium farms until 1906. In 1901, he became the labour contractor for the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company and then for the Singapore Harbour Board, which replaced the former in 1913, supplying coolies to them. At the time of his death, he reportedly had as many as 5,000 coolies in his employment.

He was a committee or council member of various organisations including the Chinese Advisory Board, Po Leung Kuk, Straits Chinese British Association and the King Edward VII Medical School. He was the chairman of the Eastern United Assurance Co. Ltd. and the director of a number of rubber, tin and industrial companies. Tan also served as a municipal commissioner from 1910 until his death, and was appointed a justice of the peace in 1912.

In his capacity as municipal commissioner, Tan advocated for the establishment of Bukit Brown Cemetery, where Chinese of all dialect groups could be buried at the same site. The cemetery was eventually opened in 1922. Kheam Hock Road, which led to the cemetery, was named after him.

In the 1890s, Tan helped translate some Chinese works into Baba Malay. He was also remembered as a keen supporter of education for Chinese girls.

His primary place of residence was a mansion known as Penang Cot, located at River Valley Road.

 

Selected books on Tan Kheam Hock

 

  • 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. 94.
    Call no.: RSING 959.570092 WHO-[HIS].
    This publication includes a brief biography of Tan.

Selected newspaper articles on Tan Kheam Hock

  • An untimely death. (1922, April 22). Malaya Tribune, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This is an obituary for Tan.

 

  • Half a century ago… (1958, June 29). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This article features Tan’s family portrait taken in 1908 and also describes his large family.

 

  • Late Mr. Tan Kheam Hock. (1922, April 29). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This obituary was written by Mr H. B. Leicester, Tan’s business partner and personal friend.

 

  • Late Mr. Tan Kheam Hock. (1922, May 2). Malaya Tribune, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This is an obituary for Tan.

 

  • Tan Kheam Hock’s estate. (1926, November 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This is a report on a court case about concerning Tan’s sons and his estate.

 

  • The late Mr. Tan Kheam Hock. (1922, May 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
    This is a report about Tan’s funeral procession.

Selected works by Tan Kheam Hock

  • Chrita dahulu kala dari pasal Hong Keow. (Vols. 6–8). (1892). Singapore: Lat Pau Press.
    Microfilm: NL10313
    This is a Chinese classic translated into Baba Malay.

Written by Mervin Teo