A Brief Account of my Education, Career and Skills

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Seah’s Arrival in Singapore

Seah Eu Chin
Seah Eu Chin

A Teochew Merchant

A prominent Teochew merchant and philanthropist who came from China in 1823. He rallied 13 Teochew clans to form the charitable welfare organisation Ngee Ann Kongsi.

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A Teochew Merchant

At 18, I left my home village, Guek-po, in Swatow, China. My father was a government secretary, but despite my privileged background, circumstances
No one knows exactly why Seah Eu Chin gave up his privileges as the son of a petty mandarin in China for Singapore. Suggested reasons for his departure include the want for an adventurous life, the failure of his imperial examinations that led to a job search overseas and political unrest in China.
have led me to Singapore. I worked as a clerk on board a Chinese junk
As a merchant vessel in the 19th century, the junk would have an eye drawn on each side of the bow, the pupil looking forward to ‘help’ the junk see her way in the sea. Chinese provincial regulations meant vessels from Guangdong had to identify themselves with red-painted hulls. Since Swatow is a city in Guangdong, the junk Seah Eu Chin boarded would most likely be a red-headed junk.
that paid for my trip to Singapore. I continued to work on…
A Chinese Trader
Circa 1830
Wait, your father is a yamen secretary? For someone from a traditionally educated background, you would probably struggle with the generally low opinion of merchants
Literati were seen to occupy the top of the Chinese social ladder, followed by artisans, peasants, and merchants at the bottom. But money and its influence helped many merchants attain positions of power. To ascend the ladder and become proper literati, some merchants in China would seek titles and property, and educate their sons to pass the imperial examinations.
back home. Yet I am sure your ability to read and write gives you a real edge over others.

Seah’s Commercial Successes

Seah Eu Chin
Seah Eu Chin

A Teochew Merchant

A prominent Teochew merchant and philanthropist who came from China in 1823. He rallied 13 Teochew clans to form the charitable welfare organisation Ngee Ann Kongsi.

Explore
shared Singapore Chamber of Commerce's
Singapore Chamber of Commerce

A Merchant Organisation

A representative organisation created by the mercantile community in 1837 to voice their concerns and protect their interests.

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A Teochew Merchant

It was not easy getting here. In 1835, unnerved by the unstable entrepôt trade, I invested in real estate
Seah Eu Chin’s investments in real estate paid off handsomely as well. Besides large tracts of land for his plantations, Seah also owned shophouses along the Singapore River. When he died in 1883, his estate was then estimated to be worth $1,359,000.
and cash crops. After unsuccessfully growing tropical produce like tea and nutmeg, I tried growing pepper and gambier
Important cash crops in the 1800s, pepper and gambier were cultivated in Singapore before the British arrived. In 1835, Seah Eu Chin cultivated Singapore’s first large-scale pepper and gambier plantations, which spanned about 13 to 16 kilometres from River Valley Road to Bukit Timah and Thomson Roads. Useful for tanning leather, gambier was usually planted with pepper, which grew on the compost of processed gambier leaves. Pepper was harvested seasonally while gambier leaves were harvested all year round, hence cultivating both generated steady income for planters. By 1850, 24,228 acres (9,805 hectares) of gambier and 2,614 acres (1,058 hectares) of pepper were planted.
. Even as gambier and pepper prices fluctuated and once fell to 75 cents and $1.50 a pikul, my friend Mr. Thomas Church encouraged me to persevere. Once Europeans discovered its use for tanning leather, demand skyrocketed. With gambier prices reaching $3.25 per pikul
A pikul or picul was a unit of weight used in China and Southeast Asia equal to 100 catties or about 60 kilograms. The Malay term was defined as a load as heavy as an ordinary man could lift.
in 1837, I earned a great fortune.

Seah’s Commercial Successes

Singapore Chamber of Commerce
Singapore Chamber of Commerce

A Merchant Organisation

A representative organisation created by the mercantile community in 1837 to voice their concerns and protect their interests.

A Merchant Organisation

Let’s welcome our newest member Mr. Seah Eu Chin—better known as the Gambier King.
Thomas Church
Thomas Church

Resident Councillor

Resident Councillor of Singapore from 1837 to 1856. He oversaw the day-to-day administration of the settlement and took part in civic duties like supporting the Singapore Library.

Resident Councillor
Circa 1840
Congratulations! A well-deserved achievement for a shrewd businessman who has maintained excellent ties with the European business community. Besides being a planter, my friend Seah Eu Chin also has a trading firm called Eu Chin & Co. that deals extensively in cotton goods and tea with European firms, many of which know and respect him.
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The Official Formation of the Ngee Ann Kongsi

Seah Eu Chin
Seah Eu Chin

A Teochew Merchant

A prominent Teochew merchant and philanthropist who came from China in 1823. He rallied 13 Teochew clans to form the charitable welfare organisation Ngee Ann Kongsi.

Explore
shared Ngee Ann Kongsi's
Ngee Ann Kongsi

A Teochew Organisation

A charity and welfare organisation for the Teochew community officially established in 1845.

post

A Teochew Merchant

Upon arrival in Singapore, sinkeh
Meaning new guests in Hokkien, the term sinkeh referred to new Chinese migrant arrivals in the Straits Settlements.
naturally seek out and look out for our people. That was why in 1830, 13 Teochew surname-based clans from Guangdong gathered and formed the Ngee Ann
Ngee Ann was the older name given to the Chaozhou (Teochew) Prefecture in China. The legacy of the Ngee Ann Kongsi is most evident in the names of the properties it owns and institutions it supports, some of which include Ngee Ann City, Ngee Ann Primary School, and Ngee Ann Secondary School.
Kun. The Yueh Hai Ching temple—Wak Hai Cheng Bio in Teochew—was our headquarters, and I was elected president. This year, our name became Ngee Ann Kongsi, and we now manage the temple and its future renovations. We are here to answer your questions.

The Official Formation of the Ngee Ann Kongsi

Ngee Ann Kongsi
Ngee Ann Kongsi

A Teochew Organisation

A charity and welfare organisation for the Teochew community officially established in 1845.

A Teochew Organisation

We are the charity and welfare organisation representing the Singapore Teochew community. Ask us anything!
A Teochew Sinkeh
Circa 1845
I just arrived at Singapore yesterday… What does your organisation do?

Power Structures in the Chinese Community

Seah Eu Chin
Seah Eu Chin

A Teochew Merchant

A prominent Teochew merchant and philanthropist who came from China in 1823. He rallied 13 Teochew clans to form the charitable welfare organisation Ngee Ann Kongsi.

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A Teochew Merchant

In 1837, I married Tan Meng Guet, the eldest daughter of Tan Ah Hun, the Kapitan Cina
The title Kapitan Cina referred to the leader of the Chinese community, who often had close links to secret societies. Like the preceding Dutch and Portuguese colonialists, the British adopted the originally Malay practice to manage different ethnic communities. The Kapitans’ executive, administrative and judicial powers were officially granted and recognised by the colonial settlement.
of Perak. Sadly, our union was short-lived, as she passed from smallpox a few months after we got married. Now a year later, her sister Tan Meng Choo and I are celebrating our…
A Teochew Merchant
Circa 1838
Congratulations on your marriage and being the son-in-law of the Kapitan Cina and the brother-in-law to the powerful Tan Seng Poh
The brother-in-law to Seah Eu Chin, Tan Seng Poh controlled opium revenue farms in Singapore and Johor. After being an assistant in Seah’s firm, Tan managed the business with Seah’s two elder sons. His achievements also echoed Seah’s, as Tan was made a Justice of the Peace in 1871 and became the first Chinese to serve on the Municipal Commission. Today’s Seng Poh Road is named after him, and it interestingly intersects with the eponymously named Eu Chin Street.
!

General Sketch of the Numbers, Tribes, and Avocations of the Chinese in Singapore

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Seah’s Scholarly Publication on Singapore Chinese

Seah Eu Chin
Seah Eu Chin

A Teochew Merchant

A prominent Teochew merchant and philanthropist who came from China in 1823. He rallied 13 Teochew clans to form the charitable welfare organisation Ngee Ann Kongsi.

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A Teochew Merchant

Logan’s Journal
Formally known as The Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, the journal was founded and edited by lawyer and publisher James Richardson Logan. It greatly influenced public opinion on matters relating to the Straits Settlements.
has just published my paper General Sketch of the Numbers, Tribes, and Avocations of the Chinese in Singapore—a detailed answer to Dr. Thomas Oxley
Dr. Thomas Oxley was a senior surgeon of the Straits Settlements. He was also a dedicated nutmeg planter, growing nutmeg trees on land extending from Pasir Panjang to Adam Road, through Tanglin, Claymore and Bukit Timah Roads.
’s queries on the lives of Chinese immigrants in Singapore. I hope this would help everyone better understand and appreciate their hard work and sacrifices.
A Scottish Lawyer
Circa 1848
The Chinese’s lifelong attachment to their families is an interesting feature of their character. In the past month, coolies crowded the business quarter to have their annual letters and remittances delivered by the junks leaving for China. The coolie would entrust his remittance to a comrade from the same part of China, or to a passenger he knows, or to an agent on the junks who would get a commission for his trouble. All classes of immigrants send remittances—the merchant hundreds of dollars, the coolie units or tens. Some years would see the total amount reach around 70,000 Spanish dollars.

Hokkien-Teochew Riots

Thomas Dunman
Thomas Dunman

Superintendent of Police

Considered the father of the Singapore Police Force. He began as a clerk and acted as Deputy Magistrate and Superintendent of Police from 1843 to 1871.

Superintendent of Police

Seah Eu Chin, can you help mediate the dispute? The Hokkien-Teochew riots show no sign of stopping. It started on 5 May when a Hokkien man and a Macau man quarrelled over the weight of a catty of rice one was selling to the other. Bystanders started taking sides. The…
Seah Eu Chin
Seah Eu Chin

A Teochew Merchant

A prominent Teochew merchant and philanthropist who came from China in 1823. He rallied 13 Teochew clans to form the charitable welfare organisation Ngee Ann Kongsi.

Explore
A Teochew Merchant
May 1854
Superintendent Dunman, I will help to stop this violence, and accompany the Sepoys
Derived from a word in Urdu and Persian meaning soldier, the term Sepoy referred to an Indian soldier serving under British orders.
to escort food to my plantations. I hope I can get the Teochew men to calm down.

Seah Eu Chin’s Death

The Straits Times
The Straits Times

A Local Newspaper

An English newspaper in Singapore that was first published on 15 July 1845.

A Local Newspaper

It is with great regret we have to announce the death of one of our oldest—if not the very oldest—and most respected Chinese residents. Seah Eu Chin died on Sunday night at eight o’clock, at his family residence, No. 11 North Boat Quay, aged 78 years, 14 years older than…
James Guthrie
James Guthrie

A Scottish Merchant

Co-founder of Guthrie & Co. with his uncle, Alexander Guthrie. It was a leading merchant house that traded British goods for Straits produce in the mid-1800s.

A Scottish Merchant
Circa 1883
Seah Eu Chin, you were one of the best educated Chinese in Singapore, and were always ready to make yourself useful.
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