Lien Ying Chow (连瀛洲; 1906–2004) was from Chaoyang district in Guangdong, China. He left for Singapore in 1920 when he was 14, where he started working as a provision shop assistant. In 1929, he founded an import-export firm called Wah Hin and Company, which made a windfall from contracts to supply provisions to British forces in Singapore and Malaya. Respected by the Chinese business community, Lien was elected as the youngest president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1941.
In 1947, Lien founded the Overseas Union Bank (OUB), which opened for business two years later. By 1957, he had opened branches in Tokyo and London. OUB was one of Southeast Asia’s largest banks before it was acquired by the United Overseas Bank in 2001. Lien built a business empire in banking, hotels and property. After almost four decades, he realised his dream of building OUB’s headquarters, the OUB Centre, at 1 Raffles Place. It opened in 1988 and was then one of the world’s tallest buildings at 60 storeys. He retired as group chairman and director of OUB in 1995.
Lien was Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia from 1966 to 1969. He was also active in philanthropic and community work. In 1980, he set up the Lien Foundation to continue his philanthropic work. He was the chairman of the Preservation of Monuments Board in 1972, and a member of the Board of Commissioners of Currency in 1973. He was elected chairman of the Ngee Ann Kongsi (1953/54–1963/64) and built the Ngee Ann Building. He was also one of the founders of Nanyang University and helped set up Ngee Ann College (now Ngee Ann Polytechnic). Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Lien Ying Chow Library and Lien Ying Chow Gallery are both named after him. He was the chairman of the first council of the National University of Singapore and served in that capacity for over a decade (1980–1992).
Lien was awarded the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Meritorious Service Medal) in 1964. The following year, Lien was conferred the Third Class Order of the Crown of Thailand by then Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej for his role in promoting trade and friendship between the two countries. In 1981, Lien became one of the few non-Americans to receive the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement for building the five-star Mandarin Hotel, which was officially opened in 1973 and the first in Singapore to feature a revolving restaurant. He was named Businessman of the Year in 1988.
Lien was 98 when he passed away on 6 August 2004. He had four wives, four sons and four daughters.
Selected books on Lien Ying Chow
柯木林主编; 林孝胜 & 张清江副编. [Ke, M. L., Lin, X. S., & Zhang, Q. J. (Eds.).] (2015). 《新加坡华人通史》 [A general history of the Chinese in Singapore]. 新加坡: 新加坡宗乡会馆联合总会.
Call no.: RSING 959.57004951 GEN
This is a comprehensive account of the Chinese who settled in Singapore since the 13th century. It comprises essays on various topics such as education, economy and politics, and includes an entry on Lien Ying Chow.
李志贤 [Li, Z. X.] (2011). 《流金岁月: 醉花林俱乐部一六六周年暨新会所开幕双庆纪念特辑, 1845-2011》 [The gilded years]. Singapore: 醉花林俱乐部.
Call no.: RSING 369.25957 LZX
This is a souvenir publication commemorating the 166th anniversary of the Chui Huay Lim Club and the official opening of a new clubhouse. It includes a write up on Lien Ying Chow.
区如柏. [Ou, R. B.] (2009). 《先贤的脚印》[In our pioneers’ footsteps]. 新加坡: 新加坡靑年书局.
Call no.: RSING 920.05957 ORB
This is a collection of interviews with prominent personalities from various fields, including Lien Ying Chow.
Lim, R., & Overseas Union Bank Ltd. (1999). Building a Singapore bank: The OUB story. Singapore: Overseas Union Bank Limited.
Call no.: RSING q332.1095957 LIM
This coffee table book commemorates OUB’s 50th anniversary (1949–1999).
Lien, Y. C. & Kraar, L. (1992). From Chinese villager to Singapore tycoon: My life story. Singapore: Times Books International.
Call no.: RSING 338.092 LIE
This is Lien Ying Chow’s biography, which also includes his family tree.
Selected newspaper articles on Lien Ying Chow
Heng, J. (2007. February 1). Ngee Ann honours late Lien Ying Chow. Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
This is a report on the naming ceremony of the Lien Ying Chow Library as well as the opening of the Lien Ying Chow Gallery at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Koh, J. (2004, August 9). Inspiring story of Lien Ying Chow lives on. Business Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
This article provides a detailed write up on the life of Lien Ying Chow and the major milestones in his life.
Banker Lien Ying Chow dies, aged 98. (2004, August 7). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The article announces the death of Lien Ying Chow.
Chuang, P. M. (1992, February 17). The making of a S’pore tycoon. Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
This article features Lien Ying Chow’s recently published book on his success story as well as his work and business philosophies.
Balan, A. (1989, January 30). Shrewdness, foresight and a sharp eye for ventures. Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Learn more about Lien Ying Chow’s life story in this article.
The ambassador – 2. (1966, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
This article served as an introduction to Lien Ying Chow as he commenced his role as Singapore’s High Commissioner in Malaysia.
Selected oral history interviews on Lien Ying Chow
- Tan, L. (Interviewer). (1981, May 26). Oral history interview with Lien Ying Chow. [Accession No. 000057, 30 reels]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
In these interviews, Lien Ying Chow shares his life story and impressions of the prominent personalities he had met.