Born in Malacca, Tan Chay Yan (陈齐贤; 1871 ﹘1916) was the grandson of renowned businessman and philanthropist, Tan Tock Seng, and the son of Tan Teck Guan. Tan Chay Yan was best known for his role in pioneering large-scale rubber planting in Malaya. In the 1890s, he received rubber tree seedlings from the Singapore Botanic Gardens and planted them at Bukit Lintang. This eventually developed into large-scale rubber planting and Tan was thus credited as the owner of the first rubber plantation in Malaya. His rubber business expanded and by 1906, his plantation at Bukit Asahan was the largest Hevea rubber plantation in the world. Besides rubber, Tan also had business interests in the banking and insurance industries.
Highly regarded in society, he had also been a municipal commissioner and a justice of the peace. He was a member of the founding committee of the Straits Chinese British Association as well as part of the delegation of British subjects that presented loyal addresses to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwell and York during their visit to Singapore in 1901. Tan also actively contributed to philanthropic causes, donating generously towards the construction of an annexe for the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in Singapore and the establishment of Pay Fong High School in Malacca.
Selected books on Tan Chay Yan
Chong, A. (Ed.). (2015). Great Peranakans: Fifty Remarkable Lives. Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum, p. 126.
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 Chay Yan’s biography highlights his contributions towards Malaya’s rubber industry and the community.
Dhoraisingham, K. D. and Samuel, D. S. (2003). Tan Tock Seng: Pioneer: His Life, Times, Contributions and Legacy. Kota Kinabalu: Natural History Publications (Borneo), pp. 85﹘87.
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 Chay Yan, Tan Tock Seng’s grandson, is also included.
方百成, 杜南发. (编委主任). [Fang, B. C. and 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. 60 – 61.
Call no.: Chinese RSING 920.05957 PRO
The book contains the biographies of 155 Hokkien personalities in Singapore from 1819 to 2012. As one of the early owners of rubber plantations, Tan Chay Yan’s biography details his role in the development of the rubber industry in Malaya.
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, pp. 75﹘76.
Call no.: Chinese RSING 959.570092 WHO-[HIS].
The book contains the biographies of 1,175 Chinese personalities, including Tan Chay Yan’s, in Singapore from 1819 to 1990. Each biography features the birth and death dates, dialect group, occupation and affiliated organisations of the Chinese personality.
Selected articles on Tan Chay Yan
- National Library Board. (2009). Tan Chay Yan written by Sutherland, Duncan. Retrieved from Singapore Infopedia.
This article is a biography of Tan Chay Yan and highlights his commercial, philanthropic and community activities. It also gives a detailed account of his role as a pioneer in large-scale rubber planting in Malaya.
Selected newspaper articles on Tan Chay Yan
纪念本邦胶业倡导人百岁诞辰 官民歌颂黎特里功德 植物园夜间大放光明 祝寿鸡尾酒会在园中黎氏旧办事处隆重举行 [To commemorate the 100th birthday of advocator of the local rubber industry, many praised the contribution of Ridley and the Botanic Gardens were lit at night. A celebratory cocktail was hosted at the old office of Ridley]. (1955, December 11).《南洋商报》 [Nanyang Siang Pau], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
This article, reporting Henry Nicholas Ridley’s 100th birthday celebrations at the Botanic Gardens, also notes Tan Chay Yan’s contribution towards the early development of the rubber industry in Malaya.
Lim, K. T. (1978, July 25). Follow the leader. The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
This is one of two articles that introduces the two pioneers of the rubber industry. It outlines Tan Chay Yan’s life and contributions and briefly introduces his family background.
Lim, K. T. (1978, July 25). Fortune as bouncy as rubber itself. The Business Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Besides tracing the history of commercial rubber planting in Singapore, this article also highlights the importance of Tan Chay Yan as a pioneer of the industry as well as his background and interest in flora.
Obituary. (1916, March 7). Malaya Tribune, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
An obituary for Tan Chay Yan, this article reports Tan’s passing at his residence the day before, as well as outlines his life and underscores his commercial, philanthropic and social activities.
Mr. Tan Chay Yan Dead. (1916, March 7). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The article reports the passing of Tan Chay Yan in Malacca and presents an account of his life, including his rubber planting business and social activities.
Selected oral history interviews on Tan Chay Yan
Lim, H. S. (Interviewer). (1983, January 24.) Oral history interview with Tan Hoon Siang [Accession No. 000077, reels 1-2 of 3]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
An interview with Tan Chay Yan’s son, Tan Hoon Siang. In the selected reel, Tan Hoon Siang mentions his father’s rubber business and social involvement, as well as his impressions of his father.