Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cheang Hong Lim (Bukit Brown)

Cheang Hong Lim  章芳琳 ( 1841-1893),  J.P. was born in Singapore and is the eldest of 4 sons of Mr Cheang Sam Teo  who migrated from China and started his business in partnership with Mr. Tay Hong Long (father of Mr. Tay Ho Swee) under the name of chop Teang Wat, located at Telok Ayer Street. The main business were Opium and Sirih (Betel nut farm). After Cheang Sam Teo passed away in 1920, the company became Cheang Hong Lim and Co. or Chop Teang Wat Wan Kee and later Chop Wan Seng. Cheang Hong Lim was made a Justice of Peace in March 28, 1873 , a member of the Legislative Council and for many years sat in the Committee of the Po Leong Kuk. He was recognised by the Government as the head of the Hokkien Chinese Community in 1892. Cheang Hong Lim was said to be the first prominent Chinese leader and leading merchant in Singapore to be granted a Qing title in 1869 that bear the title Tao-yuan in recognition for his generous contributions in the defence of the Fukien Province.

Cheang Hong Lim donated to all despite differing religious beliefs. He generously donated to the Portugese Church of St. Joseph the sum of $900 to purchase gas chandlers for the Church in 1876. Cheang Hong Lim founded a school called Cheang Hong Lim Free School in Telok Ayer. In 1876, the school had a daily attendance of 90 students. He donated a sum of $3,000 to the Penang Free School.
Cheang Hong Lim

Opium and Spirit Farm 
Cheang Hong Lim, like his father Cheang Sam Teo and his brother Cheang Hong Guan, were leading licensed Spirits merchant. Cheang Hong Lim expanded his Spirit license to eventually Opium as well. Cheang Hong Lim together with his competitors, Tan Seng Poh and Tan Hiok Nee (Tan Yeok Nee) held tight control of this in the 1870's . They were coined as the Great Syndicate, holding licenses in Singapore, Johor, Melaka, Riau Opium and Spirit Farms and were fierce competitors as well.
source: Singapore and Straits Directory 1881

In 1876, Cheang Hong Lim donated $3,000 for the creation of a public garden, thereafter named Hong Lim Green . He erected a temple in Havelock Road named "Geok Hong Tian" and maintained a private market on the site of Hong Lim Market (Cheang Hong Lim Market 1882). He was known for his generosity in advancing loans to poor stall holders and fisherman who in a number of instance, did not pay him back. When he died, it was found that he loaned a total of $400,000 to his "friends" and this loans were statute-barred (i.e. unable to take legal claim or action).
Hong Lim Green
Designed by H.D. Richards, the Singapore Chinese Recreational Club (octagonal pavilion) was officially opened on 2 July 1887. In 1960, this clubhouse was demolished when Hong Lim Green was converted into Hong Lim Park. The French-style Police Court that stands behind the clubhouse was built in 1885 and demolished in 1975

Geok Hong Tian 
Cheang Hong Lim Fire Brigade 
In 1886, Cheang Hong Lim started his own Fire Brigade in Havelock Road for the protection of the district (this is in part to his interest, has he has numerous properties in that area). There was also a documented instance when Cheang Hong Lim's fire engine even arrived on scene earlier ! Cheang Hong Lim's fire engine is manned by 37 persons working by turns, dressed in uniform and wearing caps bearing the Chinese name "Wan Seng".

Cheang Hong Lim and Dr Lim Boon Keng
Dr Lim Boon Keng is the second son of Mr Lim Thean Geow and grandson of Mr. Lim Mah Peng. Mr Lim Mah Peng was the manager of Cheang Hong Lim's Spirit Farm and his son, Mr Lim Thean Geow the Assistant. When Mr Lim Thean Geow passed away, a young Lim Boon Keng was a brilliant student studying in Raffles Institution (born September 5, 1869) and the recipient of the Higher Scholarship. The principal, Mr. Hullet approached Cheang Hong Lim to be the sponsor. Lim Boon Keng went on to distinguish himself. (that is another story on its own)

Streets and Places
Places named after him include Hong Lim Park, Hong Lim Market, Cheang Wan Seng Place, Cheang Hong Lim Street . His tomb list his official Qing Dynasty Imperial title. 
Cheang Hong Lim 
Cheang Hong Lim passed away on 11 February 1893 leaving behind a large amount of property for distribution among his many children. An interesting item to note that probate of his will was given to his eldest daughter, Cheang Cheow Lian Neo ( Mrs. Lim Kwee Eng) to be trustee in executing his will. It was rare that a woman was appointed trustee at that time, especially for the Chinese.
He was reburied in Block 4 Division C on December 26, 1961 with a special permit. The original family grave located off Alexandra Rd -Mei Ling St. His parents, wives, children are buried here (but not next to him).

Sons: Cheang Jim Hean, Cheang Jim Chuan, Cheang Jim Kheng, Cheang Jim Khean, Cheang Jim Siew, Cheang Jim Ho, Cheang Jim Seong, Cheang Jim Eng, Cheang Jim Kwan, Cheang Jim Kong and Cheang Jim Khoon.

Song, O.S. (1984). One hundred years history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Ch'ing's Sale of Honours and the Chinese Leadership in Singapore and Malaya (1877-1912)
Yen Ching-Hwang .Journal of Southeast Asian Studies , Vol. 1, No. 2 (Sep., 1970) , pp. 20-32
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Department of History, National University of Singapore. Article Stable URL:
The Rise of Singapore's Great Opium Syndicate, 1840-86. Carl A. Trocki.Journal of Southeast Asian Studies , Vol. 18, No. 1 (Mar., 1987) , pp. 58-80
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Department of History, National University of Singapore.Article Stable URL:
The Singapore and Straits directory for 1881, containing also directories of Sarawak, Labuan, Siam, Johore and the Protected Native States of the Malay Peninsula and an appendix. [website] BookSG


kctan said...

Interesting personality straddling Qing, Colonial, and beginning of modern Singapore.

HongLim Park was in 1959 a venue for PAP rally for 100,000 internal self government

On 1 Sep 2000 Speakers' Corner Singapore i spoke for 5 years...

kc tan

Rojak Librarian said...

Thanks K.C Tan

James Koh said...

Hi, Cheang Jim Kheng is buried in Hill 4C while Cheang Jim Khean is buried in Hill 3D (close to Cheang Sam Teo).