Tan Yong Thian (Bukit Brown)

Tan Yong Thian (Tan Ah Tian ) was born in 1855 in the district of Chaoyang, Swatow in the province of Kwangtung (Guangdong). He came to Singapore at the age of 27 and became a building contractor. In 1895 (at the age of 40), at the pinnacle of his career  and having thoughts of retirement, Tan Yong Thian nevertheless went into the produce industry investing in various plantations such as gambier, pepper, citronella, coconut and rubber.

Patchouli Oil and Chua Seng Heng & Co
His foray into the produce/plantation business proved successful and with this new born energy,  Tan Yong Thian decided to expand into the distillation and refining of the raw materials from his plantation. The distillation of patchouli oil (an essential oil used in making perfume) was what he was remembered for and he even managed to expand its export to other countries and its quality was parallel to the ones in Europe.  The firm, Chua Seng Heng & Co became one of the largest producers of essential oils in the Straits Settlement. Two of his sons , Tan Kim Chua and Tan Guan Chua are joint partners in business together with a son-in-law.

In 1923, Chua Seng Heng & Co bought through an auction, a power distilling plant suitable for essential oil at 87 Kim Kiat Road. They also bought a new oil distilling plant for $2,000. Their office is listed to be at No 46 Armenian Street.
Trademark of Chua Seng Heng & Co
(source: NewspaperSG 1931)

Tan Heng Chua taking ownership
(source: NewspaperSG 1935) 
71st birthday celebration
Tan Kim Chua and his brothers were reported to have issued invitations to many of their friends from various communities that was held at their residence in No. 535 East Coast Road (6th milestone) in celebration of their father's 71 birthday in 1925. This was to be Tan Yong Thian's last birthday celebration.

Mr Tan Yong Thian passed away on April 9, 1926 at the age of 72 years. Mrs Tan Yong Thian nee Ng Hean Neo passed away on March 1, 1926 at the age of 59 years old. When Mrs Tan passed away, the newspaper list the number of children as 4 sons and 2 daughters: Tan Kim Chua, Tan Guan Chua, Tan Choon Chua, Tan Heng Chua , Mdam Kwek Noy Chia, Madam Lee Keng Jin

On the tombstone list 5 sons and 2 daughters:
Sons: Tan Khim Chua, Tan Guan Chua, Tan Kim Chua, Tan Choon Chua and Tan Heng Chua
Daughters: Tan Kim Kee, Tan Nie Kee

Tomb of Mr and Mrs Tan Yong Thian 
Mr and Mrs Tan Yong Thian are buried in Hill 2, Division D. The tomb is almost impacted by the 8 lane highway but fortunately remains safe.

Untitled. (1923, April 26). The Straits Times, page 8
Matters Chinese. (1925, October 16). The Singapore Free Press, page 16
Death. (1926, March 2). The Straits Times, page 8
Advertisement. (1931, December 15). The Straits Times, page 4
Patchouli Oil. (1933, January 2). The Straits Times, page 11
Advertisement. (1935, November 29). The Straits Times, page 2
Patchouli. [website] Wikipedia.
Burt, A. R. (1920). Biographies of Prominent Chinese. J. B. Powell, & C. Crow (Eds.). Biographical Publishing Company.


  1. I just stumbled across your blog and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading it, particularly your posts about Bukit Brown. I look forward to reading more in the future.

  2. Dear Laura Freeman,
    Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. Will do my best to continue to share this stories.

  3. What a nice write-up of my Great-GrandPa. Thank you.

  4. Thanks Magdalene, if you have anything to add, do email me.

  5. It's a strange little strange to be able to read more about my Great Grandfather than my Grandfather. I've always loved to hear stories about him from my dad in the pass. The Chinese has a saying that a family's wealth cannot go beyond the 3rd generation, for ours, it didn't survive the next generation. Lol. Knowing what he achieved from hearing the stories of old made me felt that success was in my blood.

  6. Dear Colin .. All the best in creating your own success !!


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