Tan Hap Leong (Bukit Brown)

Tan Hap Leong (Tan Hup Leong) had the honor of being the first Straits born Chinese to undertake a travel around the world for leisure in 2 April 1895. His route brought him to Penang, India, Marseilles, Paris, Germany and England. His return was via way of America, Japan and China. He carried with him letters of introduction from several members of the mercantile community (namely Messrs. Paterson Simmons) and Foreign Office passport, a certificate stating he is a British subject and assurance of British protection, the first Straits Chinese to obtain this privilege.

Tan Hap Leong was one of the pioneering members together with the Tan Jiak Kim, C.M.G and Dr Lim Boon Keng in the formation of the Chinese Volunteers and had the honor to accompany the local Straits contingent to London for the Coronation of King Edward VII.

Tan Hap Leong (arrow in red) with the rest of the Singapore contingent
Dr Lim Boon Keng (in uniform) is seated extreme left, middle row

"Prince" Tan Hap Leong 

Tan Hap Leong was also a leader of the reform movement, being one of the Straits Chinese who braved opinion and tradition to cut his queue way before the fall of Manchu Dynasty. A well traveled man, he shared how he was dubbed as "Prince Tan Hup Leong".  It was in a P. and O. ship and he was traveling with the Viceroy of India during the period of the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905). In  a dinner on board, instead of wearing the customary western evening suit, he wore a full manchu costume and sat next to the Viceroy. Rumors circulated that he was an Oriental Prince send to England to mediate the Russo-Japanese war and when he arrived in London, he was greatly astonished by the great interest in his arrival.

Banker, Shipper, Merchant and Planter

A well known personality in the racing and shipping circles, Tan Hup Leong was a partner in the firm of Messrs Tan Kim Tian and Sons, Ship Chandlers and Stevedores. An avid horse race owner, he won several trophies as well but failed to win at the Viceroy's Cup at Calcutta. (Tan Boo Liat's horse Vanitas had that honor). Tan Hap Leong in 1917 was the Chairman and Director of Ban Aik and Co. Ltd at 58 Market Street. The company is a local steamship company and general merchants. He was also a leading rubber planter and besides shipping, he had interest in banking as well and a agent for the China Mutual Life Insurance Company. He was a member of the Straits Chinese British Association.  His residence was "San Giang Whee", Thomson Road. He ran his business from 1 Prince Street. The firm of Messrs. Tan Kim Tian and Co, merchants and steamship owners was founded in 1849 by Mr Tan Kim Tian (his father) at the office in No 1 Prince Street. It started with three sailing vessels and two small steamers, but now in their place is 3 large modern steamships. The firm is under the management of Mr. Tan Hap Seng, Mr Tan Hap Leong and Mr Tan Hap Swee in 1897.

Messrs Tan Kim Tian & Sons 


Tan Hup Leong died of heart failure at the age of 56 on 5 August 1926 at his residence in No 953 Serangoon Road. He is survived by his mother (Wee Poh Kiok Neo), brother ( Tan Hup Seng ) and sister (Mrs Quah Geok Ljn ), 5 sons ( Tan Cheng Yong, Tan Cheng Hin, Tan Cheng Watt, Tan Cheng Chye and Tan Ngoh Loh ), 4 daughters and 5 grandchildren.

Tomb of Mr Tan Hap Leong

"A loving one from us is gone
A voice so dear is still 
A place is vacant in our home
That never can be filled"


From the tomb of Tan Hap Leong (1st March 1871 - 5th August 1926), we can make out the names of her children;
Sons: Tan Cheng Yong, Tan Cheng Hin, Tan Cheng Watt, Tan Cheng Chye, Tan Cheng Lock
Daughters: Tan Chit Neo, Tan Soh Neo, Tan Angie, Tan Bong Soo
Grandchildren: Edward Tan, Georgie Tan, Cecil Tan, Tan Tak Neo, Tan Alice

Son: Tan Cheng Yong 
Mr Tan Cheng Yong (eldest son of the late Mr Tan Hap Leong) married Miss E. Chye Neo, youngest daughter of the late Mr E. Kong Siang in January 1929.   

Daughter: Tan Eng Neo
Miss Tan Eng Neo (Angie Tan), third daughter of the late Mr Tan Hup Leong and Mrs Tan Hup Leong , engaged to Mr Loh Khie Lock, third son of the late Mr Loh Keok Choey in November 1933. 

Variant Name
Tan Hap Leong is also spelt as Tan Hup Leong

Location of tomb 

Block 1 Division C, 


A Local Pioneer. (1926, August 6). The Straits Times, page 9
Death.(1926, August 6). The Straits Times 
Death of Tan Hup Leong. (1926, August 14). Malayan Saturday Post , page 15
Untitled. (1929, January 30). The Singapore Free Press
Fifty Years Ago. (1953, August 15). The Straits Times


  1. Collateral branch of the Tan Kim Tian family.

    Their cousins the main branch were the Tan Beng Wan Tan Cheng Siang descent.

    Any notable descendants recently?

  2. what is your definition of notable atyg? To me, its the story that i find interesting and not how "notable" or "noble" a person is..

  3. My Grandmom, Helen Tan Bong Soo, youngest daughter of Tan Hap Leong just passed away yesterday at age 93. I believe she was the last of her generation.

    1. We are cousins then... my late grandfather, Tan Cheng Watt and grandaunt Bong Soo are siblings

  4. What is te address of "San Giang Whee", Thomson Road? Was it near Novena Church? I understand that the old house on Novena Church was given by a Peranakan matriarch to the Catholic church. Do you happen to know the matriarch’s name and whether her tomb is in Bukit Brown (which is likely)...

  5. LOH Khie Lock married Irene Wee in 1934



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