Tan Hap Seng (Bukit Brown)

Tan Hap Seng (25th July 1868- 24th March 1934) is the son of Mr. Tan Kim Tian who came from Malacca to Singapore at the age of 15. Tan Kim Tian founded Tan Kim Tian and Son Steamship Company at No 1 Prince Street, the first local Chinese company that build and purchase steamships. It started with three sailing vessels and two small steamers, and at its pinnacle was said to have owned 11 ships with a tonnage of over 80,000 tons and also 3 large modern steamships.Tan Kim Tian and Sons was one of the most prosperous shipping firms in Singapore. Tan Kim Tian passed away on December 18, 1882. His son, Tan Beng Wan carried on as managing director until he died in 1891 on Christmas Day at the age of 40 at his residence in Botan House, Neil Road. After Tan Beng Wan passed away, the company was managed by Tan Hap Seng  (Managing Director) together with his brothers Tan Hap Leong and Tan Hap Swee.  
Tan Hap Seng in Bukit Brown
Tan Hap Seng/ Tan Hup Seng
(source: NewspaperSG)

(source: NewspaperSG)


Tan Hap Seng  was involved in many committees and was a Straits Chinese pioneer in the educational and social reform developments in Colonial Singapore.
  • Committee Member of the Straits British Chinese Association, 
  • President of the Straits Chinese Recreational Club, 
  • Committee Member for Tan Tock Seng Hospital for 12 years until he resigned in 1906, 
  • Committee member of the Po Leung Kuk (Society of the Protection of Women and Children) in 1895
  • St. Joseph's Institution Building Fund (1903)
Tan Hap Seng, Tan Jiak Kim and Tan Boo Liat were Chinese Trustee of the Anglo-Chinese School up to 1896, but resigned as the felt that the schools were preaching Christianity in this school. 

Riches to Rags

Under Tan Hap Seng's stewardship, he together with his brothers Tan Hap Leong and Tan Hap Swee decided to join forces with T.C Boogardt, a shipowner and they formed a private company called Tan Kim Tian and Co. In 1903, the company went into voluntary liquidation. The company and its ships was eventually bought over by its biggest lender, Oei Tiong Ham in 1905. 

Taking many risk and unprepared for the commercial world, Tan Hap Seng was first made a bankrupt at the age of 38 and remained a bankrupt for 21 years during which he work as a chinchew (camprador) on a boat. He was finally discharged  as a bankrupt at the age of 60 in 1927. His brothers ( Tan Hap Leong and Tan Hap Swee) were discharged much earlier in 1906 & 1907.

Source: NewspaperSG
Tan Hap Seng passed away at the age of 66 years old on 24th March 1934 and is buried in Bukit Brown, Hill 3 Divison C plot 199. On his tomb, listed are 5 sons , 4 (?) daughters and many grandchildren. If you know how to translate the Chinese characters, do let me know.

Tan Hap Seng in Bukit Brown
Tan Hap Seng 

The mystery of when Tan Hap Seng died and where he was buried was literally uncovered with discovery of Tan Hap Seng's tomb in Bukit Brown by Raymond Goh in November 2015.


Tan Kim Tian and family (Bukit Brown).Rojak Librarian, published on March 1, 2014
Tan Hap Leong. (Bukit Brown). Rojak Librarian, published on April 21, 2013
Untitled. (1895, June 8). The Singapore Free Press
Death. (1925, October 13). The Straits Times, page 8
Untitled. (1926, August 6). The Malayan Tribune, page 7
Wealthy Shipowner's brankruptcy.( 1927, March 5). The Singapore Free Press
Untitled. (1928, February 18). The Malayan Saturday Post, page 32
Lin, Lee Kip. The Singapore House. 1819-1942. Times Editions, 1988.
Song, Ong Siang. One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. Ed. Edwin Lee. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984.



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