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Wan Qing Yuan

26 Jan 2012: Wan Qing Yuan, Singapore

The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall (孙中山南洋纪念), also known as Wan Qing Yuan (晚晴园), is a double-storey colonial villa at Balestier in Singapore. The villa is a museum commemorating Dr Sun Yat Sen, who visited Singapore eight times between 1900 and 1911.

The villa was originally named as Bin Chan House (明珍庐).  In 1905, a rubber magnate Teo Eng Hock (张永福, 1871-1958) bought this villa for his aged mother, Mdm Tan Poh Neo (陈宝娘) and renamed the villa as Wan Qing Yuan.

“Wan Qing” was an inspiration drawn from work of famous Tang poet Li Shangying (李商隐). In his poem Wang Qing (《晚晴》), Li wrote: Heaven is compassionate for the remote, quiet grass; just like we treasure the clear, wanning dusk ( “天意怜幽草,人间重晚晴”).

As you entered into Wan Qing Yuan, you are warmly greeted by two wooden panels with engraving of Wang Zhaoming’s (汪兆铭) poem:

遥从南斗望中原

壮志天池欲化鲲

百战故人今健在

白头重话晚晴园

Wang wrote this poem for Teo Eng Hock when he published his memoir, Nanyang and the Founding of the Republic (《南洋与创立民国》) in 1933. This book offers many insights into the relationship between Singapore and the revolutionary career of Dr Sun Yat Sen.

So, how did Dr Sun get acquaintance to Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Nam and Lim Nee Soon, his three key supporters in Singapore?

Teo Eng Hock was a fervent supporter of the Chinese Revolution movement to overthrow the Qing dynasty in China. In 1904, the trio founded the revolutionary newspaper, Thoe Lam Jit Poh (图南日报).

When Dr  Sun Yat Sen stumbled upon the Thoe Lam Jit Poh, superscribed with a motto urging Chinese nationals “to relieve themselves of Manchuria’s control in China”, he came eagerly to Singapore to meet them.

Teo Eng Hock offered the villa to Dr Sun Yat Sen as the Singapore branch of the the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance or Tong Meng Hui (同盟会) for his revolutionary activities in February 1906 until the successful Xinhai Revolution in 1911.

On 6 April 1906, Dr Sun started its first Singapore political branch Tong Meng Hui at Wan Qing Yuan with co-founders Tan Chor Nam as chairman, Teo Eng Hock and his nephew Lim Nee Soon as the office bearers. Tong Meng Hui was formed to create awareness of the revolution and garner support from the overseas Chinese people, collect funds to help fight the cause, and assemble volunteers to join in the uprisings.

Wan Qing Yuan was then established as the alliance’s Southeast Asia headquarters. Notably, Teo Eng Hock was the great-granduncle of Singapore’s current Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean.

Sitting at the most right in the above picture was a twenty-two year old young man, Tan Chor Nam (陈楚楠, 1884-1971), who became the leader of Tong Meng Hui.

Second on the left was Mr. Lim Nee Soon (林义顺, 1879 -1936), the nephew of Teo Eng Hock. Educated in Singapore, Lim Nee Soon worked for various organizations before he founded his own company, Lim Nee Soon & Co in 1911. He was one of the pioneers of rubber planting along with Tan Chor Nam and Dr. Lim Boon Keng. His big investments in the pineapple industry won him the nickname “Pineapple King”. A few Singapore villages and roads, such as Nee Soon Village and Nee Soon Road, were named after him. The names were later translated to pinying “Yishun” to be in line with the national use of Mandarin.

But most of all, Lim Nee Soon was always recognized by all Chinese as one of Sun Yat Sen’s best friends, whom he befriended and helped with funds to set the revolutionary forces on the uprising against the Manchu feudal rule in China.

Dr Sun bore many names. He is called Sun Wen (孫文) in China. While at school in Hong Kong, he is known as Yat Sen (逸仙). His most popular name Sun Zhongshan (孫中山) came from Nakayama (中山樵), a Japanese name given to him by Miyazaki Touten (宮崎滔天) who was a Japanese philosopher who aided and supported Sun Yat-sen during the Xinhai Revolution.

But in this Chinese calligraphy given to Teo Beng Wan (张明远, the nephew of Teo Eng Hock), you would notice that Dr Sun always signed off as Sun Wen (孙文) in his calligraphies. Sun Yat Sen often propogated Bo Ai ideal (博爱), which means “universal love” or “love for everyone” as one of the foundations for his idea of Chinese democracy.

Teo Beng Wan was active in fund raising for anti-Japanese movement. It was said that he was arrested by the Japanese during WWII for his anti-Japanese involvement. Teo Beng Wan never returned since.

This was another gift calligraphy for Lim Boon Keng ( 林文慶, 1869 – 1957), who was also known as Meng Qin. To facilitate the education of Straits-Chinese women, he set up the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School together with his friend in 1899. Lim Boon Keng later went into banking and co-founded the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC).

Dr. Sun Yat Sen was born on 12 November 1866 to a Cantonese Hakka family in the village of Cuiheng (翠亨村) in the Guangdong province. Born into a family of farmers, he started herding cows along with other farming duties at age 6 and began schooling only at the age of ten.

Dr Sun learnt his English when he went to live with his elder brother, Sun Mei (孫眉) in Hawaii. In 1883, he was sent home to China as his brother had growing concern that Sun Yat Sen would embrace Christianity. He continued his education in Hong Kong and ultimately earned his license of Christian practice as a medical doctor from the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese.

It was said that in those days the flag of the Republic of China (青天白日滿地紅) was sewn in the Sun Yat Sen Villa by Teo Eng Hock and his wife.

Some believed that Dr Sun’s strong ideology of “the world as a commonwealth shared by all” (天下為公) was derived from Confucian ideas. Others viewed Sun’s revolution similar to the salvation mission of the Christian church in pushing for advancement.

The Manchurians ruled China for 267 years during the Qing dynasty, until the revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat Sen overthrew the Manchus and brought about the birth of the Republic of China on 1 January, 1912.

But the victory did not come easily. Dr Sun failed ten times before he suceeded in overthrowing the Qing government during the Wuchang Uprising in 1911. Three of the ten attempted uprisings were planned in Singapore! On 1 Jan 1912, Dr. Sun became the first provisional President of the Republican government.

“The revolution is not yet completed; all my comrades must struggle on!”

Those were his words at his death-bed where Dr Sun encouraged his fellow countrymen before he passed away on 12 March 1925.  Regretfully, Dr Sun did not live to see his party consolidate its power over the country…and we are familar with the rest of the history….

 

What happened to Wan Qing Yuan after the 1911 Chinese Revolution?

Dr Sun visited Singapore eight times to raise funds for his uprisings. He stayed thrice in Wan Qing Yuan. His final visit took place in December 1911 after  the success of the Wuchang Uprising.

Teo Eng Hock’s business declined after the revolution and he had to sell away Wan Qing Yuan. In March 1937, a group of six leading Chinese businessmen in Singapore, including philanthropist Lee Kong Chian bought it back to be preserved as a historical site. The villa was handed over to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the 1950s. The chamber turned it into a place of historical interest in 1965 after a major renovation and was known as Sun Yat Sen Villa.

Many changes swept through the Chinese world as a result of the 1911 Revolution. Among the many changes were impacts on commerce, trade, education and vernacular literature in various parts of the world…

Dr Sun was a staunch believer in education. Hence the members of Tong Meng Hui, such as Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Nam, Lim Nee Soon and Tan Kah Kee were all dedicated and passionate about education. They improved the social development of the Chinese communities by championing both female and populace education. Tan Kah Kee even broke through the barriers of various dialect groups to build Hwa Chong (The Chinese High School).

In 1929, Lim Nee Soon complied the membership directory of the Singapore Tong Meng Hui for distribution to all former member as a memento. Today, it is a rare docuement for historical reference.

Engraved on this seal belonging to Tan Chor Lam, are the Chinese characters “结爱国缘” which illustrated his love for his country and fellow men.

Dr Sun Yat Sen‘s revolutionary ideals had far-reaching effects beyond the geographical boundaries of China. The 1911 Revolution clearly impacted on the Chinese community in both Singapore and the region. As you leave the exhibition gallery, you could see huge oil paintings of Dr Sun Yat Sen and his supporters in Malaya.

One of Dr Sun’s major legacies was the creation of his political philosophy called the Three Principles of the People. These included the principle of nationalism (min zu, 民族), of democracy (min quan, 民权 ), and of livelihood (minsheng, 民生)…

As I exited from Wan Qing Yuan, what lingered in my mind is the words left behind by Tan Chor Nam and Teo Eng Hock: (“晚晴园联咏”) …

” Heaven has compassion for the remote, quiet grass,

We are happily bonded under the clear dusk;

The solitary evening is still wonderous.

The once desolute land has transformed into hundreds of Zhi cities,

With blooming flowers and trees,

Where butterflies danced in the wind and moths multiples…

Official website: http://www.wanqingyuan.com.sg/ENG/index.html

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A Day Trip to Kukup

11 May 2011: Kukup, Malaysia

The time now is half past seven. My worst fear has just crystallized. Our excited spirits were dampened by the congested queue snaking along the Johore Malaysian Immigration. And our trip to Kukup has barely started.

Just one week ago, the Malaysian Immigration mandated a new biometric thumbprint scanning systems, requiring all foreigners entering and exiting Malaysia have their left and right index fingers scanned at the checkpoints. Inevitably, the expanded use of biometrics resulted in more delay at the ports of entry. But what truly infuriated the traveller was the authority’s decision to implement the new system during the height of Malaysia’s tourist season; and it was reported that the malfunctioned system caused many to wait as long as five to seven hours. For the records, ours was four hours!

Starved and exhausted, we FINALLY commenced our Kukup trip at 12 noon. The basic instinct was to fill our stomach at Taman Perling, JB. After the brunch, it was shopping time. First, replenishing our titbits and snack at the “Mr Sotong” Shop…

Just like all other arranged tours, the local guide gladly ushered the tour group into the designated gift shops. One of the stops was at Yong Sheng Confectionery, one of the leading confectionery manufacturers in the southern region of Malaysia. Established in 1952 in Muar, Yong Sheng produces some of the best quality wife cakes, moon cakes, cookies and pastries in Malaysia.

It is little wonder why our tour guide was grinning from ear to ear…

Kukup

Kukup is a small fishing village located about forty kilometres southwest of Johor Bahru. Nested next to the Strait of Malacca, it is famous for its open-air seafood restaurants built on stilts over the water.   

Located in the seas of Kukup are fifty or so fish farms, commonly known as “kelongs” . Besides raring fishes, these entrepreneurial fish farmers wisely combined their daily work with hosting of tourists at their fish farms.

After the late lunch, we boarded the bum boats from the ferry terminal to visit one of the kelongs.

 

To many urban dwellers like me, these kelongs do have its quaint and rustic charms. As we disembarked and balanced our steps on the creaky wooden walkways, the life science and marine lessons commenced. 

The fish farm owner dredged out a few species of fish from the  fishing net as he gave a running commentary about grouper, nurse shark, puffer fish and horseshoe crabs. We were simply busy with clicking of our cameras.

What caught my attention were these small fishes which could spit jets of water out of water at their preys…and with amazingly good accuracy!

Today, I had a good view of a distinguished Horseshoe Crab. This pre-historical creature has a long blade-like tail and is said to have the ability to flip itself right-side up if it is ever placed upside down. Amazing, isn’t it?

 Final glimpse of the kelongs heading back to the shore…

For some of us, shopping at the sundry stores in Kukup created some nostalgic moments…

The finale ended with another sumptuous seafood dinner at the Xin Hui Bin Restaurant before returning home. Fortunately, the traffic at the Immigration had eased off significantly. The time is 10.30 pm now…All we wanted is head straight home to bed.

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Trident Gurgaon by day and by night

14 Feb 2011: Trident Gurgaon @ Delhi, India

Stepped into Trident Gurgaon, you would immediately comprehend why it was voted as Asia’s Leading Luxury Hotel at the World Travel Awards in 2010. Located at the central business district of Gurgaon (a part of the New Delhi National Capital Region), the hotel is only 10 kms from the airport and can be reached within 20 minute drive on a normal day traffic.

This award-winning hotel has seven acres of landscaped gardens, walkways, courtyards, reflection pools and fountains.

And an outdoor swimming pool that is heated during winter…

 I stayed in a Superior Room with a view of the gardens.

Trident Gurgaon at night has its charm in a different light…

I am in Delhi this week attending a conference. Delhi has changed so much since my last visit in 2007. It has rekindled my interest to see and explore the “New” Delhi…

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15 Feb 2011: Bukhara @ ITC Hotel Maurya Sheraton & Towers, New Delhi

Internationally acclaimed as one of the best restaurants in Asia, Bukhara have been serving cuisine of the Northwest Frontier Province (currently the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan) since 1977. President Clinton and other visiting heads of state, celebrities and royalty alike had been delighted by the succulent kebabs, grilled to perfection in the Bukhara’s open kitchen. All of its chefs underwent extensive training in the art of marinating and cooking in a tandoor, a traditional Indian clay oven that provided better retention of all juices and flavors. Bukhara does not take reservations; therefore, go early or be ready to wait in a queue.

Pic with Joni

Its rustic interior is another drawn-in attraction of this pricey restaurant – rough stone walls, dark-timble tables and we had to sit on small wooden stools. To encourage diners to savor the restaurant’s juicy kebabs with their hands, cutlery is withheld and aprons are provided.

Pic with Claire and Stephane

The menu was developed by the late Master Chef Mandanlal Jaiswal. Today, it is still followed religiously and meticulously. The appetizers were homemade cheese sauteed with fresh ginger, garlic, onion and tomato and meat samosas of spicy turnovers stuffed with minced lamb and spices. On the sides were freshly cut onions and chilled yogurt dressings.

  

  

  

Bukhara is heavy on meat and really isn’t a good place for vegetarians. I loved the murgh malai kebab, a boneless chicken marinated with cream cheese, malt vinegar, and green coriander. For red-meat lovers, don’t miss the signature sikandari raan, the tender leg of lamb marinated in herbs. The jumbo prawns were equally memorable.

  

  

Above all is Bukhara’s dal, its rich and creamy black lentils simmered overnight with tomatoes, ginger, and garlic. My colleague, Rohit, told me that this was the best in India and probably the top in the world too. See our happy faces?

  

Pic with Kim and Paula

The homemade ice cream had certainly sweetened many faces with its exotic concoction of saffron, pistachoi and nuts.
 
     Carolina, Yuan and Kim

Pic with Donna and Ed

What a wonderful night of great food and joyous fun…

Pic with Johann

Pic with Zorina and Jodi

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16 Feb 2011: Kingdom of Dreams @ Delhi, India

Want to live the beautiful and colourful Indian dreams? Most of us might have to seek solace at the Kingdom of Dreams, India’s first live entertainment, theatre and leisure destination. Spreading over 6 acres of land, this magical dreamland was first opened to the public on 18 September 2010.

 

As we stepped into the courtyard, we were spellbound by the huge structure with a crystal blue skyroof towering above us.

Our tired souls were greeted by the distinctive, loud music and colourful performances. The orchestra of dream-like lasers brightened the courtyard, as well as our weary spirits.  

Culture Gully

The Culture Gully is a lavish air-conditioned boulevard, filled with themed restaurants, street performances, artisans and handicraft stores. It has a 100,000 square feet artifical blue sky dome with “soft white clouds”. 

The boulevard showcased a kaleidoscope of India’s unique cultural diversity. Besides shopping and eating, you can indulge in other experiences such as palm reading and tea sipping. A memorable walk along this street will stimulate all your five senses and bring you closer to India’s rich culture, architecture, crafts and traditions.

I was attracted by this gigiantic Buddha painting at the centre of the Culture Gully. His calm expression was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle in the boulevard…

IIFA Buzz Cafe

Our reception was held at the IIFA Buzz Cafe.  Located on the first floor of Culture Gulley, this Bollywood-themed bar showcases Bollywood memorabilia, the IIFA ( International Indian Film Academy) Awards trophy and movie posters.

Culture Gully is a gourmet’s paradise with authentic Indian cuisine from various regions. The restaurant that I dined in has this magnificant mask at its entrance. I could not really recall a favourite dish from the restaurant but the local Kulfi ice cream was memorable.

Nautanki Mahal

Nautanki Mahal is an extravaganza, mega Indian cinema, staging electrifying on-stage spectacle of Bollywood-styled musical. We did not watch the musical but could not resist taking a photo of this enchanting carving of a Sleeping Buddha on the side wall… 

As the coach left the magical Kingdom of Dreams, my memory was strangely lingered on this still moment at a handicraft shop. How often we are, just like these busy shoppers, looking furiously and sometimes frantically for quick takeaway of worldly materials? And hoped that it could momentarily retain a little piece of this Kingdom of Dreams? 

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Basant Lok

17 Feb 2011: Basant Lok @ Delhi, India

We were at Basant Lok to do some market researches. Often addressed by the locals as “Priya” (after the name of the cinema), it has became increasingly popular shopping area for Delhiites living in the south-western parts of the city. Managed to capture moments of these street vendors setting up their stalls along Basant Lok…

In the last couple days, I had seen many animals “roaming” in the city – buffalos, cows, dogs, goat, monkeys and even an elephant (on a highway, no joke!). But look what I found along the road today? Make no mistake, it’s a wild boar!

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The Red Fort

18 Feb 2011: Red Fort @ Old Delhi, India

Today was a free and easy day. The six of us (Alan, BK, Jackie, Pornsiri, Warapan and me) drew out a “perfect” plan to visit several places of interest in Delhi. We hired a hotel car and left Trident Gurgaon at 9 am. However, executing the itinerary proved to be a tall order in this densely populated city and the impasse traffic conditions. It was nearly 10.30 am when we reached our first destination – the Red Fort

#1: Old Delhi – The Red Fort

The Red Fort (or Lal Qila in the local language) is a 17th century fort complex constructed along the River Yamuna. The complex is an irregular octagon, surrounded by a wall about 2.4 km in circumference and is built of red sandstones.

The fort was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan (the king  who also built the Taj Mahal) who transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi. It was completed a decade later in 1648 and it served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor was exiled by the British Indian government. The British used it as a military camp until India gained independent in 1947. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

The fort has two main entrances. We entered the Red Fort through the Lahore Gate which faces the famed Chandni Chowk market.

Red Fort Main Gate

 

Chhatta Chowk

“Chhatta Chowk” means bazaar, which in the 17th century India was extremely unusual rare. Walking through the Lahori Gate, we immediately entered into this covered passage, flanked by arcaded shops on both sides. On each side, it contained 32 arched bays that served as shops selling silk, gold and silverwares, jewellery and gems.

Drum House

The Naubat Khana or Drum House stands at the entrance to the complex. In the days of glory, the musicians from the Drum House announced the arrival of the Emperor or other prominent royals at the court of the public audience. 

Hall of the Public Audience

The fort has the Diwan-i-Am, where the king would grant audience to the public and heard their grievances.

In the centre of the Hall stands a marble canopy covered by a “Bengal roof”, under which was placed the Emperor’s throne. Behind the canopy, the wall is decorated with beautiful panels inlaid with multi-coloured stones. 

Palace of Colours

The Rang Mahal or Palace of Colours is the water cooled apartment for the royal ladies. It is divided into six apartments by engrailed arches set on piers. Over the walls and ceilings of these apartments are embeded tiny pieces of mirrors which reflect light and creat a pictureque effect.

 

 

Hall of Private Audience

The Diwan-i-Khas or Hall of the Private Audience was used by the emperor for the reception of important guests such as kings, ambassadors and nobles in private and to deal with important affairs of the state. It was no surprise that the pavilion was clad completely in marble, the pillars are decorated with floral carvings and inlay work with many semi-precious stones.

Stream of Paradise

The imperial private apartments consist of pavilions that sits on a raised platform along the eastern edge of the fort overlooking the River Yamuna. Water is drawn from River Yamuna runs through the centre of each pavilion. This water channel is known as the Nahr-i-Behisht, or the “Stream of Paradise”, a design imitating the paradise as it is described in the Koran. Thus, a couplet repeatedly inscribed in the palace reads, “If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here”.

We spent a full hour at the Red Fort. In order to keep in time with plan, we agreed to skip the visit to Chandni Chowk market.

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