Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Deeply moved by "The Legacy of Tan Kah Kee & Lee Kong Chian"

Photo courtesy of National Library Singapore.

I have heard about the exhibition, The Legacy of Tan Kah Kee & Lee Kong Chian, many months ago and had wanted to check it out. Was it the fast pace of city life or the heavy demands of work? I had shelved aside my plans to visit the exhibition for as long as four months!

I am glad that I have finally managed to go for this exhibition eventually, on 8 November 2008, with one of my good friends. It is an exhibition that has made me feel deeply moved and inspired.

In essence, this exhibition highlights the contributions of two of Singapore’s most successful entrepreneurs and millionaires, Tan Kah Kee (1874 - 1961) and Lee Kong Chian (1891 - 1967). The exhibition is divided into four main sections: Entrepreneurs, Promoters of Education, Community Leaders and Leaving a Strong Legacy.

My favourite section of the exhibition was Promoters of Education. As for my accompanying friend, her favourite section was Leaving a Strong Legacy.

Photo courtesy of National Library Singapore.

The lay-out of Gallery 2, Promoters of Education, is very thoughtfully designed. Initiailly, visitors who step into Gallery 2 may think that they have stepped into an old classroom. I simply love the wooden tables and chairs that are found in Gallery 2. They brought back much positive feelings of nostalgia in me.

When I was a Secondary Two student about slightly more than a decade ago, I had felt very privileged to be using one of those wooden tables and chairs that are shown in the photo right above. Back then, my class was the only class in the entire cohort to use wooden tables and chairs when everyone else in the cohort were using the light-weight plastic chairs and tables. Simply looking at wooden tables and chairs of that kind of design would trigger a fond sense of nostalgia in me. It was not the tables and chairs that count, it was the fond memories of having spent meaningful days in a unique classroom that happened to have wooden tables and chairs.

Back to the exhibition. Visitors to Gallery 2 of this exhibition are likely to delight themselves when they lift up the top cover of each of the wooden table. Inside each table, one would find interesting exhibits that lend visitors some insights to the common classroom objects from the past.

Photo courtesy of National Library Singapore.

Being a visual learner myself, I particularly like the three videos that were being screened at Gallery 2. They lent me glimpses to the worldview of these two exemplary philanthropists, Tan Kah Kee and Lee Kong Chian. I spent quite some time just sitting on one of the wooden chairs in Gallery 2 so that I could watch all the three videos. I was not the only one who did that. I saw a few other visitors who sat through to watch all the three videos. This section is worth one's time.

One quote by Tan Kah Kee has left a deep impression in my mind. It goes, "I must have economic foundations before I can contribute to the society."

The quote left me to ponder: What motivations and visions did these two philanthropists have that drive them to work towards securing economic success so that they could contribute selflessly, devotely and generously to the society?

With this thought in mind, it became very natural that I went back to Gallery 1 to take a closer read about Tan Kah Kee and Lee Kong Chian as entrepreneurs. I believe that they became successful in their businesses not by sheer luck, but because of their positive attitude, strong positive values and their perserverance.

At this exhibition, I read this powerful quote by Tan Kah Kee which I think is worth sharing. It goes: "Treat people with sincerity. Do things with perseverance."

Photo courtesy of National Library Singapore.

There are a lot of inspirations that one can draw from this exhibition and from these two exemplary personalities. I am so inspired that I shall write another blog post on this exhibition soon. Meantime, I would say that it is better late than never to check out The Legacy of Tan Kah Kee & Lee Kong Chian.

Courtesy of National Library Singapore.

The Legacy of Tan Kah Kee and Lee Kong Chian, “承前启后 继往开来:陈嘉庚与李光前” is held from 18 Jul to 31 Dec 2008, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed on public holidays).

Exhibition website:

Venue: Level 10, National Library,
100 Victoria Street
Singapore 188064

Free admission.

Organisers : National Library Singapore, Tan Kah Kee Foundation

My heartfelt appreciation to the National Library Singapore, for granting me the permission to use the photographs published in this post.

Many thanks to the Friends of who have given me the support to facilitate my writing of this post.

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