The best part of PMB‘s Tales of the Survivors walking tour was being able to enter the House of Tan Yeok Nee, the last remaining Chinese traditional courtyard house in Singapore. The building is currently being used as the Asian campus of The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and is usually open only to students and staff.
Tan Yeok Nee was a Teochew towkay engaged in the pepper and gambier trade. He built this traditional Chinese house in 1882 but sold the house to the government after less than 20 years because of the building of the railway station at Tank Rd. The house was used as the station master’s residence before becoming the St. Mary’s Home & School for Eurasian Girls. It was then the Salvation Army Command Headquarters for Singapore and Malaya for over 50 years.
The first old photo below of the exterior of the House of Tan Yeok Nee is from PICAS (Pictures Archives Singapore) which is by the National Archives of Singapore and the second old photo of St. Mary’s Home & School for Eurasian Girls is from PictureSG which is by NLB.
I was very fascinated by the mosaic used on the rooftops to depict animals and humans. This mosaic technique is called 剪黏 (literally cut & paste) and makes use of broken ceramic pieces to form images. According to our guide, Tan Yeok Nee got craftsmen from China to come to Singapore to work on these mosaic decorations.
The House of Tan Yoek Nee was restored and reconstructed in 1999 by 100 Chinese craftsmen at a cost of S$12 million. The restored house won special commendation from the Paris-based FIABCI at the Prix d’Excellence in 2002.
I like that the House of Tan Yeok Nee is being used as a campus even while the original essence and characteristics have been kept intact. It just seems that so many of the historically important buildings have been repurposed as museums. I have nothing against museums, in fact I LOVE museums, but it’s nice to see national monuments being used for a variety of purposes.
This Monumental Walking Tour was very interesting and completely worth the $5 that I paid. I’ve another walking tour coming up soon and I’m definitely planning to sign up for more!