Ee Hoe Hean Club
Colonial Singapore offered entrepreneurs various economic opportunities. Many Chinese migrants were able to build successful businesses and became very wealthy. As this group’s economic capital accumulated and as they emerged as a distinct group, new organizations were founded to serve its needs.
One of these organizations was the Ee Hoe Hean club, 怡和轩俱乐部 founded in 1895. It was a gathering place for leading Chinese businessman and a networking place for exploring new political ideas and social issues.
Its membership was opened to Chinese from any dialect group. This policy transcended the dialect and/or clan based social divide among the Chinese community at that time.
Ee Hoe Hean & society
As China went through various political crisis and internal chaos, overseas Chinese explored different ideas to solve China’s problems. Some of Ee Hoe Hean club’s members were in favor of political change and actively supported Sun Yat Sen's 孙中山plan to overthrow the Manchu government, 满清皇朝. The Qing dynasty collapse in 1911 but China’s problems remained unresolved.
In 1925, Ee Hoe Hean Club shifted from its original location in Duxton Hill to Bukit Pasoh in Singapore Chinatown. The chairman of Ee Hoe Hean Club was Mr. Tan Kah Kee, 陈 嘉 庚. Mr. Tan Kah Kee’s chairmanship coincided with the Second Sino Japanese War that erupted between Japan and China in 1937.
In 1938, 170 overseas Chinese representatives from the region met to establish a regional body to co ordinate regional relief work to support China against Japanese advancement.
These delegates founded the Nanyang Federation of China Relief Fund, 南洋华侨筹赈祖国难民总会 and elected Mr. Tan Kah Kee as the chairman. The regional headquarter of China Relief Fund was located in Ee Hoe Hean Club.
As the chairman of China Relief Fund, Mr. Tan Kah Kee spent a lot of time in the Ee Hoe Hean office and eventually moved to live there. The Ee Hoe Hean was also used to host farewell ceremonies for Nanyang Volunteers, 南侨技工 leaving to serve on the Burma Road. Mr. Tan Kah Kee and China Relief fund leaders made speeches to encourage and to motivate these volunteers.
China Relief Fund was disbanded just before British Surrender on 15 February 1942. During the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, the Ee Hoe Hean Club was used as an exclusive club for the Japanese Navy officers.
After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Ee Hoe Hean Club functioned as a social club again. It was involved in social and charity activities to serve the needs of post war Singapore. Politically, it championed citizenship rights and helped in voter’s registration. On 18 October 1995, Ee Hoe Hean Club was gazetted as a National Monument.
In 2006/7, the Ee Hoe Hean Club embarked on a restoration project. In 2008, plans were announced to built a hall, 先贤馆 dedicated to Chinese pioneers in Singapore.
On 25 June 2011, Ee hoe Hean was the starting point for a group of Malaysians and a few Singaporeans driving to Kunming in memory of Nanyang Volunteers.