TAN Choon Bock, 陳春木

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Choon Bock TAN 陳

Chinese: 陳春木
Death: 1880 (55-56)
Immediate Family:

Son of TAN Tian Hock and GOH Sin Neo
Husband of Wife 1: Thung Soon Neo and Choo Lan
Father of Tan Hong Lian Neo EE; TAN Keong Keng; TAN Keong Ann, 陳恭安; Keong Jeang Tan; Keong Ching Tan and 1 other
Brother of Yim Neo Tan; Kim Neo Tan; TAN Choon Sun and TAN Choon Sian

Occupation: Straits Chinese Entrepreneur
Managed by: Emrys Chew
Last Updated:

About TAN Choon Bock, 陳春木


His paternal grandfather Tan Hay Kwan had been the first to engage in a maritime carrying trade between the islands of the Malay Archipelago, before settling in Malacca around 1770.

Tan Choon Bock, however, started off as a tapioca planter before eventually founding his own steamship service that would later become a major part of the Straits Steamship Company.

Tan Choon Bock has been described as a 'nineteenth-century godfather'. While apparently eschewing the business of running opium and gambling dens, the reach of his shipping empire doubtless extended to other shady networks in colonial Southeast Asia's growing commercial underworld, dealing with the transportation of military supplies and other contraband merchandise.

According to a one family account, by great-great-granddaughter Tan Siok Choo, we read: "Choon Bock was a successful entrepreneur. When he died in 1880, he owned properties in Singapore and in Malacca. Among the properties he purchased was the family home in Malacca at 111 Heeren Street, now renamed Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock. Choon Bock was a tough man. He felt his four sons were not worthy to inherit his wealth. To prevent his sons and his grandsons from enjoying a pampered existence, he tied up his entire fortune in a trust that ended only 84 years later, in April 1964...

"Because Choon Bock’s grandsons were denied access to his wealth, three of his descendants made their mark in the region: his grandson, Cheng Lock, who founded the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and became its first President; his great-grandson, Tan Siew Sin, who assumed the MCA Presidency in 1961 and became Malaysia’s longest-serving Finance Minister; and another great-grandson, Dr. Goh Keng Swee, who became Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore as well as Finance Minister. I believe few families have enjoyed the distinction of simultaneously contributing two Finance Ministers to two different countries."

(Sources: J. Studwell, 'Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and South-East Asia', London: Exmouth House, 2007, p. 278; and S. C. Tan, in an address to the MCA School of Political Studies, c. 2007.)


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