This page is about Seah Liang Seah (1850–1925) as well as the book, Leader and Legislator: Seah Liang Seah.
Summary (click here for more details). In 1850, Seah Liang Seah was born in Singapore. He studied Chinese with a private tutor under his father’s supervision and learnt English at St. Joseph’s Institution. With his unique education, Seah Liang Seah was able to speak English and Teochew, and straddled both West and East. At the age of 17, he was married, after which he became an assistant in Eu Chin & Co., his father’s company, and worked for many years as his secretary. In 1883, Seah Liang Seah was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements. He was the first Singapore-born Chinese appointed. In August 1900, Seah Liang Seah and other prominent Straits Chinese, Tan Jiak Kim, Dr Lim Boon Keng, and Sir Song Ong Siang among them, co-founded the Straits Chinese British Association (SCBA). Among his other contributions, he was also a member of the Municipal Commission, a community leader of the Teochews and the Ngee Ann Kongsi, as well as a prominent philanthropist. He passed away in 1925.
Quick Access to Online Resources (click on the link to access)
Linda Chee, Seah Liang Seah: King of the Streets, in The Peranakan.
Shawn Seah, Grandfather Stories, for the Singapore Heritage Festival 2020.
Leader and Legislator – Seah Liang Seah is currently available at Kinokuniya and Select Books.
Supported by the National Heritage Board, Our SG Fund, and the Singapore Bicentennial, Leader and Legislator – Seah Liang Seah tells the story of the man behind Liang Seah Street in Bugis.
Born in 1850, he rose to become a successful businessman, Teochew community leader, and member of the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements. Straddling both East and West, he lived an interesting life of public service, profit, and parties.
And when he died in 1925, he left behind an extremely unusual will… that was only resolved in 1996.
This remarkable man was leader and legislator, Seah Liang Seah.
Edited by local playwright Nabilah Said, this book on one of Seah Eu Chin’s most prominent sons is a sequel and continuation of the story in my first book, Seah Eu Chin: His Life & Times.
It also tells the story of other influential Straits Chinese pioneers like Sir Song Ong Siang, Tan Jiak Kim, and Dr Lim Boon Keng.
Heritage and community correspondent Melody Zaccheus wrote a piece titled “Singapore’s Original Crazy Rich Asian” in the Sunday Times, 10 March 2019. Some key points which stood out for me were:
NHB’s Assistant Chief Executive of Policy and Community Alvin Tan was quoted as saying that the board supported the publication because it presented original research and provided new insights into the life and legacy of Seah Liang Seah.
Mr Tan added that it was important to document the contributions of Singapore’s second-generation pioneers so that their stories would hopefully inspire current and future generations to give back to society and leave their mark in Singapore’s history.
The article quoted me saying that: “The question of his identity – Teochew, Straits Chinese, pro-British – was, and still is, an interesting topic of discussion.”
“Seah Eu Chin and his descendants and their families settled in Singapore and helped make it the way it is today. More ground-up accounts of our past should be encouraged.”
There has been increasing recognition that Singapore has a longer history than once thought. However, while Singapore’s history began neither at 1819 nor independence in 1965, the history between these two dates is still important in shaping who we came to be as a people. We are a product of our colonial history and blend of people who came here and made this their home.
This book is about the story of Singapore-born Seah Liang Seah and his home, and the people who lived in it. But it is equally a story of a Singapore gradually shaping up to be more and more familiar to those who live in it today.
With your support, local writers like me will be able to share our stories and help promote and raise awareness of Singapore’s history, heritage, and culture.
Copyright © 2019 by Shawn Seah
Updated 2 May 2022