I first heard about the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial hall when I joined the Friends of the Museums. At first I simply became aware it was somewhere I could visit for free as part of my membership but I had no idea who Sun Yat Sen was. The same could be said for this afternoon when I turned up at the Memorial Hall for their 2pm guided tour. It was about 20 minutes into the tour before I realised that this was the man responsible for bringing down the last Chinese dynasty and founding the Republic of China. He also became the first Provisional President of China.
The villa which holds this Sun Yat Sen collection is absolutely stunning. It was purchased by a supporter of the Chinese Nationalist Movement in 1905 and gifted to Sun Yat Sen in 1906 to use as a base for the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance. It became an essential headquarters for the Southeast Asian operations of this Alliance and many uprisings were planned during Sun Yat Sen’s visits. After the 1911 Revolution it became the headquarter of the Chinese National Party.
Once again Singapore surprises me, I had no idea such an important event in China’s history was being supported and facilitated from a little place like Singapore. Of course there was support from the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance elsewhere in the world, but clearly Singapore was an important Southeast Asian base. It’s also thought that Sun Yat Sen saw how life was under the British rule, less corruption and more freedom than in China at that time, both in Singapore and also in Hong Kong where he studied as a Doctor.
One thing that really struck me during this tour was when the guide explained that a large part of the finance behind the Revolution movement came from rubber plantations and the sudden need for rubber to manufacture tyres for vehicles. This reminded me of the small town in Scotland where I attended secondary school; on entering the town a sign proudly announces it is the birthplace of the inventor of the pneumatic tyre. How strange to think that an inventor from a small Scottish town could have had an impact on funding the Chinese Revolution. Perhaps it’s a rather indirect link but it made me think all the same.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is part of the Balestier Road Heritage Trail. Right next door is a beautiful Burmese Buddhist Temple which uses LED lights to literally make the Buddha radiant.
Also nearby is a free water kiosk on the corner of Boon Teck Road. This goes back to the days when clean drinking water was a luxury and it was offered as an act of charity for poor laborers. This last remaining kiosk still offers both water and tea for free and is maintained by a local charity.