It has existed in Singapore for almost a century, but it was not until 1994 that it was gazetted as a national monument, then did the locals realized that a national treasure- Sun Yat Sen Nayang Memorial Hall, was hidden in their backyard, and a historical great man had great plans to save his country right from our homeland!
Who is Sun Yat Sen ?
Sun Yat Sen( 1866-1925 ) was the First President and Founding Father of the Republic Of China. Though a medical practitioner, Sun was determined to overthrow the Qing or Manchu government (1644-1911) when he saw how corrupted the government was and how useless it was when China was constantly defeated by foreign powers since the Opium War in 1839. He soon became a revolutionist and sparred no efforts in rallying his countrymen against the Qing government, which he succeeded when the 267 year old government was eventually overthrown in 1911.
In his persistent effort to raise funds, create awareness and garnered support for his revolution, Sun Yat Sen spent most of his life overseas or in exile. He went to America, Japan and Europe. It was in one of these movements that he arrived in Singapore. During those days, millions of Chinese had resided in Malaya and Singapore, so it was natural that Singapore became the headquarters for his revolutionary movements and the local Chinese eagerly responded by donating large sums of money in an effort to save China.
Sun Yat Sen Nayang Memorial Hall or Wan Qing Yuan
Contrary to popular beliefs, the villa does not belong to Sun Yat Sen. The double storey colonial villa was built by a wealthy merchant Buoy Chuan Poh in 1902. In 1905, another businessman Teo Eng Hock bought it over for his aged mother. It was then named as Wan Qing Yuan, literary means ‘ bright and peaceful year in one’s later years’.
It would has been just another ordinary house had it not been Teo’s efforts in housing Sun Yat Sen and allowed him to organize his revolutionary moments from 1905-1911. The villa soon became the headquarters of Chinese Revolutionary Alliance’s Southeast Asia, so important was the villa that all in all, Sun had stayed in the villa on four occasions out of a visit of 9 to Singapore. Revolutionaries from Southeast Asia, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Malaya would gathered in this villa to plot against the Chinese government.
Above picture of Wan Qing Yuan in Chinese calligraphy.
Entered the The Memorial Hall and I was instantly overwhelmed by the many pictorials, videos and audio exhibitions on Sun Yat Sen’s revolutionary movements and the locals effort in supporting him. Walking around, I could visualized the many meetings Sun Yat Sen held here with his comrades a hundred years ago. It really felt great to have such an extraordinary historical leader in our homeland. Recommended visiting time for The Memorial Hall is an hour.
Sadly, the villa was left with nothing related to Sun Yat Sen except the villa itself, all the artefacts were destroyed during the Japanese Occupation( 1942-1945) and through change of house ownerships.
With some general history knowledge, I was able to comprehend the exhibits, but also saw some visitors exited not long after entering, perhaps the place was too quiet, I could hear every small steps I took. There were plenty of video shows and audio narrations in most exhibits, but it requires the visitor to turn it on or put on the headphones. Personally, I would associate revolution and rally with drum beats and shouting, but what I experienced here was a quiet hall, except the chit-chat of some nearby visitors. Though I appreciate the exhibitions and had learnt a lot, it could be better had the sound effects was switched on. The good thing about the Memorial Hall is all exhibits came with both Chinese and English translation side by side.
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is a ‘live’ exhibits for many students, schools frequently send their pupils for projects study.
Besides the exhibits of Sun Yat Sen revolutionary movements, there are many interesting antiques to appreciate. Above is a picture on a century-old Japanese manufactured press printer.
Above picture: Shoes for bound feet. It was an ancient Chinese custom for woman to have their foot bind with cotton bandages from age five. It is shocking, but not unusual, to see an adult lady with foots measuring just three inches in length. The bound feet kept the woman from moving fast. Many obliged, except the poor who cannot afford to allow any household members to idle around. Now, what’s the length of your feet?
Above picture: An opium pipe. It was the sale of opium to China by the British that leads to many conflicts, eventually it led to the Opium War in 1839 when China was defeated. The defeat and the many which were to follow exposed the weaknesses and helplessness of the Qing government. Disappointment with the Qing government was a key factor in it being overthrown in 1911.
Above picture is a gigantic oil on canvas painting by Li Shu Ji in 2001 called Overseas Chinese as The Mother of Revolution. Sun Yat Sen ( in white) stood at the middle, rallying the overseas Chinese for support.
Statue of Sun Yat Sen, a popular photography spot. I came during a rainy day and was pleased to see less visitor and have the freedom to roam and snap!
The main entrance to Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. The place can be easily reached by a 10 minute bus service of 139 or 145 from the Toa Payoh MRT/Bus Interchange. Enclosed in a jungle of high rise buildings, the Memorial hall could be easily missed, so play it safe, informed the bus captain to alert you when reach.
Opening hours and admission charges of Wan Qing Yuan.
Do take note, guided tour are provided at specific time.
Bus service to Wan Qing Yuan.