Amoy’s links to Singapore (and the Nanyang 南洋 Region) extend beyond cultural ties of the Hokkien peoples that populate both islands today to specific members of the Overseas Chinese community. And one of the most important members of this community was Mr Tan Kah Kee 陳嘉庚.
Born in 1874 on Xiamen island, Tan Kah Kee is one of the most significant Chinese businessman, philanthropist and educator in recent history, with ties everywhere where there are significant communities of Overseas Chinese. His legacy was truly global, as evidenced by the many places and buildings named after him in Singapore, China and even in California.
His passion and interest was always for education, and he gave significantly towards the establishment of educational institutions, two of the most famous being Xiamen University 廈門大學 in Xiamen/Amoy, and The Chinese High School 華僑中學 in Singapore.
(Incidentally, my own relationship with Tan Kah Kee runs deep. The Chinese High School was my alma mater; and at the University of California, Berkeley, my other alma mater, there was also a Tan Kah Kee Hall named in Mr Tan’s honor, and likely funded by his foundation.)
While less prevalently known, Tan Kah Kee also left a lasting legacy on Chinese architecture, pioneering a modern, Nationalist style of architecture that married Chinese traditional elements onto a Western structural form. This style is conventionally known as the “Kah Kee” style 嘉庚风格.
This “Kah Kee” style can be seen in the original campus buildings of Xiamen University; as well as in the Lujiang Hotel 鷺江賓館 on the Amoy Bund, which owes its existence to Tan Kah Kee. (Another well-known example of this form of architecture is the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce Building in Singapore.)
There are two parts to this photo-gallery. The first explores the unique architecture of Xiamen University and takes a detour through the adjacent Nanputuo Temple 南普陀寺, up into the hills for a panoramic view of the entire university campus.
The second part takes in the venerable Lujiang Harbourview Hotel, established by Tan Kah Kee in 1958, just three years before he passed away.
I stayed at this hotel during my short sojourn in Xiamen, and while it isn’t quite to the four-star standards of other Grand Hotels on this tour – granted, it really wasn’t of the same league or era – I felt a strong sense of place and history here, particularly as I sat out on my balcony – the unique stone balconies being an iconic fixture of the Kah Kee style – overlooking the old Amoy waterfront, and Gulangyu Island in the near distance.
Part I – Xiamen University and Nanputuo Temple
Part II – The Lujiang Hotel