Friday, July 2, 2010

KING OF KATONG

"Chew Joo Chiat came to be known as the undisputed King of  Katong in the 1930s" said Chew's grandson Lee Beow Guan in the book JOO CHIAT a living legacy. The book was published in 2001 by the Joo Chiat Consultative Committee in association with the National Archives of Singapore.



















The National Library of Singapore used the title The King of Katong in a poster to advertise my talk there on 30 August 2008. The topic of my talk was 'how I traced my family history' and not on the King of Katong in particular. The next organisation to use the phrase 'King of Katong' was the Joo Chiat Grassroots Organisations in its 5th issue Apr-Jun 2010 quarterly newsletters to Joo Chiat Constituency residents. Copy of the newsletter is shown below.


 















As Chew's great grandson, I am very proud of him being known as the King Katong. But my intuition told me it could not be true. I am a very close member of Chew's family and I have not heard of it mentioned by my parents or grand parents when they were still alive. In the case of how Joo Chiat Road got its name, the matter was talked about from one generation to another. My grand son was so proud of his heritage that he told his teacher about it. My conscience was pricking me without probing the matter further. Finally I decided to investigate and went to the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library to do my research. I browse throught the micro films, books and publications of Joo Chiat. The result was zero. Therefore, Chew Joo Chiat became the undisputed King of Katong was not substantiated.

Below are some of the articles about Chew Joo Chiat and the roads named after him, but there was no mention that he was known as the King of Katong.

 


 



My purpose of this post is tell the true story of Chew Joo Chiat. I noticed some websites still state that Chew Joo Chiat was a wealthy Peranakan land owner when he was a Chinaman.

8 comments:

unk Dicko said...

I think the term or precise word "king" can be used in a number of ways with different meaning.
Generally if it means he was "the leading patron, towkay, light" then in Katong...it should be acceptable.
But if used as only the tradtional Chinese knew it from history...then it may be a little bit off.
Whatever...the fact remains Chew Joo Chiat was a very important figure in the life and times of Katong, Joo Chiat and elsewhere.

陳韋夏陳韋夏益東富益東富 said...

nice to know you, and glad to find such a good artical!..................................................................

Philip said...

unk Dicko, nobody has heard or refer Chew Joo Chiat as King of Katong before the book JOO CHIAT a living legacy, was published. If I don't correct the inaccuracy,it'll be taken as true.

Icemoon said...

I guess Lee Beow Guan can tell us where he heard that from :P

It could be a translation from dialect, maybe a title to that effect.

Philip said...

Lee Beow Guan lives in Batu Pahat, Johore. If only somebody could talk to him about it. My purpose is to stop any inaccurate account of Chew Joo Chiat from spreading. He had been labelled as a Peranakan in many websites. After my blog many had removed the word 'Peranakan'. Still, some websites have not changed.

Icemoon said...

The fact that his only portrait in public domain shows him in a suit with side-parting hairstyle doesn't help. We expect to see Chinamen in pigtails and chinese robe like Whampoa, not in a suit like Lim Boon Keng. I was quite surprised when Tan Tock Seng turned out to be Straits Chinese, I thought he kept a pigtail from his portrait?!

Philip said...

He might have a pigtail in 1877. After he had prospered and married a Peranakan lady, do you expect him to see him in a pigtail or parting hair and a suit when chairing meetings in his bank and tin mining corporation?

KH Lee said...

I am afraid it would be impossible for anyone this side of heaven to talk with Lee Beow Guan, my late father. He went home to the Lord a decade ago.