Dr Tan Tsze Chor who is also known as Tan Tiow Phuang and Xiang Xue Zhuang Zhu, was born in Singapore in 1911. His parents came from Dong Feng Village. Chao An County Guang Dong Province. Dr Tan went to China to receive his education at the age of four. He returned to Singapore at the age of 17 to start work as an apprentice. He was hard working and efficient and was promoted to the position of manager in a short period of time Subsequently he started his own business named Chiang Hong and Long Yong dealing with local produce Pepper was his main trade. His business expanded regionally to South East Asia as well as to Europe and America. As a result, he was known as the Pepper King.
Dr Tan was also widely acknowledged as the greatest art collection South East Asia. His extensive collection housed in his mansion serving as a cultural museum, included Chinese calligraphic artworks, paintings, seals, ink stones and others.
Besides collecting works of art, Dr Tan also practised Chinese calligraphy conscientiously and engaged in indepth research on the legacy of the old masters. As a result, he developed his own style of calligraphy with traditional ink and touches of colours a style unique in the history of Chinese calligraphy art.
Dr Tan participated regularly in local as well as international Chinese calligraphy exhibitions. In 1979 he published a book entitled Tan Tsze Chor Calligraphy which received high praises from the art community. In 1982 he published his second book on calligraphy in conjunction with his first solo exhibition at the Singapore National Museum.
Dr Tan was a generous supporter of local art movement. In 1950 he opened his collection of exquisite art works to the public to raise funds for charitable organisations. He also published art books of his specific collections such as Ren Bo Nian Art Works, Xiang Xue Zhuang Seals Collection, Xiang Xue Zhuang -Calligraphy Paintings and Qi Bai Shi Seal Notes for the benefit of local and international art lovers.
In 1977 Dr Tan contributed $50,000 to the Singapore Art Society to set up the Dr Tan Tsze Chor Art Award Fund. This award was for the best entry submitted to the SAS annual art exhibition. Since then Dr Tan’s family has been continuing to contribute to the fund regularly. That same year Dr Tan was conferred the Honourary Doctorate by the Taiwan Hua Gang Zhong Hua University in recognition of his contributions to art.
In 2003, the late Dr Tan’s family donated a significant part of their collection to the Asian Civilisations Museum to continue his father’s legacy of promoting Art in Singapore. The collection was conservatively value at over S$3 Million in the year 2003 and two years later it was estimated to be worth over S$5 Million. A Gallery at The Asian Civilisations Museum in Armenian Street has been named “The Dr Tan Tsze Chor Gallery” in his honour.