IIAS Lunch Lecture

Embedding biography within larger issues of Chinese Diaspora studies: Nanyang Tycoon Lee Kong Chian, 1920s-1960s

Lunch Lecture by IIAS fellow Prof. HUANG Jianli from the History Department of the National University of Singapore.

Lunch is provided. Registration is required.

Nanyang tycoon Lee Kong Chian (1893-1967) is an iconic figure in the Chinese diasporic landscape. Born in China, he migrated to colonial British Singapore as a young boy in 1903. Empowered by his bilingual competency, he began his career with the leading Chinese businessman and community leader Tan Kah Kee and later married his daughter. But he soon surged into the public limelight as a force in his own right from the late 1920s and built up a formidable cross-border business empire. Displaying his entrepreneurial flair, especially during the Great Depression and the Korean War, he became the ‘Rubber King’ and ‘Pineapple King’ of Southeast Asia. He left a profound transnational imprint in the realms of business, education, and philanthropy.

This seminar will sketch out an ongoing biographical project which aims at producing the first major English-language work on Lee. The presentation will then take on the challenge of embedding this life-and-times biography within the larger issues of Chinese diaspora studies. Angles under exploration will include identity politics, ethnicity, transnationalism, scaling spatial crossing, as well as colonialism and post-coloniality.

HUANG Jianli is an Affiliated Fellow with IIAS in Leiden and he is from the History Department of the National University of Singapore. His first field of study is the history of student political activism and local governance in Republican China from the 1910s to 1940s. His second research area is the Chinese diaspora, especially the relationship between China and the Chinese community in Singapore. He has a monograph on ‘The Politics of Depoliticization in Republican China’ (1996, 2nd edition 1999, Chinese edition 2010) and co-authored ‘The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts’ (2008). His co-edited volumes include ‘Power and Identity in the Chinese World Order’ (2003) and ‘Macro Perspectives and New Directions in the Studies of Chinese Overseas’ (Chinese, 2002).

Picture: Sun Yat-sen visits overseas Chinese. Source: Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Singapore 

Chinese diaspora, Singapore


Registration (required)

If you would like to attend this lecture, please register via our webform below (before Friday 1 February, 14:00 hrs if you would IIAS to provide lunch).

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, one of the IIAS affiliated fellows gives an informal presentation about his/her work-in-progress. IIAS organises these lectures to provide the research community with an opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas. Anyone with an interest in the topic is welcome to attend and join the discussion.