Nanyang University (Nantah) – Arches & Gardens

There are two Nanyang University arches in Singapore. The original Nanyang University arch structure is still stands along Jurong West Street 93 and was gazetted as a national monument on 18 December 1998. The construction work on the grand and distinctive Arch of Nanyang University started in October 1954 and was presented to the public soon after. It is located at the entrance of the University, extending its arms to welcome new students to the new University. The University was the first Chinese-language university in Southeast Asia established in 1955.

The four characters “南洋大学” (Nanyang University) on the original arch was written by cursive script calligraphy expert Yu Youren (于右任, 1879 – 1964). The year 1955 represented the year when the pre-university classes were started for students to prepare for their entry to the new university.

Nantah was founded in 1953 by an entrepreneur named Tan Lark Sye who amassed his wealth from the rubber company he built, initially with his brother, but alone after losing half the capital in the first year. A fund was set up for the purpose of creating a Chinese university in Singapore to provide higher education to the Chinese community. It drew donations from people of all walks of life, namely ordinary folks who showed cohesiveness in their supports. 1,770 trishaw riders and nightclub hostesses donated a day of their incomes to the noble cause. Tan Lark Sye himself donated $5 million. The Singapore Hokkien Association, which he is the Chairman of, donated 500 acres in the western Jurong area, which was then largely undeveloped rural land.


Taken in 1955. Photo courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.

The names of the roads in the university were named after places in China: Nanking Road, Wuhan Road, Peking Road, Fuchow Road, etc… the arch stands at the entrance to the university near the junction of Nanyang Avenue and Upper Jurong Road. This original arch is still at the same location but the surrounding landscape has changed drastically.


click to enlarge

Since the redevelopment of the area, the original arch was cut off from the university campus grounds. A replica arch was built and unveiled on 17 May 1995 by then Minister for Information and the Arts, Brigadier General George Yeo, in the Yunnan Garden in front of the Chinese Heritage Centre on NTU Campus.

Aparently, the garden has not changed very much over the years. I like the accents like the well maintained pavilions and old style park lamps that gives the park a historic feel.

In the garden grounds, there is a Memorial erected to pay tribute and to show appreciation to all donorsof Nanyang University, as well to commemorate the completion of the first-phase building programme. The Memorial was unveiled on 30 March 1958 by His Excellency, the Governor of Singapore, Sir William Goode, with Mr Tan Lark Sye, Chairman ofthe Executive Committee of the Nanyang University in attendance. Both the Nanyang University Arch and the Nanyang University Memorial were declared national monuments in 1998.

Consisting a library and a museum, the Chinese Heritage Centre in NTU was founded in 1995 to provide knowledge and studies of ethic Chinese communities around the world. It was previously an administrative building and library for Nantah, and was built together with the university in 1955. Eight huge Chinese characters found on the slopes in the garden leading to the Chinese Heritage Centre read “zi qiang bu xi, li qiu shang jin”, described in English as “To thrive in adversity, to strive and improve oneself constantly”.

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