As the Nanyang (Southeast Asia) headquarters of Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Chinese Revolutionary Alliance or Tong Meng Hui, Singapore assumed a pivotal role in the 1911 Revolution which eventually overthrew the Qing dynasty and led to the birth of modern-day China. Dr. Sun had many loyal overseas Chinese supporters such as Teo Eng Hock, Tan Chor Lam and Lim Nee Soon. They provided invaluable support in the form of fundraising activities and the dissemination of revolutionary principles and ideals.
Originally known as Wan Qing Yuan, this villa was bought by Teo Eng Hock in 1905 as a retirement home for his mother’s twilight years. He later offered the villa to Dr. Sun for his revolutionary activities. It was in this villa that Dr. Sun planned three uprisings before the successful Wuchang Uprising of 1911.
After Teo Eng Hock sold off Wan Qing Yuan in 1910, the villa changed ownership several times. In 1937, six Chinese leaders from the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and local business community — Lee Kong Chian, Tan Ean Kiam, Lee Chin Tian, Chew Hean Swee, Lee Choon Seng and Yeo Kiat Tiow — pooled their resources together to purchase the villa. In 1938, they donated the villa to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (now known as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI)). The villa was opened to the public for the first time as a memorial hall on New Year’s Day in 1940.
In 1994, the memorial hall was gazetted as a national monument. SCCCI renamed Wan Qing Yuan as “Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall” and announced plans for its revamp in 1996. The Memorial Hall was subsequently re-opened to the public in 2001.
In 2009, SCCCI appointed the National Heritage Board to manage Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall Board which comprises of SCCCI Vice-President and Council Members maintains oversight on the operations of the Memorial Hall and sets the strategic directions for the Memorial Hall.
The Memorial Hall underwent redevelopment works in October 2010. One year later, the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall was re-opened to the public on 8 October to commemorate the centenary of the 1911 Revolution.
Today, the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is a national monument and heritage institution managed under the National Heritage Board. The refurbished museum traces Dr. Sun's revolutionary activities in Southeast Asia, the contributions of the Singapore Chinese to the 1911 Revolution, as well as the impact of the revolution on Singapore and the Chinese community.