Tan Kah Kee

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On October 21, 1874, Tan Kah Kee (Chinese:陈嘉庚) was born in Jimei, Tong'an County, southeast China's Fujian Province. He went to Singapore when he was 16 years old to work for his father's store. Then, Tan started his own store and built his business empire not long after. Though living abroad, he still thought of his motherland day and night.

Tan was a social and political reformer since his youth. He witnessed the Qing government's corrupt rule and decided to devote himself to saving the country. In 1910, Tan clipped off his pigtail and joined the Tung Meng Hui (the Chinese Revolutionary League) that later overthrew the Qing Dynasty in the revolution of 1911. He had financially supported Dr. Sun Yat-sen with more than 200,000 yuan for the revolution. Unfortunately, the revolution came unstuck. Seeing that China was still fettered by imperialism after the revolution, Tan thought that perhaps the only way to gradually improve the condition was through proper and adequate education.

From 1913, Tan opened and ran the Jimei primary school in his hometown. Between 1920 and 1926, he opened a school a year, giving Jimei School Village a total of 11 schools, including a middle school and schools in agriculture, commerce, forestry and navigation, among others. In 1921, he founded Xiamen University, which was then the only university in Fujian Province.

When Tan died on August 12, 1961, he donated his entire savings of over 3 million yuan to the state for the development of education.