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Pioneer painter stayed in Singapore thanks to some help from Lee Kuan Yew

Published on Aug 13, 2014 11:42 AM

Without the timely intervention by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew some five decades ago, Singapore would have lost the late Fan Chang Tien, a pioneer Chinese ink painter who groomed several generations of art talent here, to another country.

The artist's daughter, Teresa Yao, was barely 20 and a nursing student at the Singapore General Hospital when she met Mr Lee at the hospital in 1962.

China-born, Shanghai-trained artist Fan had just lost his job at Chung Cheng High School then, due to the school's new policy of hiring only local graduates. After Mr Lee heard of her father's plight, he intervened and a year later, Fan landed another teaching job at Whampoa Secondary School. He later became a Singapore citizen.

This quite unknown past of the artist is revealed in the book, Fan Chang Tien - The Literati Artist, which Teresa, now a real estate agent, and her retired architect husband Paul Yao, 84, have put together. The 338-page book in English and Chinese will be launched at The Arts House this evening in conjunction with a symposium on Fan and the opening of a week-long exhibition of his paintings.

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