I remember... My father, pioneer Chinese physician Teo Peck Hiang

The medicine man from China who left a legacy here

Madam Teo Buck Lang, 90, is carrying on her father's work at Sin Tong Kok. The Teo family, with patriarch Teo Peck Hiang seated in the centre and Madam Teo Buck Lang (second from left) and her husband, Mr Tan Wee Seng (far right).
The Teo family, with patriarch Teo Peck Hiang seated in the centre and Madam Teo Buck Lang (second from left) and her husband, Mr Tan Wee Seng (far right).PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHEN YAYI
Madam Teo Buck Lang, 90, is carrying on her father's work at Sin Tong Kok.
Madam Teo Buck Lang, 90, is carrying on her father's work at Sin Tong Kok.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Teo Peck Hiang was a Chinese scholar well versed in painting, calligraphy and poetry, and a physician who taught and edited magazines on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

He was also chief examiner at the Thong Chai Medical Institution, then the only public examining body for Chinese medicine here.

In August 1965, it was reported that a record 48 people, including five women, signed up for the triennial "sinseh" exam to answer questions set by a panel of well-known physicians headed by Mr Teo, who died that year, aged 73.

"My father was already a physician in China," said Madam Teo Buck Lang, 90, the second of Mr Teo's four children.

Born in Puning, Chaozhou, he moved with his family to Thailand and became a school principal. When the Thai authorities banned the study of Chinese language, he moved to Singapore in the 1930s.

AMAZING FEAT
 

One does not know what to admire more about the Singapore Housing and Development Board - its aplomb in meeting targets or its verve in setting them still higher. It has just calmly completed building 51,000 flats in its first five-year programme, confounding the early critics and abolishing
the waiting lists.

ST EDITORIAL on Aug 17, 1965, as the Housing Board announced its new target of building 60,000 flats in its next five-year plan (1966-1970)

He opened a medical stall in Tan Quee Lan Alley and saw patients for a token fee. "All kinds of people came to see him," said Madam Teo in Mandarin.

He then opened a medical shop in the Balestier area before starting Tong Kok Medical Hall in Rochor Road in 1940.

Madam Teo recalled her father walking long distances to treat a 14-year-old girl with serious eye problems. There was also a woman who could not conceive but had a son after drinking the medicine he prescribed, she added.

"People at that time didn't really believe in Western medicine," she told The Sunday Times.

Madam Teo's late husband, Mr Tan Wee Seng, worked for her father and in the late 1940s, the couple bought over the Tong Kok Medical Hall and renamed it Sin Tong Kok.

Her father took the rest of the family back to China, where he intended to settle down. But after the Chinese Communist Party took over, times were hard and food was scarce.

He returned to Singapore in the 1950s with his eldest son and they ran another medical hall, which has since closed.

Madam Teo, who used to help her father prepare medical prescriptions, turned his herbal tea formulas into products under her company's Pearlring brand. Sin Tong Kok is now in the wholesale business.

Madam Teo, who has 10 children, 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, still helps out at the shop. She could have been just a mother and housewife, she said, but continued her father's business and created her own ginseng bak kut teh and chicken soup products.

She said: "What I'm most happy about is that I have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are all very well behaved."

Ho Ai Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'The medicine man from China who left a legacy here'. Print Edition | Subscribe