Ning Yeung Wui Kuan is the oldest Chinese clan association in Singapore. Established in 1822 in an attap building, it catered to Cantonese immigrants from Toi San County in Guangdong. The pictures above shows the its subsequent reconstruction based on traditional Cantonese architectural style in 1848 and 1906. Its founder, Cho Ah Chee, is believed to be one of the very first Chinese immigrants to Singapore in 1819. He was Raffles’ carpenter onboard the Indiana which left from Penang in a quest for a new port south of Malacca. According to oral tradition, Cho landed on the mouth of Rochor River and recced the vicinity to make sure that there were no Dutch presence before planting the British flag on forbidden hill to signal safety clearance. As a reward for Cho’s bravery, No. 1 Lavender street and a plot in South Bridge Road was given to him by the East India Company. The plot in South Bridge Road was where Ning Yeung Wui Kuan originally stood. Unfortunately, this beautiful building was demolished in 1962 to make way for a modern 5-storeyed new association building. In a strange twist, the new modern building was also demolished due to urban redevlopment.
Chinese clan associations, or Wui Kuan in Toi San dialect, played a key role in the Chinese migrant community. Ning Yeung Wui Kuan was initially run as a temple and meeting hall for people. Its role gradually expanded to include welfare services, employment, housing and education for the Cantonese already in Singapore as well as new immigrants. A night school called “Ning Yeung Night School” was started in 1906 within the premises of the old association buiding and operated until the late 1950s. Like Ning Yeung Wui Kuan, most clan associations were organized along blood or dialect lines. Their wide kinship network was an invaluable source of support for new immigrants, providing a community that new persons could easily fit into. The host community was much like home; the same language was spoken, the same were customs practised and the same occupations pursued. In times of shortage, clan associations stepped in to help in cash or in kind. Ning Yeung Wui Kuan is now located at 39 Ann Siang Rd in 1995.