Standing out against the urban cityscape along Penang Road is the iconic House of Tan Yeok Nee. With its distinctive Chinese-style architecture built in 1882, it was originally the home of prominent Teochew Chinese businessman Tan Yeok Nee and his family. Now, it houses Ming Yi Guan, the Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s first treatment facility outside China, and in South-east Asia.
Being the only courtyard house left in Singapore (there were initially three), the Chinese mansion was gazetted as a national monument in 1974.
“We had to be very careful about what we did (when refurbishing it). Even when cleaning, we use only a soft cloth and water,” says Tan Boon Pheng, the head of design management at Perennial Real Estate Holdings Limited, the company in partnership with Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine that’s behind the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) centre.
The mansion’s large courtyard, separating the entrance foyer from the main hall, is just one of the sensational architectural and design features. In the main hall, look up to find ornate carvings on the beams and rafters depicting scenery and motifs such as pumpkins (an auspicious symbol in Teochew culture). On the outside, along the ridges of the roofs, fragments of colourful tiles were used to make the attractive decorations and sculptures of auspicious creatures such as phoenixes, and flowers — a rare craft technique. The walls near the roof on the second storey are decorated with calligraphy and murals, too. It was during a major renovation in 2000 that craftsmen from China were specially brought in to restore the damaged details, says Boon Pheng.
Now, in all its glory, the conserved 21,500sqf two-storey property goes back to its Chinese roots with TCM. The centre’s features include an “herbalist counter” (TCM pharmacy) with a built-in medicine cabinet that backdrops the main hall, a pavilion with a view of the eco- pond, an event hall, auditorium, as well as 17 consultation and treatment rooms.
Ming Yi Guan even has an in-house brewing facility where medicine is pre-packed through an automated process for hygiene.
To complete the look, furnishings in the Ming dynasty style were procured from local stores. Drop by to take in the visual splendour of its architectural details, while making sure your body is in the pink of health.
MING YI GUAN IS AT THE HOUSE OF TAN YEOK NEE, 101 PENANG ROAD, TEL: 6351-9640.