It is remarkable that no biography of Tan Kim Seng has been published until now considering that his imprint on 19th century Singapore is so significant. Most Singaporeans will associate him with the Tan Kim Seng Fountain, Kim Seng Road and Kim Seng Bridge. Others may be aware of how the fountain came to be and that Tan Kim Seng in 1849 founded Chong Wen Ge, the first Chinese school in Singapore. Or that he was pivotal in quelling the Great Riot of 1854 when Hokkien and Teochew secret societies clashed. And that he gave a ball that was so famous that it was reported in England in a journal published by Charles Dickens. Some may not even know these facts. In the year when Singapore commemorates its bicentennial, it is timely that the life story of one of our most entrepreneurial pioneers is made known in a lavish book illustrated with rare images from the Tan family collection. Tan Kim Seng was not the typical refugee from South China. His family had already been in the Nanyang for three generations when he arrived in Singapore in the 1820s. With business acumen and gaining trust with British merchants, he built an empire with warehouses, mansions and the largest single piece of property which stretched from the coast of Pasir Panjang to Ulu Pandan to Tanglin. The details of his will, designed to repel “the curse of the third generation”, is founded on his values and beliefs. But what he did not anticipate was how his well-thought-out plans would be unraveled primarily by English Law.