Our founder, the late Mr Yeoh Liew Kung, was born in Fujian Province, China in 1912. Like many young people living in poverty-stricken Southern China in those days, Mr Yeoh headed for ‘Nanyang’ (Southeast Asia) to look for a better life. He eventually settled in Singapore in the 1930s, married Soon Soo Keow, a Teochew opera actress who came to Singapore from Jieyang in China’s Guangdong Province and together raised a family of 9 children.
Beginning of The Business
Mr Yeoh, a physician in Traditional Chinese Medicine, created the Double Prawn brand Herbal Oil (双虾标青草油) in the 1950s from a secret formulation passed down from his ancestors. He started using Herbal Oil to treat friends and neighbours suffering from various common afflictions such as minor wounds, bites, burns and scabies. He gave the oil away as gifts to his friends and neighbours who could not afford to see a doctor. Herbal Oil proved to be extremely effective. With the strong encouragement from many satisfied users, Mr Yeoh and his wife decided to start a small business with the name Tai Tong Ah Company to manufacture and sell Herbal Oil and other TCM products. Over time, the company decided to concentrate on just 2 products, namely Herbal Oil and Rumagon.
Early Days of The Business
In the early days of the business, marketing was simply done through word-of-mouth, mainly in Singapore and Malaysia. At that time, Tai Tong Ah’s TCM products were peddled by itinerant salespersons carrying the products in a basket and going door to door. In addition, Mr Yeoh and his wife would drive their colourfully painted van to make brief sales stops in villages. They would set up shop using the back of the van for 20 minutes or so at each stop, using loudspeakers to announce their presence. Villagers, especially children, would gather around the van out of curiosity. Simple gifts such as toys or calendars were given with each purchase. So confident was Mr Yeoh about the efficacy of Herbal Oil that even in those days, the company offered a money-back guarantee if the product did not turn out to be as effective as claimed. Over time, Herbal Oil acquired a strong reputation within the local community and business grew steadily. Many people suffering from a variety of skin diseases came to Singapore to purchase the product.
Active Community Involvement
Besides running the business, Mr Yeoh led a busy life of active community involvement. He was a great supporter of charitable organizations and activities promoting Chinese music, art and culture, both within and outside Singapore. Under his leadership, the company actively sponsored many charitable events. He regularly distributed thousands of bottles of Double Prawn products to events involving the elderly, such as the People’s Association Senior Citizens’ week and activities for the elderly organised by churches. Mr Yeoh was also actively involved in many business and clan associations in Singapore, including the Traditional Chinese Medicine Manufacturers Association (where he served as President for many years), the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association (where he served as Honorary Chairman), Chao Ann Association and the Singapore China Friendship Association. He spent many years serving in the Residents’ Committee for the River Valley Constituency. In recognition of his numerous contributions to the community, Mr Yeoh received the PBM* award from the Singapore Government in 1975.
Key Player in The Development of Teochew Opera
Mr Yeoh is regarded as one of the key players in the development of Teochew opera in China and Southeast Asia. He enjoyed Teochew opera and was a principal instrumentalist in several popular Teochew opera troupes. He fought to improve the welfare and living standards of Teochew opera actors in the region by setting up the Malayan Teochew Opera Association. During the days of high unemployment and low literacy in the 1950s, he founded the “Chit Hoon Teochew Opera Company” to create jobs. He even established strict rules for employees of the company to help them in their personal development. He expected all employees in the opera company to observe the following rules:
- Always be punctual
- Keep away from the vices of opium, gambling and bad language
- Learn from one other
- Learn to speak, read and write Mandarin
Becoming A Qigong Master
In his later years, well into his eighties, Mr Yeoh developed a serious interest in ‘qigong’, learning from a famous qigong master from China. He soon mastered the techniques and began to conduct classes regularly at the MacRitchie Reservoir in the morning. At its peak, he had more than a hundred students from all walks of life, faithfully learning the graceful qigong moves from him.
Mr Yeoh maintained a very disciplined lifestyle for most of his life, taking healthy food and exercising daily. He remained fit and alert and was still managing his company in his nineties. Unfortunately, he eventually succumbed to cancer and passed away peacefully on 15 Feb 2004 at the ripe old age of 92, leaving behind many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, plus a rich legacy from his contributions to TCM and Chinese culture in Southeast Asia.
* The Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) was instituted in 1973. The medal may be awarded to any person who has rendered commendable public service in Singapore or for his achievement in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions, and the labour movement.