LIFE-LONG Learner 活到老,学到老

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

As a child, Uncle Tan was inspired by his mother who offered herbal remedies from her garden to neighbours and family members.  At 13, he was further impressed by a qigong master's accounts of how herbs could save lives. Thus began his lifelong quest to learn about the amazing gifts of nature. 

His jobs in fishing and later in a shipyard gave him the opportunity to travel to countries like India, Taiwan and other parts of Southeast Asia. On his travels, he collected plants and took particular note of how locals maintain their health and treat ailments, especially those with limited financial resources. He asked many questions and tried out what he learned when he came back home. He is also widely read but carefully verifies with several reliable sources before experimenting with a herb or remedy. 

When he landed a job that no longer required travelling, he started seeking land to grow herbs. But the journey was arduous ...

陈先生,深信学无止境。因为工作关系,他曾经去过许多国家。每到一个地方, 他都会收集当地草药样本,和观察当地人如何用有限的资源保健治病。回来之后继续研究实验。他也孜孜不倦,参阅许多书籍。但“尽信书不如无书”,在制定草药配方之前,他总会先验证草药与处方的功能,包括自己亲身实验。

忆起当年,陈先生的母亲喜欢把院子里种的草药与他人分享。 还是学生的他便见证了草药的神奇。 耳濡目染之下,陈先生也继承了这份无私。几年后,在机缘巧合下,他结识了一位气功大师并从他身上更深入地了解草药。只有13岁的他,便下定决心,要努力学习,精通草药,让跟多人受惠。


5 herb gardens in 10 years

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To transform barren space into fertile land (while holding a full-time job as a condo gardener) is back-breaking work. To finally see some harvest in his Choa Chu Kang plot only to have that taken away -- most people would have given up. But Uncle Tan repeated his efforts in a garden in Dempsey Road, only to lose it all again. He gritted his teeth and decided to start again.  

In 2005,  he finally obtained approval to start a community garden in Jurong West where he lives. Despite the fact that there was nothing but bare ground, and no water source, he was overjoyed as it finally became more convenient for members of the community to get herbs and help from him. He quit his job and started bringing soil to the barren land, one wheelbarrow at a time. People moved by his passion and determination began to offer their help.

在当全职公寓园丁的那几年,陈先生眼看自己辛辛苦开发的园地即将有收获,却被硬生生地没收。先是蔡厝港,然后是Dempsey Road  。。。每次他都咬紧牙关,从头做起。

他一直恳切地希望为了各界人士的方便,能在组屋区开辟草药园。经过不懈的努力,他终于如愿所偿。尽管只是一片混凝土,也没有水源,他仍旧兴致勃勃,毅然辞掉工作,又一次接受开荒的挑战。 泥土用手推车多趟来回铺上的。受到感动的旁观者也纷纷趋前助他一臂之力。


Photo   courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

To solve the water problem, Uncle Tan arranged to have water supplied by hosepipe to the garden from a unit several floors above. Months later, when he was offering his usual help to a passer-by, it turned out that she was able to reciprocate by helping him install water pipes.

Gradually, the garden took shape with more than 300 medicinal plants,  all cultivated without the use of chemical pesticide or fertiliser. Instead, the garden thrives on Uncle's organic fertilisers, such as charcoal ash and fermented plant waste.

(For many years he had offered free herbal tea 3 times a week at the 938 garden. Regrettably, this service which involves an enormous amount of hard work has been suspended recently due to manpower shortage.)



渐渐的,丝毫不用化学杀虫剂或肥料,只用他自研自创的炭灰和酵素,938 成为了有200百多种的花草树木的茂盛草药园。十年如一日,每逢星期一,三,wu,草药园总用特大沙锅,用大量新鲜的自种草药,熬煮保健茶,免费让居民和到访的客人享用。遗憾的是,这费时费力的服务,因人手不够,被迫暂停。

Further expansions

To meet the increasing demand for herbs, Uncle Tan sought and found a plot in Kranji. While he was very pleased with the scale and growing conditions, it called for punishing hours of hard work in the blazing sun. Most challenging was the uncertainty of the lease arrangement. But for now he just digs in his heels and tries to help as many people as possible, for as long as he can.




Photo courtesy of NTU Herb Garden

Photo courtesy of NTU Herb Garden

Apart from inspiring several community groups to start their herb gardens, Uncle Tan is also a founding member of NTU Herb Garden and continues to give educational talks at the garden. The NTU garden was started in 2009 by Mr Ng, a technician who was working in NTU. Despite the many challenges faced (and which the garden continues to face), it is today a thriving healing and butterfly garden. Beneficiaries come from far and near and the garden has benefited NTU's research efforts. In the not too distant future, there could be a new drug that contributes to less painful and more effective treatment for diseases like cancer -- all from the humble blue butterfly pea flower.




Fruit of His Labour 努力的成果

Recognition at Last

In December 2008, in recognition of the benefits to his community, the “938” garden became an official part of the landscape in Jurong West. At the official opening ceremony, Member of Parliament Mr Alvin Yeo cited not only the value of the plants for the community but also the inspiring perseverance of an individual.

Uncle Tan has received numerous accolades from the community and his garden in Jurong West has several times been awarded Gold and Silver medals by the "Community in Bloom" programme.  He was also inducted into the honour roll of the National Park Board’s “Community in Bloom Ambassadors”, in recognition of how he has inspired a love for gardening in many people. Despite being completely independent and not a registered TCM practitioner, his knowledge of plants has attracted the interest of local and foreign universities, and his achievements have been noted in media in Singapore, France, Taiwan and China.




Uncle Tan with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (2014, Clean & Green Singapore)

Gold medal from Community in Bloom (2016, 2014, 2012), Silver (2010)

Uncle Tan, with Gold Award of Community in Bloom 2012

Uncle Tan, with Gold Award of Community in Bloom 2012