Taman Sri Nibong RA Log

March 10, 2015

Today is the birthday of Dr Wu Lien-Teh

Filed under: from the editor — mollyosc @ 9:47 am

The Penang Heritage Trails

of Dr.Wu Lien-Teh

( Source : myPenang )

The Story of Wu Lien-Teh


Dr. Wu Lien-Teh (伍连德, Mandarin: Wu Liande, Hokkien: Gnoh LeanTuck, Cantonese: Ng Leen-tuck , 10 March 1879 ~ 21 January 1960) was a Malayan-born Chinese and the first medical student of Chinese descent to study at University of Cambridge. He was also the first Malayan nominated to receive a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1935.
The first medical student of Chinese descent to study at University of Cambridge
3 Generations of Wu’s Family

Wu Lien-Teh was born in Penang on 10 March 1879. His father (伍祺学. Mandarin: Wu Qixue, Hokkien: Gnoh Kee Huck, Cantonese: Ng Khee Hok) originated from Toisan in Guangdong (广东台山 )and came to Penang at the age of 16 to become an apprentice in a goldsmith shop. Later Ng Khee Hok operated a goldsmith shop at China St and married a locally born Hakka woman named Lam Choy Fan (林彩繁Mandarin: Lin Caifan). They had 15 children but only 5 sons and 4 daughters survived. Wu Lien-teh ranked no. 4 in the family and his early education was in the Penang Free School at Farquhar St (1886-1896). He was selected as the School Captain in 1894.


Wu was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1896, after winning the Queen’s Scholarship held in Singapore. He had a successful academic performance at university, and won virtually all the available prizes and scholarships. His undergraduate clinical years were spent at St Mary’s Hospital, London.In 1903, Dr. Wu returned to the Straits Settlement after finishing his medical studies. However, there was no specialist position for him. This is because, at that time, there was a two-tier medical system in the British colonies, where only British nationals could hold the highest position of fully qualified medical officers or specialists. So, Dr. Wu spent the first 4 years of his medical career researching beri-beri and later, on his own private practice.

A hand-sewn badge designed by
Dr. Wu’s mother modelled after Cambridge University Emmanuel College’s logo
Mrs. Wu & son
at Love Lane residence

Dr. Wu married Miss Ruth Huang Shu-Chiung (黄淑琼) on 9th July 1905 in Singapore, the daughter of Wong Nai-siong (1849-1924), a noted Chinese scholar who played a key role in the establishment of a Foochow settlement in Sibu, Sarawak. The couple had their first son Wu Chang-keng (伍长庚) born in the following year.

Dr. Wu was very vocal in the social issues of the time. In the election of the office bearers on 9th Sept 1906, He became one of the vice presidents in the Penang Chinese Town Hall and actively called for the boycott of US goods when the US governments imposed discriminatory immigration policy towards the Chinese. He introduced reforms among the people, such as girls’ education, removal of towchang (Manchu pigtails), campaigned against gambling, formation of literary clubs, promotion of healthy physical exercises among children. He founded the Anti-Opium Association (1906) in Penang. This attracted the attention of the clandestine forces involved in the lucrative trade of opium and led to an intentional search and subsequent discovery of a mere one ounce of tincture of opium in Dr. Wu’s dispensary, which was considered illegal, although he was a fully qualified medical doctor who had purchased this to treat patients. News of his prosecution and appeal rejection attracted worldwide publicity, and later led to an invitation from the then Grand Councillor of China, Generalissimo Yuan Shi-kai (袁世凯)to take up the post of Vice-Director of the Imperial Army Medical College in Tianjin in 1908.

Anti-Opium Association.
Dr. Wu is seated at the far right
Dr. Wu at his lab in Harbin

In the winter of 1910, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh was given instructions from the Foreign Office of China to travel to Harbin to investigate an unknown disease which killed many of its victims. This turned out to be the beginning of the large pneumonic plague pandemic of Manchuria which ultimately claimed 60,000 victims. Dr. Wu would be remembered for his role in asking for imperial sanction to cremate plague victims, as cremation of these infected victims turned out to be the turning point of the epidemic. The suppression of this plague pandemic changed medical progress in China.

Dr. Wu chaired the International Plague Conference in Mukden (Shenyang) in April 1911, a historic event attended by scientists from the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Netherlands, Russia, Mexico and China. He later presented a plague research paper at the International Congress of Medicine, London in August 1911 which was published in The Lancet in the same month. Dr. Wu was the first president of the China Medical Association (1916–1920) and directed the National Quarantine Service (1931–1937). He was the only Chinese and Malayan to ever being nominated for Nobel Prize (in Medicine) in 1935.

Family photo in China.
The 1st wife died in 1937
Ashes of Dr. Wu & Mrs. Wu in Batu Gantung Columbarium

In 1937, with the Japanese occupying much of China and the retreat of the Nationalists, Dr. Wu moved back to Malaya where he worked as a general practitioner in Ipoh. To encourage the youth to share his love for reading, Dr. Wu tirelessly collected donations to start the Perak Library (now The Tun Razak Library) in Ipoh, a free lending public library. In his own medical practice at 12 Brewster Road (now Jalan Sultan Idris Shah), long queues were a common sight, and he was known as the doctor who gave free consultation and treatment to the poor. He practiced medicine until the age of 80, when he bought a new house in Penang for his retirement. Unfortunately, he died on 21 January 1960 11:30am, aged 81, barely one week after moving into the new house. Dr. Wu was cremated at Batu Gantung Cemetery and his ashes were interned in the columbarium there. His second wife Lee Suk-ching (李淑贞)whom he married in 1925 in Shanghai passed away ten years later and both are placed together.

Dr. Wu’s Early Days in Penang


1) China StWu Lien-teh was born in China St on 10-03-1879. We will begin our walk along this old street once occupied mostly by the Cantonese community.

2) King St -Muntri StHis father’s name is Ng Khee Hok (伍祺学) , a Cantonese Goldsmith shop owner originated from Toisan Sing Ling (台山新宁). He would have brought the young Wu Lien-teh to visit their ancestral temples at King St frequently: Ng See Kah Meow (伍氏家庙) -The Wu Clan Association & Toisan Nin Yong Hui Kwon (台山宁阳会馆)- Toisan Sing Ling Association. Ng Khee Hok’s name is also found engraved on the donors’ stone plaque inside the Penang Ta Kam Hong (庇能打金行) or Penang Goldsmiths Guild at Muntri St.

King St – Muntri St
Farquhar St

3) Farquhar St Wu Lien-teh was educated in Penang Free School, currently the site of Penang State Museum (Farquhar St) and spent his formative years in this elite English school (1886-1896). Better known as Gnoh Lean Tuck, he served as the School Captain in 1894.

4) 273,Chulia StDr. Wu operated a clinic at 273, Chulia St (1904-07) when he came back to Penang. He took over the business from a British woman and set up his private practice. He was framed and prosecuted for owning a mere ounce of opium used for patients without permit.
273, Chulia St
5) 38, Love Lane. Dr. Wu lived in a beautiful house with his wife Ruth Huang and son Chang-keng at 38, Love Lane.
6) 72, Love Lane. He founded Anti Opium Association (1906) at 72, Love Lane.

Dr. Wu’s Late Days in Penang


7) 39-I, Chor Sin Kheng Rd. Dr. Wu’s last residence at 39-I, Chor Sin Kheng Rd,AirItam.He died on 21st Jan, 1960, at the ripe age of 81.

8) Penang Free School, Greenlane. Penang Free School at Greenlane – The Wu Lien-Teh “House” (green colour), one of the sport groups named after him. There are book collections on Dr. Wu in the library.

Penang Free School, Greenlane
Taman Wu Lien-Teh
9)Taman Wu Lien-TehTaman Wu Lien-Teh at the back of YWCA named after him.

10) Batu GantongColumbarium. Dr. Wu & Mrs. Wu final resting place: Batu Gantong Columbarium, Room C, Nos. 68 & 67.

Batu Gantong Columbarium


The Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society Penang

Penang Monthly

Penang Free School Archives


wlt harbin

Harbin Medical University – bronze statue of Dr. Wu Lien-Teh

to honour his contributions in promoting public health,

preventive medicine and medical education 


Announcing the “Dr. Wu Lien-Teh Research Awards”


In 1915, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh co-founded the Chinese Medical Association which has become the largest medical association in the world with membership of half a million in China today. Dr. Wu went on to set-up more than 20 key medical institutions and laid a solid foundation for the modernization of public medical care in this populous nation.

To promote Dr. Wu’s medical legacy in public health, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh Society has decided to allocate a special fund to award and recognize students and scholars who excel in their medical researches annually. We would like to invite the press and the public to attend this event to remember this great son of Penang.


Time & Date: 10:30am, Sunday, 8 March 2015

Venue: Penang Heritage Trust, 26 Lebuh Gereja (Church Street), George Town

Enquiries264-2631  or 016-4175258



10:30am    Press Conference: Announcing the setting up of “Dr. Wu Lien-Teh Research Awards”

11:00am    Documentary Film show:  Dr. Wu Lien-Teh in China 1911-1937 – Medical foundations, the building of hospitals, the relentless advocacy of medical education and the regaining of China’s quarantine sovereignty.

12:15 pm   Tea break and fellowship

01:30 pm   End

Co-organised by Dr. Wu Lien-Teh Society and Penang Heritage Trust

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