Run by the father-son duo of Goh Yong Chiang and Goh Seng Ngee, Chan Ngee Trading Co is an antique shop situated in Chinatown. Their shop floor is filled with an impressive array of Chinese treasures such as sculptures, paintings, teapots, vases, snuff bottles, and many more, with some artefacts dating as far back as the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). For the Gohs, every antique has a story to tell – and this story can only be discovered through thorough research, such as by tracing documentation, examining books and records, and studying treatises on antique identification and appraisal.
Chan Ngee Trading Co’s own story begins in the 1930s, right at the cusp of World War II. As Japan swept across parts of China, Yong Chiang’s father, Goh Tiang Siang, arrived in Singapore and established Thye Nam Co, a household goods wholesaler that supplied bulk orders to large retailers such as departmental stores. Among the products they offered were ceramic pieces from Fengxi, a district in eastern Guangdong province famed for their porcelain, and Tiang Siang’s erstwhile home. Porcelain was a very valuable product at the time, capable of commanding high prices. As a result, Thye Nam Co grew very quickly, and Yong Chiang came to Singapore to assist his father with the business in the 1940s. In 1969, Yong Chiang struck out on his own and opened Chan Ngee Trading Co as a ceramics and crafts wholesale store. That, too, experienced early success, and Yong Chiang opened a second store in 1972. In the 1990s, his son, Seng Ngee, joined the business.
Today, Chan Ngee Trading Co specialises in the trading of antiques. They serve a diverse range of clients, such as private individuals, famous artists, and sophisticated museums. Among their patrons are notable collectors, including the Sultan of Brunei. When asked about whether he collects antiques himself, Seng Ngee replies with a laugh that he generally tries not to be overly-sentimental about his products. However, as the Gohs regale their customers with stories about their many artefacts, it quickly becomes clear that the business has left an indelible mark on them, and given them an abiding love for the heritage embodied in their antiques.