Pan Shou

Pan Shou, whose other name is Guoqu, was born in the district of Nanan, Fujian Province, China, in 1911. The year of 1911 Revolution ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty. The war of the warlords, the Northern Expedition of the Kuomintang, the Japanese invasion, the Sino-Japanese war years and the civil war between the Communists and the Kuomintang followed. These were tragic events and a very traumatic period for China.
Pan Shou was patriotic since young and this is evident in his poems, which express his great love for the country. Pan Shou came to Singapore as a young man of 19, already well-schooled in Chinese classics and the brush. With his great gift and erudition evidently integrated in his creation, his poems are in harmony with spirit of nature. His works are at once subtle and yet thoroughly open, profound and yet relaxed, crisp and yet intense, and playful and yet dignified. They always leave one in awe and wonder. His poems, whether describing a scene or based on historical facts, show his concern of the time.

During his youth, Pan Shou started learning to write in the regular script or kaishu style from the works of two great

Tang calligraphers, Yan Zhenqing and Yu Shinan. He first studied under Zhen Qiu, a famous scholar and calligrapher from Fujian province. He was already as good as his master by the time he was in secondary school and was often asked by his teacher to write on his behalf. This shows he had reached a very high standard even at a young age.

Scholar Qia Zhongshu commended Pan Shou for being able to achieve "two excellences" with his brush, referring to his outstanding skills in poetry and calligraphy. No matter in what forms, Pan Shou's calligraphy looks natural and yet powerful. Pan Shou's artistic achievement is the result of decades of hard work and study of the ancient Chinese scripts. Pan Shou also studied the many calligraphic masterpieces of China, especially those on commemorative stone tablets. Upon this foundation, Pan Shou gradually evolved his own calligraphic style and became the most well-know calligrapher in Singapore. His mixed cursive and running-hand characters are an endless variety of sensitive brush strokes as if the ink has a life of its own.

Source: Pan Shou Exhibition Committee (ed.) (1995). Pan Shou shi shu hui gu . Singapore: Singapore Art Musuem, National Heritage Board.


He received the Meritorious Service Medal in 1994, a Singapore Cultural Medallion and a cultural award from the French government.

What is less known is his role in the founding of Nanyang University (Nantah). When the first vice-chancellor, Lin Yutang, left with less than a year to go before the classes were to begin in March 1955, it was Pan who was given the task of getting the university on its feet to welcome its first batch of students.

At a Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (clan association) annual general meeting in the '60s, chairman Tan Lark Sye reportedly commented that "without Pan Shou, Nantah's door could not have opened".

It was also believed by some that it was because of Nantah that Pan was without his Singapore citizenship for 25 years. Speaking without rancour, he mused that he was like a bonzai plant because his Certificate of Identity made overseas travel a cumbersome affair. So he stayed mainly in his "pot", Singapore.

Source: Pan Shou's pivotal role in university's startup by Pang Cheng Lian

Published in the lifestyle Section of the Straitstimes, November 28 of 1996


Pan Shou, Singapore's pre-eminent Chinese classical poet and calligrapher, was born in Fujian, China in 1911.

When he arrived in Singapore at the age of 19, Pan Shou had already received rigorous training in both the Chinese classics and the brush. Over the years, he became a prolific artist as well as, an avid observer and critic of contemporary culture and society. Through an extensive repertoire of poetry and calligraphic works, Pan Shou made significant contributions to Singaporeís cultural and literary landscape.

Pan Shouís Literary Works

The themes adopted by Pan Shou in his literary works were wide and diverse, ranging from the Japanese Occupation in Singapore to the impact of information technology on society. His works exuded a profound understanding of Chinese literature and history, and reflected his feel of current issues and contemporary affairs.

Pan Shou was also an accomplished poet. Some 600 of his poems have been published in a four-volume collection called "Pavilion Beyond The Ocean" (1970) and in the "Pan Shou Nanyuan Poetry Collection" (1984). His latest offering "An Anthology of Poems", was launched shortly before his death.

Panís Calligrahic Prowess

Throughout his life, Pan Shou studied and practised the archaic scripts of the Qin, Han and Wei dynasties. His unique, personal style evolved from his mastery of the ancient scripts, making him the most celebrated calligrapher in Singapore.

Pan Shou often infused his calligraphic works with poetry. His poems would flow effortlessly through his brush onto rice paper, adding a further touch of originality to his works.

For his outstanding achievements in calligraphy and poetry, scholar, philosopher and gentleman Pan Shou was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1994 by the Singapore government.

Source: Selected Poems of Pan Shou (with Modern Chinese and English Translations)



Poem of Zither 1999 8 panels (purchased by the Singapore Art Museum with support from the Lee Foundation)

Selected Exhibitions:

1990 Singapore Art Fair (Singapore)

1991 Singapore Art fair (Singapore)

1991 Solo calligraphy exhibition: National Museum Art Gallery (Singapore)


Gold Medal, Salon des Artistes Francais, Grand Palais, Paris (France)

Cultural Medallion Award, Ministry of Information & The Arts (Singapore)

Selected Collections:

National Museum Art Gallery (Singapore)