Language: English / Indonesian

Family Background and Early Years

Tan was born in Ulu, a tiny city in the nutmeg and cloves producing volcanic island of Siau, part of the Sangihe Archipelago north of Sulawesi in Indonesia, close to the Philippines. His middle class father, Tan Pek-Yong, was a nutmeg and cloves trader, who taught himself to read, and his mother, Jauw Keng-Nio, was illiterate. Early on, Tan Pek-Jong recognized Goan-Po as unusually intelligent, and sent his son at the age of 10 to the city of Manado, in North Sulawesi, to finish his elementary schooling. Tan completed middle school in Tondano, North Sulawesi, and high school in Jakarta (formally Batavia), West Java. Goan-Po's schooling was predominantly conducted in the Dutch language since Indonesia, known as the Netherlands East Indies, remained a Dutch colony until 1949.