As the colonial government advocated English education, the local Chinese strived to preserve the traditional spirit of learning and preserve their culture. They believed in the importance of Confucian ethics. Many driven Chinese merchants took the bold step to carve a niche in politics, economics and culture, and contributed greatly to society at that time. Various Confucian Chinese merchants such as Tan Kah Kee, Tan Lark Sye and Lee Kong Chian were the best representation of the Confucian merchant. Their extraordinary achievements earned them a place in history. The influence of these prominent figures, particularly Tan Kah Kee, continues to make a big impact on Southeast Asia today. In 1953, merchant Tan Lark Sye built Nanyang University (abbreviated Nantah), his generosity was an inspiration to the Chinese community. The philanthropic contributions of Tan Kah Kee superseded that of the other merchants. Tan Kah Kee's endeavours benefited numerous Chinese schools and organisations.
The selflessness and ethics of these Confucian merchants reflect the spirit of Confucian beliefs. Today this same spirit continues to drive Chinese merchants to make educational contributions, promote Chinese culture and nurture the future generations for Singapore.