Lee Khoon Choy is a prominent politician and diplomat, as well as journalist, painter, calligrapher and musician. He has served as a journalist for 13 years, working with Sin Chew Jit Poh, Nanyang Siang Pau and the Straits Times. Mr. Lee has also served as a Member of Parliament for 25 years in three constituencies (Bukit Panjang, Hong Lim and Braddell Heights), and was Ambassador to eight countries (Egypt, Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Japan and Korea). He has held ministerial posts in various ministries, namely in Culture, Education, Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister’s Office. His last posting was Senior Minister of State for PMO and Foreign Affairs.
However, the things closest to Mr. Lee’s heart are his hobbies: painting, calligraphy and music. As a journalist, politician and diplomat, he has had the opportunity to view historical treasures of the world, which have been recognized by UNESCO. Taking advantage of these golden opportunities, he painted his impressions of these relics on rice paper, and later the Japanese ‘washi’ and newly-invented painting materials made of cloth.
In his coming exhibition to be held in Beijing, Mr. Lee will display his paintings of all the Seven Wonders of the World, which were recently announced by the World Monument Committee, and much more.
Mr. Lee’s first solo painting exhibition was held in Jakarta in 1974 when he was Ambassador to Indonesia. It was opened by the Indonesian Minister of Culture, in aid of the Borobudur Renovation Fund. When he was Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Lee held four solo exhibitions, twice in Tokyo, once in Osaka and Nagasaki each. His biggest exhibition was held in the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in 1988 with the title: World Sceneries and Historical Monuments. Japan’s famous painters Higashiyama praised Mr. Lee’s paintings in his art album and Seiji Takayama had high praise for Mr. Lee’s paintings in his speeches during the exhibition.
Mr. Lee has also participated in group exhibitions in Japan. The first was held in Tokyo, called, Asian Artists Combined Exhibitions, and the second, Singapore Artists and Art Exhibition, was held in Sapporo, Japan.
In Japan, Mr. Lee’s paintings are being treasured in the collections of the Fuji Art Museum, Japan Imperial Hotel, Hotel New Nakagaki, and by the President of Sogo, Mitsushima, Japanese Ambassador to Singapore Miyake, Seiji Takayama, President of Japan Airlines Hashizumi, President of Kaneko Pearls Kaneko, and many other prominent Japanese businessmen.
Back in Singapore, Mr. Lee held a joint exhibition with Ho Kah Leong, a PAP colleague of his, at Takashimaya in 1995. The exhibition was held to raise funds for the Singapore Heart Foundation. In September 2002, Mr. Lee participated in the International Chung Ling Artists Invitation Show held in Penang. It was held in conjunction with the 85th anniversary celebrations of the Chung Ling High School. He also participated in the Singapore National Day Art Exhibition held in 2006.
Mr. Lee’s paintings were highly commended by various prominent Chinese painters including Liu Hai Su, Huang Zhou, Dong Sou Ping, Li Xiong Chye, Fan Zhen and Chang Su Hung, all of who have penned their comments on his paintings.
This will be the first exhibition Mr. Lee is holding in Beijing, having been invited there by the China Calligraphers and Painters International Exchange Association. He will be putting up more than 60 paintings containing his impressions of prominent UNESCO-recognized world treasures in China, Egypt, Jordan, Africa, Iran, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, American, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chili, Argentina, and other countries. In this exhibition, he compares Chinese sceneries with sceneries of the world as his paintings are grouped under categories such as, ‘mountains’, ‘lakes’, ‘waterfalls’, ‘grand canyons’, so on.
At the exhibition, he will also launch his new book entitled “Passage through China – this land so rich in beauty”, in which he pens his impressions, observations and feelings for the landscapes and history of all the provinces of China. He also presents a special gift to his supporters in the form of a disc. It is a recording of music he had played using the Chinese harp (guchen) in 1980 to raise funds for the building of a community center in his constituency.
He has received the following awards for his contributions:
1974: Bintang Bakti Utama (BBU), a Meritorious Service Star given by President Suharto of Indonesia for distinguished services rendered in promoting relations between Indonesia and Singapore.
1986: Scholarly Achievement Award given by the Japan Institute of Oriental Philosophy for “dedicated and outstanding achievements in the research and development of Eastern philosophy, thought and culture.”
1988: Meritorious Diplomatic Service Star given by President Roh Tao-woo of the Republic of Korea for his contribution towards promoting relations between ROK and Singapore.
1990: Darjah Utama Cemerlang (D.U.B.C.) – “Distinguished Service Order” awarded by the Singapore government for contribution towards the establishment of the nation.
1997: Honorary Academic member (Beijing PRC) awarded by the Chinese National Academy of Social Science of People’s Republic of China for contributions made in the field of Humanities and Social Services.