In Shanghai, he was under the guidance of a number of pre-eminent artists, including Huang Binhong and Ye Gongchuo. His calligraphy was very much influenced by Ye, so much that that many of his own students also learned Ye’s calligraphy. Tan started with learning the calligraphy of Yan Zhenqing and Zhao Mengfu, and followed by practising extensively the Wei stone inscriptions.
Tan came to Singapore in 1949. He was a Principal of Tuan Mong High School. He also taught in Chung Cheng High School (Main). 1964. He retired in 1968 and died in 1972.
We can say that Tan is the person who had laid the foundation for the development of calligraphy in Singapore. His contributions to the field of calligraphy in Singapore were many-fold.
When he was the Principal of Tuan Mong High School, he created a very conducive environment for calligraphy learning. As a result, the school had produced many students who are good in calligraphy. As such, Tuan Mong was well known for calligraphy in Singapore.
In 1964, Tan was transferred from Tuan Mong to Chung Cheng High School (Main) as a teacher. Since then, he started teaching Chinese calligraphy, and did not stop teaching it till his death in 1972. During this period, he had trained many students such as Tan Siah Kwee, Khoo Seng Kong, Choo Pee Moy, Yeo Eng Choon and Yeo Eng Jiang. Many of his students have developed a lifelong love in Chinese calligraphy. Even after his retirement, he continued to invite these students to learn and practice the art in his home. Among them, Tan Siah Kwee is the founding member of and currently is still the President of the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore (CCSS), which was officially founded in December 1968. Khoo Seng Kong is the founding member of the Shicheng Calligraphy & Seal-carving Society and currently its Adviser. Both men have played a pivotal role in the development and promotion of Chinese calligraphy in Singapore.