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The Tan Kah Kee Science Award grows out of the former Tan Kah Kee Award, which was established in 1988 and named after Mr. Tan Kah Kee (1874-1961), a well-known overseas Chinese leader who had remarkably contributed to the development of science and education in China. The Tan Kah Kee Award was first set up by Mr. Tan’s relatives, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences was entrusted for its organization and evaluation.
The Tan Kah Kee Award was issued eight times since its inauguration. Dozens of outstanding Chinese scientists received the honor, including winners of Pre-eminent Science and Technology Award Wu Wenjun, Wang Xuan, Huang Kun, Liu Dongsheng, Wu Mengchao and Ye Duzheng. State leaders Jiang Zemin, Li Ruihuan and Li Lanqing and Nobel Prize laureates Profs. Chen Ning Yang and Samuel C.C. Ting were present at the prize-giving ceremonies. The Award has gained fame and produced far-reaching influence in the science and technology circles at home and abroad, giving a substantial impetus to China’s S&T development and innovations. However, its operation was suspended in 2001 due to the lack of a fixed fund.
With the backing of leaders from the State Council and the support from the Ministry of Finance, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Bank of China, the Tan Kah Kee Science Award Foundation was duly registered and formally established in February 2003 upon the approval of the State Council and the ratification of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
The Foundation is a national nonprofit entity funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Bank of China. It is an independent corporate body under the academic leadership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the supervision and management of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
The objective of the Foundation is to reward prominent Chinese scientists who have made outstanding achievements, so as to promote China’s science and technology development and to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Foundation exercises a responsibility system of the Council Board, which consists of representatives from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Bank of China, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of S&T, the Ministry of Education, the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China, the China Association for science and technology and the Chinese Academy of Engineering as well as celebrities enthusiastic for the cause.
 The Foundation sets up the Tan Kah Kee Science Award in recognition of the living Chinese citizens who have made outstanding S&T achievements in recent years. The Award is presented in six categories: the award in mathematics and physics (including mathematics, physics, mechanics and astronomy), the award in chemistry, the award in life sciences (including biology, medicine and agriculture), the award in earth sciences, the award in information sciences and the award in technological sciences. The Award is to be conferred once in every two years and one prize is to be instituted in each category at each session, usually with one awardee or three awardees at the maximum. It shall be vacant if there is no qualified research work available. Each prize consists of a diploma, a gold medal, and a premium up to RMB300,000 yuan.
According to the By-laws for the Implementation of the Tan Kah Kee Science Award, an applicant for the Award should be first recommended by specialists of professors?rank in the field.  Any self-application is not accepted. A Chinese scientist alive who has achieved outstanding and original S&T results in the categories and passed through the procedures of formal recommendation and peer evaluation is eligible for a prize from the Award.
Evaluation committees are established according to the categories to carry out the primary screening of the recommended applicants, choose preliminary candidates and make arrangements for international peer reviews. Based on the review’s comments, the evaluation committees is to conduct full discussion and detailed appraisal of the preliminary candidates, choose the valid candidate by a secret ballot and submit the voting result for the examination by the Standing Committee of a CAS Academic Division. The Foundation’s Council Board shall vote to determine the final winners.  
It has been a long-cherished hope of several generations of Chinese scientists to enhance the original innovation of this country. With an objective of awarding the indigenous innovative achievements, and in light of the national S&T development and the institutional reform of China’s S&T rewarding system, the Foundation will contribute to building China into an innovative country by allowing an active play to the Tan Kah Kee Science Award in raising national capacity of independent innovation, nurturing a strict and vigorous work style among Chinese scientists and inspiring their enthusiasm for innovation.