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Selected Timeline of Chua Mia Tee

1931 – 1937
Chua Mia Tee was born on 25 Nov 1931, in Shantou, Guangdong, China, the second child of Chua Yang Nee and Teh Peck Kee. Chua was raised in his grandparents’ properties on Dexin Street, until the family relocated to Singapore to escape the Sino-Japanese War. Chua’s businessman father was keenly interested in art, himself producing realistic portraits of Chua’s mother and Chua’s grandparents. Chua Yang Nee would produce sketches from the soot of lamps and ingeniously created ‘erasers’ from rolled bread bits. These formed the first art images to inspire Chua. 


1937 – 1946
Chua’s family escapes the Sino-Japanese war in China, resettling in Singapore in 1937 when Chua was six years old. In 1938, Chua begins schooling at Shunqun School, then Tuan Mong School before the Japanese Occupation of 1942–45 disrupts formal schooling. Chua pursues sketching and painting more fervently, resuming school at Tuan Mong from


1947 – 1952
Chua enrols in Chung Cheng High School in 1947 but leaves the course to study art at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA); he eventually returns to Chung Cheng in 1954 to complete his studies. 


Chua is admitted to NAFA in 1950, studying under NAFA principal Lim Hak Tai (ˮLimˮ). His other tutors include See Hiang To, Chen Chong Swee, Cheong Soo Pieng and Koh Tong Leong. He receives  formal training in Chinese ink and Western media and engages with sculpture, plaster of Paris and plasticine. Chua’s impressive skill and diligence is noted by Lim Hak Tai and in 1951, while still officially a student, Chua is appointed as a part-time tutor at NAFA. 


Chua’s art the NAFA art fair in 1951 is commended in the Nanyang Siang Pau; his submission Mad for the Singapore Art Society’s exhibition was described by a newspaper critic as a “fine and provocative charcoal portrait on pale brown paper” (refer to bibliography). 


1952 – 1956
Upon his graduation in 1952, Lim expands Chua’s part-time status into a full-time art instructor at NAFA. In 1954, Chua returns to Chung Cheng High School to complete his education. Lim persuades Chua to return to NAFA as a lecturer in 1956; Ho Kah Leong is one of Chua’s students during this time. 


In the early 1950s, Chua produces woodblock prints published in the Chinese papers. Epic Poem of Malaya, 1955, and Road Construction Worker, 1955, are exemplary of this period. In 1953, Chua becomes the art director of the Art Research Society that dissolves in 1956. In the same year, Chua and Lee Boon Wang become founding members of the Equator Art Society (EAS) with Chua as the EAS’s first president. 


1957 – 1958
Chua works with the Shanghai Book Company as book illustrator from 1957–60. At the end of Jan 1957, Chua paints the 18-year-old sister of his close friend Lee Boon Wang — Portrait of Lee Boon Ngan, 1957; this work goes on to become one of the most celebrated portraits in Singapore’s art history. 


The inaugural exhibition of the EAS is officiated by Dr Lin Wo Chiang at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (13–15 June 1958). Chua pens the foreword to the catalogue and contributes articles under his pen-names including Li Ren, Li Zhi, Qi Xi and Gao Huihai. 


1959 – 1960
Chua creates significant works in 1959 including National Language Class that goes on to become an iconic art work. He also produces sculpture busts of his father Chua Yang Nee and his future wife Lee Boon Ngan. All three works are exhibited at the Second EAS exhibition that showcases some 400 works at the Victoria Memorial Hall (5–7 Feb 1960), with its opening officiated by Minister of Culture, S Rajaratnam. Chua’s work titled Attending National Language Class and signed off as “Chai Ming Tze” receives considerable press coverage and Rajaratnam’s personal commendation. The work is eventually gifted to the Ministry.  Chua works with Grant Advertising International Incorporated (1960–65) as a designer and illustrator and is posted to its Kuala Lumpur office. He produces considerable work encompassing advertisements and comics. 

In 1960, Chua is commissioned to create a portrait bust in bronze of Zubir Said, composer of Singapore’s national anthem, just months after Majulah Singapura is announced as the national anthem in 1959 as Singapore is granted internal self-government. 


1961 – 1968
Chua marries Lee Boon Ngan in 1961, taking their honeymoon in Genting Highlands Malaysia. Their son Chua Hong is born in 1963. 

Chua continues to explore the raw, unvarnished approach in his portraits, with subjects drawn from his surroundings. Indian Boy with Pot, 1961, is a good example. He sustains his sculptural creations in the early to mid 1960s. A plaster sculpture bust of Lee Boon Ngan is featured in the Third EAS exhibition in 1963; and in 1965, a bust Portrait of Chua Chia Pin Chua (and a work on paper Tin Min) are submitted for the 4th EAS exhibition, published under “Chai Ming Chih”. 

Chua leaves Grant Advertising in 1965 and joins Times Publishing Group’s Federal Publications from 1965–1974 as designer and illustrator and continues to produce sketches and paintings. He produces illustrations for school readers and textbooks. 

In 1968, the Chuas’ daughter Chua Yang is born. 

1972 – 1973

During the 1970s, Chua produces landscape paintings and sketches that depict the rapidly changing cityscape of Singapore. He continues
to observe subjects on the margins as seen in works Ah Goh the Boatman, 1972. In 1973, Chua and Lee Boon Wang co-create the oil painting Surrender, 1973, in which Chua undertakes the portrayal of the row of Japanese while Lee painted the British figures. 

1974 – 1976
Chua’s milestone exhibition with Lee Boon Wang at the Rising Gallery (at 292 Telok Ayer Street) is a catalyst to Chua’s decision to be a full-time professional fine artist. He takes on illustrations on an ad-hoc basis. These include a highly imaginative series showcasing how to draw with numbers and letters published by the Educational Publications Bureau in 1976. 


In the same year, Chua’s father Chua Yang Nee, a significant influential support in his artistic development, passes away in 1974 at 68 years. 

Chua continues to depict the labourer and ˮcommonplaceˮ subjects such as Ramasamy Takes a Rest, 1974. Workers in a Canteen is executed in 1974 and has become emblematic of his practice. During this time, Chua envisages ˮthe nationˮ within certain paradigms in his canvases, exemplified in Singapore — A Nation of Youthful Vitality, 1976. 

1977 – 1979
Chua, with fellow artist Choo Keng Kwang, produces six paintings each on the theme of Vanishing trades in Singapore for the Straits Times Group’s limited edition 1978 calendar. Both artists also participate in a joint exhibition on this theme organised by Times Publishing Bhd and the Singapore Handicraft Centre. 

30 July–8 August 1978. Chua exhibits in “’78 Art Exhibition: 12 Leading Local Artists” — the inaugural exhibition for Gallery Asia, on the premises of the Shanghai Book Co., 81 Victoria Street, Singapore.
The other artists included Cheong Soo Pieng, Lee Man Fong, Tan Choh Tee, Lim Tze Peng, Leng Joon Wong. 


1–30 September 1978. Chua is in group exhibition of 32 works by 13 artists including Choo Keng Kwang and Ang Ah Tee at the Orchard Road Pedestrian Mall, organised by the Southeast Asia Art Society & the Ministry of Culture. 

1978 – 1979
Chua is commissioned to produce sketches of the Second Session of the Fourth Parliament. He produces more than 30 charcoal sketches on paper from late December 1978 to 1979. He is also commissioned to capture on canvas the image of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew upon his return from London after the Merdeka Talks in 1959. 

Chua’s work is featured in the group exhibition Art ’78 at the National Museum Art Gallery with 148 works by 105 artists. Chua is one of five artists in this exhibition highlighted in the New Nation newspaper to represent the genre of Realism through his exhibit Hastings Road Market. 

A Chinese documentary airs on 27 Feb 1979 featuring Chua Mia Tee, Wee Beng Chong & Leng Joon Wong on the topic of choosing the arts as a career, Channel 8, Singapore. 

1980 – 1981

In the late 1970s, Chua’s travels to European museums impacts his own work. He begins to produce large-scale cityscapes in the period of the late 1970s to early 1980s. He continues to record vanishing scenes in Chinatown, at the Singapore River and other landmarks. 

In 1980, the first joint exhibition of Chua and his wife Lee Boon Ngan at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Exhibition Hall is officiated by Dr Ow Chin Hock, the Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture. Art Exhibition of Mr & Mrs Chua Mia Tee exhibits over 40 works by Chua and over 30 works by Lee. 

The Ministry of Health releases English and Chinese versions of Kee Chong Grows Up, a graphic booklet with Chua Mia Tee’s illustrations for cover and content sponsored by the Singapore Cancer Society. 

In 1981, Chua is one of 28 artists selected by National Museum Art Gallery curator Choy Weng Yang to lend their works to a display in the Changi Airport VIP Complex as part of an exercise to introduce museum art into public spaces. 

Chua’s solo exhibition organised by The British Council, Singapore is officiated by Tang Liang Hong on 15 Sept, and open to the public 16–25 Sept. Chua also participates in a group exhibition organised by the Ministry of Culture with artists that included Lee Boon Wang, Chen Wen Hsi, Cheong Soo Pieng and Choo Keng Kwang. 

Chua and fellow artist Ong Kim Seng produce National Day paintings to commemorate the 25th year of nation-building. Chua’s Parade in the Padang (88 x 122cm) is fearured on The Straits Times cover, marking the first time a painting is featured for a news event in the newspaper’s 139-year history. Some 2,000 reprints of Chua’s painting are sold out in two weeks. 

Chua’s original painting is displayed at Times
House and auctioned off to Hong Leong Finance for S$26,000 in aid of the Community Chest with the original painting donated to the National Museum. Chua participates in the National Day Art Exhibition commemorating Singapore’s 25th year of Independence at the National Museum Art Gallery. 

1985 – 1987
In 1985, Chua’s solo exhibition at Ming Court Hotel is organised by the Lone Pine Gallery. 


In 1986 Chua creates a monumental bas relief mural Towards High Technology (2.55 x 10.6 m) which is gifted by Ngee Ann Kongsi to Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The year also marks the inauguration of Chua’s series of portraits for the Businessman of the Year Awards (BYA). The first portrait is of Michael Fam, the Chairman of Fraser and Neave. 


The following year in 1987, Chua is one of four artists (with Goh Beng Kwan, Tang Da Wu and Thomas Yeo) guiding the 5th ASEAN Youth Painting Workshop & Exhibition. 

Chua’s solo exhibition (9–27 March 1988) at the National Museum Art Gallery features 130 art works including nine sculptures. 


Chua produces an oil painting of the masthead of The New Paper to inaugurate the paper; in the same year Chua’s Singapore River is used for limited edition Khong Guan biscuit tins for charity fund- raising for Community Chest. 

Chua participates in an exhibition organised by Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 17–20 June. Chua represents his clan Chee Yang Chua Si Kong Huay with his oil painting Peacocks (163 x 96 cm) that attracts media coverage for its S$20,000 price. 

Chua participates in a National Day Art fair programme with more than 600 works, (with Liu Kang, Chen Wen Hsi, Choo Keng Kwang and others), co-organised by Ministry of Community Development and Lianhe Bao. 


Chua participates in The 50th Painting Exhibition of Basoeki Abdullah in Jakarta; Basoeki was a leading Indonesian Realist painter and long-time friend of Chua who had supported the exhibitions of the EAS. 



1989 – 1990
During these years, there were numerous commissions for Chua with portraits of Lim Kim San, Goh Keng Swee, Hon Sui Sen, Richard Hu and E W Barker. Chua is also appointed to paint the portraits of Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin and Attorney-General Tan Boon Teik in 1990. 

Chua completes the couple portraits of Dato Aw It Haw and Datin Akiko Nagase Aw in 1990. He also continues to deliver portraits for the Businessman of the Year Awards, depicting Wee Cho Yaw, the Chairman and CEO of the UOB Group as the BYA recipient in 1990. 

This same year, Chua produces the monumental relief mural Harmonious Brilliance (3 x 15.5 m) for the Ministry of Labour (now Ministry of Manpower), representing one of the few abstract works by the artist. Chua continues to exhibit, holding a joint exhibition with wife Painting Exhibition of Chua Mia Tee & Lee Boon Ngan, 1990, at the Hilton International, Singapore. 


Chua composes a tribute painting for the occasion of Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew being conferred the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) highest award — the Distinguished Comrade of Labour — in 1991. The progress of this commission is overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong, then the NTUC’s Secretary-General, who gives Chua the artistic latitude to interpret the commission. Chua paints a similar format tribute painting for Ong Teng Cheong in 1994. 

Chua is commissioned to depict the 1990 swearing- in ceremony of Goh Chok Tong as Prime Minister and the 1990 swearing-in ceremony of Lee Kuan Yew as Senior Minister at the City Hall Chamber. 

He also completes a full-figure portrait of President Wee Kim Wee in the same year. 


Chua paints the opening of the 8th Parliament with news media reporting that he does so “within 41 days”. Chua holds a joint exhibition with wife Lee Boon Ngan and brother-in-law Lee Boon Wang at Notices–The Gallery from 26 May to 10 June 1992. 

Chua captures on canvas the swearing-in ceremony of President Ong Teng Cheong. He is also commissioned by the Law Society to deliver a portrait of Chief Justice Yong Pung How in newly adopted court attire. Chua is featured in An exhibition of Paintings by 6 Outstanding Realist Artists in Singapore at Ngee Ann City Exhibition Hall. 

1994 – 1995
Following his tribute painting for Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1991, Chua develops a montage composition for then President Ong Teng Cheong in 1994 when the NTUC confers on him the Distinguished Comrade of Labour award. 

The same year, Chua completes his portrait of Patrick Ngiam Ma Je as the 1993 recipient of the Businessman of the Year Award. In 1995,
he produces his now well-known posthumous portrait of the late Dato Loke Wan Tho, the film magnate and art patron. He also meets with David Marshall, completing his portrait in the same year of Marshall’s passing. This same year, Chua’s portrait of the President Yusof Ishak is adopted for Singapore’s new Portrait series currency notes. 

1996 – 2000

In 1996, Chua is commissioned by President Ong Teng Cheong to produce a series of tribute paintings of Singapore’s five presidents with their respective Cabinets for the Istana Collection. This same year, NTUC FairPrice invites Chua to portray the NTUC Chairmen of the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors from 1973-1996. 

In 1996, Chua composes a dramatic portrait of the founder of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the conductor emeritus, maestro Choo Hoey.

The following year in 1997, he paints a portrait of a standing President Ong Teng with the State Flag and Chair. In the same year Chua designs the One Million Dollars Commemorative Note, a souvenir currency-note to mark the handover of Hong Kong to China. 

In 1999 Chua is commissioned to paint Presidents Yusof Ishak and Benjamin Sheares for the new Parliament House. The following year in 2000, the artist is appointed to depict the Opening of the 9th Parliament; He also depicts Tommie Goh Thiam Poh, the 1999 recipient of the Businessman of the Year Award. During the same year, a joint exhibition of his works and Lee Boon Ngan’s paintings is presented at the Linda Gallery on Jakarta, Indonesia. 

2002 – 2006

In 2002, Chua holds solo exhibition at Linda Gallery, Dempsey Road Singapore that feature his works on the Singapore River, Chinatown, travels and animals. This same year, Chua is commissioned to paint a full-length portrait of President S R Nathan. He also depicts Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for the Board of Commissioners of Currency. In 2004, Chua is appointed to capture the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on canvas. The same year, he completes a portrait of President S R Nathan for his 80th birthday. 

The following year in 2005, Chua’s work is featured in the survey exhibition A Heroic Decade: Singapore Art 1955–1965, at the Singapore Art Museum, organised in conjunction with celebrations of Singapore’s 40 years of Independence. 

In 2006, Chua is commissioned to paint Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong by the Law Society for the Supreme Court of Singapore. 

Chua’s solo exhibition Painting Exhibition of Chua Mia Tee is held at Han Hui Art Gallery, Singapore. 


Chua participates in a group exhibition at Artcommune Gallery 37km North of the Equator: A Story of the Equator Art Society and Realist Artists in Singapore, with artists Lee Boon Wang, Lim Yew Kuan, Tan Choh Tee, Ong Kim Seng, Hua Chai Yong and Tong Chin Sye. Chua’s works are featured in A Changed World: Singapore Art 1950s-1970s, National Museum of Singapore. 

2015 – 2016

Chua is awarded the Cultural Medallion with the conferment ceremony held at the Istana. In the same year, Chua is one of four artists and designers who designed Singapore’s Golden Jubilee commemorative $50 currency note. He participates in the exhibition and book, Bounteous Golden Jubilee (SG50), (9–15 Dec), presented by the Federation
of Arts Societies (Singapore), ION Art Gallery, Singapore. He and his works are featured in the book and exhibition The Cultural Medallion & Visual Arts: 1979–2015. Chua’s work is featured in two of the National Gallery Singapore’s exhibitions, Siapa Nama Kamu: Art in Singapore since the 19th century, and Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia since the 19th century. 

In 2016, Chua’s brother-in-law and close friend, the artist Lee Boon Wang, passes away from cancer. 


Chua’s wife, the painter Lee Boon Ngan, passes away on 23 April 2017. 

Chua participates in Memories by the Lake Exhibition, a biennale art exhibition organised by Chung Cheng High School, Chua’s alma mater; Chua participates with two works including 永留怀念中 (Forever Etched in Memory) in tribute to the memory of his wife. 


Chua continues to travel and paint; his works are featured in the National Gallery, Singapore’s exhibition (Re)Collect: The Making of Our Art Collection. 

Awards and Appointments

Chua Mia Tee was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 2015, the highest cultural accolade in the country. He has held numerous distinguished positions in the art community.

He was the founding President of the Equator Art Society in 1956 and in later years (1974–1979) Chua’s appointments included being a consultant to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and Chairman of the NAFA Alumni Association and the Chief Editor of Nanyang Arts magazine.



Chua Mia Tee’s works are in numerous public, private and corporate collections. A selection of these collections are set out here.

Institutions and Organisations

Istana, Singapore

Jewish Welfare Board

Malay Heritage Centre

Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Manpower

Monetary Authority of Singapore

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

National Gallery Singapore

National Heritage Board

National Museum of Singapore

Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Parliament of Singapore

Singapore Art Museum

Supreme Court, Singapore

Urban Redevelopment Authority

Corporate Collections

Asia Health Equipment Pte Ltd

Cold Storage, Singapore

Credit Suisse

DBS Collection

Hong Leong Group Singapore

IBM Singapore

Jurong Town Corporation

Lam Thye Hang Pte Ltd

Lim & Tan Securities

NTUC FairPrice Co-operative Ltd

Sentosa Development Corporation

Singapore Press Holdings

UOB Art Collection

UOI Collection



Chua Mia Tee Art Exhibition, the
British Council 
Exhibition Hall,
Singapore Rubber House, the 
British Council, Singapore.


Oil Paintings of Chua Mia Tee, Ming Court Hotel, Lone Pine Gallery, Singapore.


Art of Chua Mia Tee, organised by the Ministry of Community Development and the National Museum, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.


Chua Mia Tee – The Best of Four Decades, Empress Place Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.


Passages of Time, Linda Gallery, Singapore.


Oil Painting Exhibition of Chua Mia Tee, Han Hui Art Gallery, Singapore.



Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) Fair,

Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Singapore Art Society Second Exhibition.


Inaugural exhibition of the Equator Art Society, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.


Second Exhibition of the Equator Art Society, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.


Third Exhibition of the Equator Art Society, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.


Fourth Exhibition of the Equator Art Society, Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore.


Exhibition by Chua Mia Tee & Lee Boon Wang, Rising Gallery, Singapore.


Vanishing Trades, (joint exhibition with

Choo Keng Kwang), Internal Plaza Singapore Handicraft Centre (SHC), co-organised by Times Publishing Bhd
and SHC.


Oil Paintings Exhibition, Orchard Road

Pedestrian Mall, Southeast Asia Society &

Ministry of Culture. Art ’78, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.


“’78 Art Exhibition: 12 Leading Local Artists” the inaugural exhibition for Gallery Asia Pte Ltd, 30 July 1978, Shanghai Book Co. Ltd, 81 Victoria 
Street, Singapore.

1979 (1974 – 1979)

Participations in numerous international exhibitions to Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and Malaysia.


Joint Exhibition Mr & Mrs Chua Mia Tee, Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore.


The International Art Association Exhibition, Japan Group exhibition, Victoria Memorial Exhibition Hall, Ministry of Culture, Singapore.


Singapore Scenes: Exhibition of Original Charcoal Sketches, Clifford Centre, Leon & Joel Galleries.


National Day Art Exhibition, commemorating 25 years of Independence, National Museum Art Gallery, Singapore.


The International Teochew Artists’ Art Exhibition, Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, Westin Hotel, Raffles City, Singapore.


National Day Art Fair, co-organised by Ministry of Community Development and Lianhe Bao. Exhibition, Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


First Bru-Sin Art Exhibition, Brunei Darrusalam.


Painting Exhibition of Chua Mia Tee & Lee Boon Ngan, Hilton International, Singapore.


The Best of Chua Mia Tee, Lee Boon Ngan and Lee Boon Wang, Notices the Gallery, Singapore.


An Art Exhibition of Paintings by 6 Outstanding Realist Artists in Singapore, Ngee Ann City Exhibition Hall.


The President’s Charity Art Exhibition, Revenue House Atrium, Singapore.


From Words to Pictures: Art During the Emergency, Singapore Art Museum, 2007.


The President’s Charity Art Exhibition, Far East Square Pavilion, Singapore.


Chua Mia Tee & Lee Boon Ngan (joint

exhibition), Linda Gallery Jakarta Indonesia.


A Heroic Decade: Singapore Art 1955–1965, Singapore Art Museum.


Realism in Asian Art: Voices Behind
the Strokes.

2013 – 2014

A Changed World: Singapore Art

1950s–1970s, National Museum of Singapore 37km North of the Equator: A Story of the Equator Art Society and Realist Artists in  Singapore, Artcommune Gallery, Singapore.

(exhibition 16–25 August).

2015 – 2016

The Cultural Medallion & Visual Arts:

1979–2015, (Launch 17 Dec; Exhibition

18 Dec 2015–14 Feb 2016), Ngee Ann Kongsi Galleries 1 & 2, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore.

Bounteous Golden Jubilee (SG50) 2015,

ION Art Gallery, ION Orchard, Federation

of Art Societies (Singapore).


– ongoing Siapa Nama Kamu: Art in Singapore since the 19th century. DBS Singapore Gallery, National Gallery Singapore.


– ongoing Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia since the 19th century. UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, National Gallery Singapore.


Memories by the Lake Exhibition, a biennale art exhibition, Chung Cheng High School, Singapore.


(Re)Collect: The Making of Our Art Collection, National Gallery Singapore.

Between Declarations and Dreams: Art of Southeast Asia since the 19th century. UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, National Gallery Singapore (exhibited from 2015).

Siapa Nama Kamu: Art in Singapore since the 19th century. DBS Singapore Gallery, National Gallery Singapore. (exhibited from 2015).

Encounter, (group exhibition), Duo Galleria, Singapore, Goshen Art Gallery.


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