Pun Sun-on (潘新安, 1923-2015) – Developer, Educator and Poet
York Lo: Pun Sun-on (潘新安, 1923-2015) – Developer, Educator and Poet
Left: Pun Sun-on in his later years; Center: Winway Building, which was controlled by Pun’s Sunny Enterprises; Right: cover of the collection of poems written by Pun Sun-on and his poetry group published in 2011 with their group picture. (yesasia)
Earlier on the website, we covered the family of S.H. Wong who was associated with Eternal Enterprise, the precursor of the property giant Sun Hung Kai. The Wong family operated out of the 24-story Winway Building (華威大廈, built in 1963, renovated in 1998) on Wellington Street in Central, which was majority controlled by Sunny Enterprises (信義企業) until the firm sold its ownership of 59% of the floor space in the building to the listed SEA Holdings for HK$780 million (or HK$22778 per sq ft) in September 2019. Sunny is one of the pioneers in the HK real estate industry in the 1950s founded by Pun Sun-on, a renaissance man who was probably better known for his school Literary College and his poetry than his business endeavors.
A native of the Nanhai district in Guangdong province, Pun was the son of Poon Yat-kai (潘溢佳), a tea merchant in Hong Kong. Pun studied Chinese classics under the classical scholar Wong Chi-pok (黃慈博, 1886-1946) and English under Queen’s College graduate Wong Wing-nin (黃永年, 1907-1985) which gave him a solid foundation for both languages.
In 1946, Pun’s father died and he succeeded him in business and also joined the board of Kow Kong Commercial Association of HK (旅港南海九江商會), a fraternal organization for Nanhai merchants founded by Tang Chi-ngong (father of Sir Shiu-kin and great grandfather of Sir David, see my entry for him in the Dictionary of HK Biography) in 1911.
With the massive influx of refugees from the mainland in 1949, Pun saw strong demand for two sectors: education and housing and his first venture was in the first when he started the private Literary College (崇文英文書院) as a primary school in 1950 with his former teacher Wong Wing-nin. Wong was headmaster of Kwong Tai English School from 1933 to 1941 and was also an accomplished Chinese painter in addition to an educator. (HK Album, 1967) Over time, the school under the leadership of Wong and Pun expanded to secondary school and at its peak in the 1970s had over 2000 students with two locations at 281 Tsat Tze Mui Road in North Point and Wanchai and counted a few celebrities as alums such as the singer Jacky Cheung (張學友), Susanna Kwan (關菊英) and film director Stanley Tong (唐季禮). As a firm, Literary College was incorporated in 1961 and dissolved in 1988 after the death of Wong.
Left: Pun Sun-on in 1955 (WKYP, 1955-4-1); Center: Sketch of the building developed by Sunny on Temple Street in 1958 (WKYP, 1958-8-7); Right: logo of Literary College
In 1952, Pun incorporated Sunny Enterprises to engage in property development, buying old properties and re-developing them into new residential buildings. The firm’s registered address was 504 Lockhart Road in Wanchai, a 3-story building built in 1953 that was likely developed by Pun. Allegedly Sunny was known for the durability of its buildings and one time, Pun was delighted when he overheard an electrician complained about doing electric works on buildings developed by Sunny because their walls were the most difficult to drill holes through. In 1958, Sunny developed a 8-story tenement building at 200-210 Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei. (WKYP, 1958-8-7) The same year, Sunny developed a 6-story residential building at 9 and 10 Hing Hon Road in Sai Ying Pun. Many of his staff members worked for the firm for multiple decades. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Sunny also developed the 8-story Eiver House ( 愛華大廈) at the former site of the Bailey Shipyard at the intersection of Ma Tau Wai Road and Wing Kwong Street in Hunghom, Starlight Mansion (星華大廈) at 32-34 Leighton Hill Road and Race Course Mansion (銀禧大廈) in Happy Valley.
Left: Sunny’s ad for its Hing Hon Road project in 1958 (WKYP, 1958-5-18); Right: Sunny’s ad for its project on Wing Kwong Street in Hunghom in 1961 (WKYP, 1961-4-8)
Outside of Sunny and Literary, Pun also established several business ventures with fellow Nanhai merchants in HK. In 1955, Pun incorporated Tung Hing Enterprises (同興企業) with Chuy Long-sing (朱朗星,1902-1997) and Chan Man-suen with $1 million in capital. (FEER) Pun was also director of the interior design and decoration firm Beaux-Arts Ltd (寶麗華有限公司, incorporated in 1960) with Chuy and Chan in addition to Chuy’s brother Benito Chuy, Kaison Chiu and his son in law Wong Kai-ming, Kai-yin Chau (eldest son of Sir S.N. Chau) and Tsang Foun. (HK $ Directory, 1970) Aside from acting as general manager of Tung Hing, Chuy Long-sing was manager of Po Hing Yuen and managing director of Wing Loi Investments (永來置業). (CGCC Members Directory, 1965) Together with Po Hing Yuen, Sunny developed Hanwin Mansion (慶雲大廈) at 55-61 Lyttelton Road (later renumbered 71-77 Lyttelton). When Chuy moved to New York in 1974, Pun Sun-on wrote a poem about his friend and business partner. (WKYP, 1974-9-3)
Joint ad by Wing Loi, Sunny and Po Hing Yuen in 1965. Left is Wing Loi’s ad for 23-24 Hing Hon Road while right is Sunny and Po Hing Yuen’s ad for Hanwin Mansion on Lyttelton Road in the Mid-Levels. (WKYP, 1965-3-4)
Another fellow Nanhai native business partner of Pun was the theatre owners and movie producers Kwan brothers – Kwan Ka-pack and Kwan Ka-yue (to be covered). Pun incorporated Kwan & Pun Ltd with them in 1955 to engage in property development.
In October 1961, Pun led a delegation of fellow businessmen including Leung Moon-chuen (梁滿銓), Tam Pak-yu (譚伯羽), Wat Shung-hoo (屈崇浩) and a Vietnamese Chinese tea merchant to visit the Lantau island to explore the potential of tea plantation. The conclusion was the payback was too long as it took three years to harvest the tea, especially given the significant amount of capital required. (KSEN, 1961-10-5)
Outside of business and education, Pun was active in philanthropy and literary activities. In addition to helping his fellow Nanhai natives in HK through his involvement with the Kow Kong Commercial Association, he served as director of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1955 and the Po Leung Kuk in 1957. After China re-opened, he first re-visited Nanhai in 1980 and donated $400,000 towards the local secondary school and hospital. Over the next three decades, he had donated over $6 million towards the construction of new schools (two of which named after his ancestors) and renovation and expansion of hospitals, roads and gardens in his native Kow Kong.
Pun had a lifelong passion in classical Chinese poetry and preferred to refer himself as the host of his literary “Little Mountain Cottage” (小山草堂) than chairman of Sunny. Most of the poetry he wrote were travelogues and starting in 1960s, he began organizing poetry groups, first in a residence at Tai Hang Road. In 1976, he teamed up with Leung Kan-nang (梁簡能, 1907-1991), Chinese professor at United College and Poon Siu-poon (潘小磐, 1914-2000), Chinese lecturer at Shu Yan College, to start the poetry group “Yu Society” (愉社), which counted over 70 members who met every two months at different locations all over HK for 22 years until its dissolution in 1998. In 2011, he compiled the over 1700 poems by the members of the Society into a volume with the assistance of CUHK lecturer Ching Chung-shan (程中山). Concerned about the deteriorating Chinese language skills of the younger generations, Pun compiled a book entitled “Correct Pronunciation and Meaning” (音義匡正) in 2007 which addresses Chinese characters that are commonly misspelled and mispronounced.
According to the obituary of his stepmother Madam Wong in 1960, Pun Sun-on has at least 6 sons and 7 daughters. (WKYP, 1960-9-11) One of his sons – Poon Yiu-cheong (潘耀昌) received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Wesleyan University and succeeded Wong as principal of Literary College in September 1974. Yiu-cheong served on the board of Po Leung Kuk in 1974 and was a director of Sunny Enterprise and Kwan & Pun Ltd. (KSDN, 1974-4-4) Another son Poon Pak-cheong (潘柏昌) had also served as chairman of the board of Literary College and he and his brother Poon Yau-cheong (潘又昌) have both served on the board of the Kow Kong Commercial Association.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 7th September 2020.
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