Annam Pak Kwei Yeow (安南白桂油)

York Lo: Annam Pak Kwei Yeow (安南白桂油)

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Left: Pak Kwei Yeow’s booth at the 1960 HK Products Expo; Right: Pak Kwei Yeow ad

In the late 1950s, early 1960s, a Chinese medicinal oil by the name of Annam Pak Kwei Yeow was a prominent feature at the annual HK Products Expo with its eye catchy pagoda booth and its proprietor by the name of Chung Chuen-yan (鍾存仁) was constantly in the headlines for his philanthropic activities. Although the product has the word Annam (old name of Vietnam) in its name, Pak Kwei Yeow actually traced its roots to Penang, Malaysia and Annam was a reference to the source of its key ingredient – cassia (aka Chinese cinnamon). Unlike the similar sounding and still popular Pak Fah Yeow which was also founded by a Chinese entrepreneur from Penang (Gan Geok-eng) and entered the HK market around the same time, Pak Kwei Yeow has faded into history.

A native of Chaoyang in the Chiuchow area, Chung migrated to Malaysia at an early age and founded Weng Hock Heng (永福興) to deal in Chinese medicine in Penang in 1949. He created Pak Kwei Yeow in the late 1950s and set up its factory in Hong Kong at 61-63 Connaught Road West. According to Chung, Pak Kwei Yeow was created with cassia from Vietnam (which was the major producer of cassia in the region before the Vietnam War). Because of its strong scent, a number of other Chinese and Western ingredients were added and the resulting oil had a fresher smell and also had a whiter color (hence the name Pak Kwei Yeow).

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Chung Chuen-yan explaining the origin of Pak Kwei Yeow (TKP, 1959-12-11)

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Celebration of the 12th anniversary of Weng Hock Heng in Penang and Annie Lui, Miss Pak Kwei Yeow winning the beauty pageant at the 14th Penang International Products Expo with visiting guests Wong Pow-nee, Chief Minister of George Town,Ooi Thiam-siew, mayor of Penang. 南洋商报, 22 January 1961

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Left: design of the Pak Kwei Yeow pagoda at the HK Products Expo; Right: Chung Chuen-yan in front of the Pak Kwei Yeow booth at the 1959 HK Products Expo (WKYP, 1959-12-5)

The first big splash Pak Kwei Yeow made on the scene was the 1959-60 HK Products Expo where its booth included a 7 storey pagoda. The next year, they topped themselves with a 9 story pagoda which was 106 feet tall and was the largest booth at the show. They also campaigned hard for Miss Pak Kwei Yeow – Anna Cheng (鄭安娜, whose original name was Cheng Kit-mui 鄭潔梅) in the Miss HK Products Expo that year and when she lost to Miss Freezinhot, Chung Chuen-yan crowned her the Queen of Pak Kwei Yeow as a consolation prize. Anna Cheng later married Lam Bun, the famous broadcaster and actor who was assassinated by leftist rioters during the 1967 riots.

Another area which brought attention to Pak Kwei Yeow in the early 1960s was philanthropy. During the Products Expo, Pak Kwei Yeow hosted several charity sales and Chung also gave out tens of thousands of bottles of Pak Kwei Yeow to charitable causes. He was one of the early big donors of the HK Baptist College and in 1962 co-founded Tak Kow Chi Cheng Kok (德教紫靖閣) as part of the Moral Uplifting movement in HK with fellow Chiuchow leaders such as Chan Hon-wah and Cheng Chik-chi of Chiaphua. He was also elected chairman of the Chiu Yang Residents Association (潮陽同鄉會).

Pak Kwei Yeow or its owner Wing Fook Hing did not appear to have incorporated and the last newspaper article which made mentions of them appeared in 1962. By the late 1960s, Pak Kwei Yeow and Chung Chuen-yan had faded away.

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Left: Chung Chuen-yan crowning Anna Cheng as the Queen of Pak Kwei Yeow in 1961 (TKP, 1961-1-8); Right: Chung Chuen-yan (first from the left) with stars such as Cheung Chung-man, Chung Ching, To Kun at the opening of the Pak Kwei Yeow factory in HK(TKP, 1960-12-19) 

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Chung Chuen-yan (first from left) and Ma Kam-chan (second from right) and two other leaders of the Chiu Yang Residents Association. (WKYP, 1960-4-10)

Sources:

  1. http://www.tzuchi.org.tw/doc/2012tzuchiforum/3_3.pdf
  2. http://www.whiteflower.com/us/about-pak-fah-yeow/the-legend-of-pak-fah-yeow.html
  3. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/nysp19610228-1.2.37.15
  4. 華僑日報, 1962-01-05, 1959-12-21
  5. 大公報, 1960-06-05:

This article was first posted on 18th May 2018.

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