Ching Hing Construction (正興建築): Beyond the Family Feud
York Lo: Ching Hing Construction (正興建築): Beyond the Family Feud
Left: Ip Ching-ping as vice chairman of the HK Building Contractors Association; Right: Ching Hing’s adin 1955 (HKBCA yearbook)
The decades long high-profile family feuds between the descendants of Ching Hing Construction founder Ip Ching-ping (葉正平, 1903-1983)has overshadowed the success of Ching Hing Construction, which was one of the leading building contractors and real estate developers in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. This article will focus on the story of Ching Hing and its affiliate Henry Engineering & Construction.
According to court documents, Ip Ching-ping, whose original name was Ip Kwong-lam, was born into a well to do family from Panyu in Canton where he attended the Sir Ellis Kadoorie School before coming to HK for secondary school and matriculated from Queen’s College in 1924. He worked as a clerk in the Public Works department of the HK government between 1925 and 1933 during which he took correspondence courses on construction and engineering. In 1931, he married Wong Miu-shim (王妙嬋, 1912-1981), an entrepreneurial woman who sold soda, sweaters and real estate and together they had two sons -Henry Ip Man-shan (葉文山, 1931-1988) and Sammy Ip Man-ho (葉文浩) and five daughters (by the order of birth) – Loretta Ip Man- lui(葉文侶), Roseanna Ip Man-sum (葉文心), Mamie Ip Man-mei (葉文美), Marion Ip Man-hoi (葉文靄) and Henrietta Ip Man-hing (葉文慶), born between 1931 and 1947.
With their joint savings, the couplebought their first property – Kowloon Inland Lot 4300 in April 1941 which was developed during the Japanese occupation into two buildings at 158 and 160 Prince Edward Road West (the Ip family lived on one floor at 160 and sold 158 in 1948). This was followed by KIL 2874 in September 1941, which was developed into 9 and 11 Fat Tseung Street (11 was sold to Ho Tso Fu in 1951). In October 1944, the couple acquired 1154-1160 Canton Road in Kowloon and in early 1945, they bought 370-372 Tai Nan Street in Sham Shui Po (developed into Gold Canyon Court in 1994) and 83 Queen’s Road East (developed into Portwealth Centre in 1995).
Based on the testimony of Ip’s daughter and accounting records, Ching Hing was founded sometime in 1947 and 1948 although it was not incorporated until 1954. In 1948, the family acquired the 20000 sq ft NKIL 3512 on Tai Po Road in Kowloon and built Park Mansion. Ip suffered head injuries during the construction which affected the use of his left leg and the family moved into the building after its completion in 1950.
In the early 1950s, Ching Hing used Austin trucks to transport construction materials and Ip Ching-ping told British Automobiles Overseas in 1950 that he was pleased with the choice given the rough treatments the trucks were subjected to daily.Through expertise, hard work and connections, Ching Hing had become one of the leading construction firms in Hong Kong by the mid-1950s with its own workshops at Morrison Hill in HK and Larch Street in Tai KokTsui on the Kowloon side and its own quarries on Clearwater Bay Road in Kowloon and Ah Kung Ngam in Shau Kei Wan. Ip was also elected vice chairman of the HK Building Contractors Association.
In November 1957, the Ip family acquired Lot 140 on Fei Ngo Shan in a government auction where they eventually built their family residence in 1965. (sold in 2010 to Esprit chairman Michael Ying for HK$260 million) In December of the same year, Ip’s eldest daughter Loretta married Dr. Thomas Li Wang-chung (李宏中), the eldest son of Li Ping-kuen (李秉權) of China Dispensary (see article) and in May 1959, Ip’s eldest son Henry who had returned to HK to join the family business after graduating from the University of London with a civil engineering degree two years earlier marriedCecilia Chan (陳潔麗), the granddaughter of Chan Wai-chow and grandniece of former Guangdong ruler General Chen Chi-tang at the St John’s Cathedral in Central which was attended by over 1000 guests including the Who’s Who of HK society at the time as shown in the article below. (WKYP, 1957-9-7; 1959-5-19) These two marriages elevated the social status of the Ip family but both of them ended in divorce and both Henry and Loretta remarried – Henry to Suen Lingling and Loretta to Frank Ling (吳仲貺), the son of the manager of King’s Theatre and architect in Ottawa who had received QEII Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals and Order of Canada for his community services.
Article and picture of the wedding of Henry Ip and Cecilia Chan in 1959 (WKYP, 1959-5-19)
In June 1959, Henry Ip established Henry Engineering & Construction Ltd (亨利建築工程有限公司, although it was not incorporated until 1963) while remaining a director of Ching Hing, which developed Henry’s Mansion on Waterloo Road where he and his family briefly lived in. In the early 1960s, Henry served as English secretary of the HK Building Contractors Association and director of Tung Wah in 1962 and of Po Leung Kuk in 1964. (KSDN, 1964-4-8) He was a founding director of the Real Estate Developers Association of HK in 1965 and was chairman of Sky Restaurant (新都酒樓) which opened at 8 Queen’s Road Central in 1955 and changed hands several times before closing in 1974 (TKP, 1974-5-21) In the 1960s, Henry Engineering operated out of the 15th floor of the Connaught Building at 55 Connaught Road in Central and Henry Ip was supported by Chan Wing-sun and Lo Wing-wo.
In July 1963, Ching Hing won a $749590 contract from the HK government for construction of a nullah in Bowrington which would allow for additional spaces for street vendors. (KSDN, 1963-7-13)
Ching Hing’s ad for Hing Tat Mansion in 1964 (Kung Sheung Daily News, 1964-11-8)
In 1963, Ching Hing teamed up with World-Mart (HK) Enterprises (controlled by fellow clansman Edmond Ip, see article) and Central Enterprises (controlled by the Wu family of Central Taxicab, see article) to develop Hing Tat Mansion (興達大廈) at 1-5 Tung Ming Street in Ngau Tau Kok and the project was completed in 1964 with flats starting at $14000 each.
In 1967, Sammy returned to HK after finishing his education and joined the board of Ching Hing. In 1968, Ip Ching-ping stopped going to the office after he suffered a stroke and his wife took over the day to day management of Ching Hing although she returned to home to have lunch with him every day and also went to the sea with him in the afternoon. The same year, the family developed the 11-story Duke Wellington House (威靈頓公爵大廈) at 14-24 Wellington Street in Central.
In 1978, Ching Hing won a HK$3m contract for water treatment related on Lantau island. (Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators’ Newsletter, 1978) By the late 1970s, Henry Engineering had emerged as one of the leading government contractors with Group C license to build government public worksand outside of Henry and Ching Hing, Henry also operated Henry Ip & Associates, civil engineers and authorized architects out of 22nd floor of South China Building in Central.
In May 1981, Wong Miu-shim died and a long series of lawsuits and feuds between different family members began which will not be covered here. Also in 1981, Henry Ip sold 75% of Henry Engineering to Shui On and two years later, the firm was renamed Shui On Building Contractors with Henry staying on as director. Shui On acquired the remaining 25% of Henry Engineering from Henry in August 1984 as part of Shui On’s acquisition of the listed Harbour Engineering. (WKYP, 1984-8-29)
Two of Ip Ching-ping’s children married high ranking civil servants. Aside from the high-profile marriage of Sammy to former Secretary for Security and current Legco councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee from 1981 until his death in 1997, Marionmarried Jean-Claude Douchet (possibly related to Mamie’s husband Jacque Douchet)before marryingStuart Wilkinson (1928-2017), the last director of RTHK seconded from BBC.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 5th July 2021.
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