Kwok Yat-wai (郭一葦, 1915-1990): Jeweler, Developer and Philanthropist 

York Lo: Kwok Yat-wai (郭一葦, 1915-1990): Jeweler, Developer and Philanthropist

Kwok Yat Wai, Jeweler Image 1 York Lo

Left: Kwok Yat-wai from the profiles of the directors of the Tung Wah Group of Hospital (KSDN, 1971-4-1); Right: Ad for Kwok’s Diamond Mansion in Wanchai in 1964 (KSDN, 1964-11-8) 

Like Cheng Yu-tung of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery and the New World Group (see article on Hip Hing Construction) and Young Chi-wan of King Fook Jewellery and Miramar Hotel (see article on Pro-Quality Electronics), Kwok Yat-wai was a jeweler and real estate developer active in the 1960s and 1970s although Kwok maintained a much lower profile and would have been completely forgotten if not for the Tung Wah-managed secondary school in New Territories named in his memory.  

A native of Panyu in Guangdong province, little information is available about the early years of Kwok. By the late 1940s, his Grand View Jewellery (大觀珠石行) was already one of the leading Chinese jewelers in HK operating out of 222 Queen’s Road Central (now Kai Wong Commercial Building) and later moved to 62 Queen’s Road Central (now Peter Building).

Like many of his peers, Kwok became active in the property market in the early 1960s and established the real estate department of Grand View Jewellery. To enter the real estate business, Kwok partnered up with Hop Yick Tai Construction Co (合益泰建築), which was owned by Chung How-liang and operated out of 223 Temple Street and at Everest Building at 241-243 Nathan Road in Kowloon. In 1962, Kwok incorporated East Asia Investment & Mortgage Co Ltd (東亞置業按揭) to engage in property development.

Kwok was particularly active in Wanchai, with one of his first projects being Tai Kwun Mansion (大觀樓, named after the firm’s Chinese name) at 442-452 Lockhart Road which was built in 1961-2 and sold for HK$20000 per unit.  Other projects in Wanchai include Diamond Mansion (鑽石大廈) at 462-468 Lockhart Road in 1964, a reference to the firm’s jewelry heritage and flats were sold at HK$40000 per unit; the 7 story Jaffe Mansion (謝斐大樓) at 216-222 Jaffe Road in Wanchai which was sold at HK$20000 per flat also built in 1964 and the 14 story, 80 apartments East Asia Mansion (東亞大樓) at 23-29 Hennessy Road in Wanchai which was completed in 1965. In 1967, he developed the 84 units Wai Lun Mansion (偉倫大樓) at 78-84 Hennessy Road with flats starting at HK$10000 each.

Kwok Yat Wai, Jeweler Image 2 York Lo

1961 ad for Tai Kwun Mansion in Wanchai (KSDN, 1961-10-27); Right: Purchase and sale agreement from 1969 with the signature of Kwok Yat-wai (Yahoo! Auction) 

Kwok Yat Wai, Jeweler Image 3 York Lo

15% off ad for East Asia Mansion in 1965 (WKYP, 1965-3-15) 

Kwok Yat Wai, Jeweler Image 4 York Lo

Article about Jaffe Mansion in 1964 (KSDN, 1964-11-8) 

Wai Lun Mansion

Wai Lun Mansion under construction on the left on Hennessy Road in 1966 (Gwulo) 

Outside of Wanchai, Kwok also built the Cheong Ming Building (昌明大樓) at 53-59 Sing Wo Road in Happy Valley next to Cheong Ming Street in 1963 selling at $30000 per flat and the 4 story, 2 flats per floor building at 6-7 Wa Lane (華里) near Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan, selling for $40000 per unit. (WKYP, 1965-8-25) 

Kwok Yat Wai, Jeweler Image 5 York Lo

Ad for Cheong Ming Building in Happy Valley (WKYP, 1963-5-10) 

Before his death in 1990, Kwok Yat-wai kept an extremely low profile and only served one term as a director of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1971-72. He was survived by three sons – Henry Kwok Ka-hing (郭家慶), Kenneth Kwok Ka-ching (郭家政) and Raymond Kwok Ka-sing (郭家聲), who amplified the impact of the family fortune through generous philanthropy with a focus on education. In 1996, Kwok’s family contributed HK$6 million towards the construction of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Kwok Yat Wai College in Tin Shui Wai in New Territories in his memory. In 2011, the family donated HK$30 million to the HK Baptist University and the school in return renamed the cultural and recreation building on the Shaw Campus as Madam Kwok Chung Bo Fun Sports and Cultural Centre in honor of Kwok Yat-wai’s wife Chung Bo-fun (鍾寶芬). In 2015, the Kwok brothers through the Kwok Chung Bo Fun Charitable Fund endowed the Kwok Yat-wai Endowed Chair of Environmental and Biological Analysis at HK Baptist University. 

Kwok Yat Wai, Jeweler Image 6 York Lo

Three sons of Kwok Yat-wai in front of the building named after their mother at HKBU

Sources other than those cited above:

This article was first posted on 5th August 2019.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. G Falconer & Company, Watchmakers & Jewellers – HK agent for Ross Optical Ltd, Clapham, London and Kelvin & Hughes, marine instruments, London
  2. Three Generations and Three Industries: From Budson Watch to Casey Diamonds to Ingrid Millet
  3. H.K. Wah Yuen Investment (華源置業) – Leading Property Developer in the 1950s and 1960s
  4. Cheng Keng-chuen (鄭鏡泉) – Developer behind Alhambra Building (平安大厦) and Evergreen Villa (松柏新邨)
  5. Jaime Chua Tiampo (蔡天普) – Developer of Chungking Mansions (重慶大廈)
  6. Yan Kow (甄球) and Hip Hing Construction (協興建築)
  7. Pro-Quality Electronic (寶業電子)

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