Aun Ee-han (洪怡漢): Right Hand Man of the Tiger Balm King

Aun Ee Han Hanaevilla

Left: Picture and bio of Aun Ee-han (HK Album, 1967); Right: Hanaevilla (OneDay) 

Going up Stubbs Road, one would notice a prominent residential complex called Hanaevilla (漢苑) at 28-30 Stubbs Road. Built in 1959, the 3-story, 9 units complex is named after Aun Ee-han, a prominent Burmese businessman in Hong Kong who resided there and was the right hand man of Aw Boon-haw (胡文虎, 1882-1954), the co-founder of Tiger Balm and founder of the Sing Tao newspapers. Aung managed Aw’s businesses in HK for many years in addition to having his own business interests such the distribution of Tien Chu Ve-Tsin and in shipping.

Origin

Born in Hanthawaddy, Burma in 1912, Aun was the only son of Aun Kung-eng (洪恭榮), who died in HK in November 1969 at the age of 88. He went to the Government High School in Rangoon where he was classmate and friend with his relative Lee Chee-san (李志誠), the cousin of his mother who later became the son in law of Aw Boon-haw’s younger brother Aw Boon-par (胡文豹) and was in charge of the family’s Chung Kiaw Bank (崇僑銀行) in Singapore. After high school, Aun became a medical student at the Rangoon University but in 1932, he abandoned his medical studies to join the Aw family’s Eng Aun Tong (永安堂), the maker and distributor of Tiger Balm in Singapore. According to Lee’s daughter in law Joo-kim Yeap, Aun like his father in law did not speak Chinese when he arrived in Singapore but picked it up very quickly.  (Yeap, Joo-kim. Far from Rangoon, 1994)

After the War, Aun was transferred to Hong Kong where he managed Eng Aun Tong’s HK branch out of 179 Wanchai Road and also served on the board of a number of businesses the Aw family had invested in such as Pacific Union Trading and Hong Kong Printing Press (see article).

Pacific Union Trading Co Ltd

Pacific Union Trading Image 1 York Lo

Ad for Pacific Union Trading in 1948 (Tung Wah Monthly Magazine, October 1948) 

According to the 1948 ad above, Pacific Union’s auto division was the exclusive agent of Hudson Motors. Meanwhile, its electric division was the sole agent in Southern China for China Electric Co Ltd, the subsidiary of International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation (ITT) founded in 1918 and products represented included National radio, Weston electric meter, Whitney Blake electric wires, Ray-O-Vac batteries and torchlights and Onan electric generators.  

According to the Directory of HK, Macao and Canton in 1949, Pacific Union operated out of 501-506 Marina House in Central with Aw Boon-haw as chairman and the directors of the firm included his son Aw Hoe and lieutenants Khong Keng-poh, Teng Ming, Aun Ee Han and Yew Kien Chee while the managing director of the firm was Harry King and the manager was A. Swemmelaar. 

Incorporated in 1946, Pacific Union Trading was dissolved in 1954. 

Yee Han Company and Union Trading & Shipping

Hanae (2)

Aun Ee-han and others at the opening of Yee Han Co’s new office in Mongkok in 1965 (WKYP, 1965-3-13)

Outside of the Aw family businesses, Aun Ee-han had a number of business interests. He started the trading firm of Yee Han Company (義漢行) which became the distributor of Tien Chu Ve-tsin in HK in the 1960s. (Original distributor was Yu Kee Hong which was controlled by the Chan brothers who were the proprietors of Booth Edible Oil, see article). When Yee Han moved to 224 Fa Yuen Street in Mongkok, its opening ceremony was attended by over 1000 guests. He was also on the board of United Trading & Shipping (聯益有限公司), which was incorporated in 1952 and was the agent in HK for the state controlled Burmese Shipping Board, whose vessels transported rice and cotton from Burma to HK. (WKYP, 1956-1-16) The firm was led by Tan Chin-poo (陳振富, U Kyin Pu), a fellow Burmese Chinese born in Wakema, Burma in 1907 who was consul for Burma in HK in the 1950s and son in law of Lim Peng-mau (林秉懋) of the Ho Hong shipping, banking and manufacturing empire. In addition to Union Trading, Tan was chairman of Union Forwarding Agency (聯華有限公司) and Luen Seng Hing (聯成興有限公司), managing director of Trans-Atlantic Syndicate and director of Asia Insurance. (Hong Kong Who’s Who, 1973)

Hanae Swiss (3)

Aun Ee-han (first from the right) with 4 others before boarding complimentary flight to Zurich then London by Swissair in 1960. Left to right: impresario Harry Odell, auto magnate Bob Harper (see article), Swissair manager, Poldi Corra (proprietor of Filmo Depot), president of Swiss Residents Association, Aun. (WKYP, 1960-10-7) 

According to his father’s obituary, Aun and his wife Chan Wei-king (陳蕙琼) has at least 3 sons and 5 daughters. The couple went on a 80-day round-the-world trip with Po Leung Kuk director Tung Leung (董樑) and his wife in 1960. (WKYP, 1960-12-28). In 1961, someone pulled a prank on Aun calling up newspapers pretending to be him and told them to show up at Hanaevilla for news about the Tiger Balm Garden. (TKP, 1961-10-25) Outside of business, Aun was president of the Burmese Association of Hong Kong and vice president of the Sing Tao Sports Club in the 1950s. (Asia Who’s Who, 1958)

This article was first posted on 6th December 2019.

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  4. G Falconer & Company, Watchmakers & Jewellers – HK agent for Ross Optical Ltd, Clapham, London and Kelvin & Hughes, marine instruments, London
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