Shantung Guild (山東庄): Yee Tai Hong, Shun Tai Hong and Lee Yuen Cheung

York Lo: Shantung Guild (山東庄): Yee Tai Hong, Shun Tai Hong and Lee Yuen Cheung

The traditional Chinese trading firms in Sheung Wan are known as “Nam Pak Hong” or South-North trading associations and earlier on the website we covered some of the firms which deal with the “South” trade – trading with Southeast Asia such as Pak Wo Cheung and Luen Hing Cheong of the Annam guild and Hip Hing Hong of the Siamese guild. Influential in the “North” trade – trading with the mainland – were firms started by merchants from Shantung (Shandong) province which were collectively known as the Shantung guild and specialized in importing Chinese medicine such as ginseng and deer antlers and other goods from the North. Below are profiles of three of the firms – Yee Tai Hong and Shun Tai Hong have since faded into history while Lee Yuen Cheung is still a live company after over a century of operations:

Yee Tai Hong ()

Shantung Guild Image 1 York Lo

Left: Article about burglary at Yee Tai Hong in 1932 (KSDN, 1932-11-3); Right: note of borrowing from Yee Tai Hong in 1932 from the Tang Tin Fook Bank.

Yee Tai Hong was one of the largest Shantung firms in Hong Kong which operated out of Wing Lok Street. The firm was founded in the early 20th century and in the late 1920s it was listed as “Commission Merchants , Importers , Exporters Steamship Agents & Dealers in all kinds of Shantung Pongee” (Xianggang Fali, 1929) In November 1932, two burglars broke into Yee Tai Hong’s premises at 172 Wing Lok Street, opened two safes and walked away with $340. Police nearby was able to catch one of the burglars but the other one got away.

During the Japanese occupation, Yee Tai Hong was one of the authorized sugar dealers by the Japanese military administration along with Lee Yuen Cheung and Lau Chu-sam (劉鑄三) was listed as its owner at 156 Wing Lok Street West. (WKYP, 1942-7-17)

One of Yee Tai Hong’s employees – Shiu Wah-ting (邵華亭) was a student of the famous Shandong martial arts master Lin Jing-shan (林景山, 1885-1971). Shiu came to HK to work for Yee Tai Hong in 1936 and participated in tournaments organized by Luo Guangyu (羅光玉, 1889-1944), a fellow master of the Shandong Praying Mantis. Another employee Chan Kau-chi (陳九滋) was the graduate of the 17th class of the Whampoa Military Academy and a native of Fenglai in Shandong province.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Yee Tai Hong continued to operate out of 154 and 156 Wing Lok Street (CGCC Membership Directory, 1958 and 1965). That location was re-developed into the 24-story Winsome House (永生大廈) by Henry Construction (see article on Ching Hing Construction) and Hip Sing Hong in 1971 (KSDN, 1971-8-1)

Shun Tai Hong(順泰)

In the early 1920s, Shun Tai Hong was operating out of 70 Lower Lascar Row (Xianggang Yinghua Mingren lu, 1923) The firm had a business relationship with Wing Hang Lee (永亨利) of Tientsin which was involved in the trading of Chinese medicine.From the recollection of a descendant of the proprietor of Wing Hang Lee, the manager of Shun Tai Hong was Sun Siu-po (辛少甫).

In 1933, Shun Tai Hong (address described as Possession Point) went out of business with hundreds of thousands of dollars of outstanding liabilities. One of the creditors – Yik On Bank of 79 Bonham Strand West hired the law firm of Russ & Co to sue Chin King-man, the owner of Shun Tai Hong and his business partner, Nam Pak Hong merchant and Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and Pok Oi Hospital director Yu Cheuk-sang (余焯生), the proprietor of Wing On Cheong Medicine Co (永安昌參茸行). (KSDN, 1934-11-8)

Lee Yuen Cheung (利源長)

Shantung Guild Image 2 York Lo

Left: Lee Yuen Cheung store in Kennedy Town; Right: Lee Yuen Cheung Korean ginseng package

Lee Yuen Cheung was founded in 1910 by Shandong native Wong Shou-shan (王壽山). The firm, which traded in ginseng, raw silk, vermicelli and other products, was already operating out of Ko Shing Street based on an advertisement by Lee Yu Kee (see article) in 1928 which listed them as one of their clients (A 1923 directory also listed the firm address as 68 Ko Shing Street). Aside from being an early leader of the Shantung native community in HK, Wong was also the chairman of the HK branch of Red Swastika Society (紅卍字會), a religious and philanthropic movement started in Shandong in the early 1920s which operated out of Dragon Terrace (金龍台) in Causeway Bay.

Wong was succeeded at Lee Yuen Cheung by Lee Chuk-kei (李作基, 1896-1990),a native of Fenglai in Shandong province who joined the firm in 1928 starting out as an apprentice and later promoted to bookkeeper, manager and became its managing director in 1956. Lee was one of the co-founders and chairman of the Shantung Hopeh Natives HK Association (冀魯旅港同鄉會). In 1961, Lee was elected vice chairman of the HK branch of the Red Swastika Society along with Chan Shu-kai while Dr. Tseung Fat-in was elected chairman. (WKYP, 1961-4-2)

Shantung Guild Image 3 York Lo

Article about Lee Chuk-kei offering water to his neighbors in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-6-2)

In the early 1960s, Lee Yuen Cheung developed the Lee Yuen Cheung Building at its site at 70 Ko Shing Street.

In May 1963, Lee Chok-kee’s wife Madam Leung died at the age of 69 and she was survived by her two sons – Lee Sung-ko (李崇高) and Lee Sung-hou (李崇厚) and daughter Lee Sung-hing. (WKYP, 1963-5-23) Despite of the family tragedy, Lee was generous to his neighbors and offered water from his building’s well from 10-noon and 3-6pm everyday during the drought season the next month with the assistance of the Kennedy Town Kaifong Welfare Association. In August 1963, Lee Yuen Cheung Land Investment & Loan Co Ltd was incorporated and was renamed Lee Yuen Cheung Co Ltd in 1967.

In early June 1964, Wong Shou-shan died at his residence and was survived by his son Wong Chung-yiu (王中堯). His funeral at the HK Funeral Home was attended by leaders of the HK movement such as the diplomat Dr. C.T. Wang and the physician Dr. Fat-In Tseung.  (WKYP, 1964-6-3)

Products represented by the firm included wine manufactured by the famous Chang Yu Winery of Shandong and ginseng from the Northeast (Liaoning and Jilin) and Korea. Lee Chuk-kei was a member of the Chinese political body CPPCC and board member of pro-Beijing Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.The site of the Lee Yuen Cheung Building has since been re-developed into the 27-story Elite’s Place (俊陞華庭) in 2003 while Lee Yuen Cheung has relocated to 22 Praya in Kennedy Town.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chunglee/leeyuencheung/about.html

This article was first posted on 8th October 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Annam Guild: The Hui Family and Lune Hing Cheong (聯興昌)  
  2. Lee Yu Kee, Kitson and Tung On – Pioneers of the HK Plumbing Industry

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