The Kwan family and Yue Ying Can Manufacturing and Asia Can Co
York Lo: The Kwan family and Yue Ying Can Manufacturing and Asia Can Co
Left: Yue Ying and Asia Can co-founder Y.P. Kwan (WKYP, 1963-4-3); Right: profile of Yue Ying Can Manufacturing in 1934 (HK Chinese Factories Survey, 1934)
Earlier on the website we covered the Shang family of China Can Company. Another key player and pioneer in the HK can industry since the 1920s is the family of Yue-Pang Kwan (關如彭, hereafter refer to as “Y.P. Kwan”) and Yue-chung Kwan (關如松, hereafter referred to as “Y.C. Kwan”), which started Yue Ying Can Manufacturing and Asia Can Company, two leading firms in the industry. In fact, Yue Ying Can Manufacturing (如英印花鐵罐廠) was the first domestic manufacturer of tin cans and lithographic tin printer when the Kwan brothers sought to break local manufacturer’s reliance on foreign tin cans for packaging by establishing the firm on Hennessy Road in Wanchai in 1925
According to an article about the history of the lithographic printing industry in Canton, the Kwan brothers got their start at Kwan Tung Nga Lithographic Press (關東雅印刷局), which was founded in Canton in 1905 by their kinsman Kwan Ching-hin (關靜軒) and was a pioneer in the industry until its dissolution in 1925, upon which many of its employees started other firms in Canton (including Kwan Fung-chi 關鳯池, a cousin of the Kwan brothers who started Chung Hing Lithographic Press) and HK.
By 1934, Yue Ying’s annual sales had more than tripled to over HK$100,000 from its initial annual revenues of HK$30,000. Its outputs were shipped to the Southeast Asian market and major cities in Southern China. In HK, it enjoyed a healthy market share as it was a duopoly with Wah Yick, which was absorbed by China Can Company, its competitor from Shanghai the same year. The firm had $50000 worth of equipment, 30 male workers who were earning monthly wages ranging from $14 for a regular worker to $90 for clerical workers and $100 for supervisors and 40 female workers who were paid daily wages of 40 cents each. (Tin Kwong Po, 1934-7-3)
In 1949, Yue Ying had a new plant at 10 Whitfield Road in Causeway Bay and a Canton branch at 623 Road in Canton. Its management team comprised of Y.C. Kwan as chief manager, Y.P. Kwan as manager, W.K. Kwan as deputy chief manager and factory superintendent, S.P. Chinn as head of foreign trade, C.Y. Wu as chief technician and Mrs. Lew as forewoman. (Directory of HK, Macao and Canton, 1949)
In January 1959, Governor Black and the Director of Industry & Commerce visited Yue Ying’s plant at Whitfield Road the same day it visited the plastic giant Kader Industrial in North Point. The group did an hour-long factory tour of the various departments led by three members of the Kwan family – Y.P., Y.C. and Kai-yip. At the time, the plant occupied 33,000 sq ft and was equipped with the latest machinery and the firm employed 100 male workers (who were paid daily wages of $7-14) and 150 female workers (who were paid daily wages of $2.50). Half of the firm’s output was sold domestically while the other half were exported. (WKYP, 1959-1-27) From vintage tin calendar and poster found online, Yue Ying’s clients included multinational brands such as the British tobacco manufacturer Rothmans (“Craven A” brand) and Coca Cola.
The Kwan brothers (Y.P. and Y.C.) and sports journalists visiting Chuk Lam Buddhist temple (竹林禪院) in Tsuen Wan in 1957. (WKYP, 1957-03-06)
Outside of business, Y.P. Kwan was active in community affairs and the local soccer scene and served as chairman of Po Leung Kuk from 1964-65, director of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, vice president of South China Athletic Association, president of HK Chinese Football Association (香港華人足球聯會), vice chairman of the World Lung Kong Association (世界龍岡親義總會), president of the Kwan Family Association (關氏宗親會) and the HK Volleyball Federation (香港排球聯會).
In May 1967, Y.C. Kwan died in his home at the age of 70. His funeral at the HK Funeral Parlor was well attended by business and community leaders including Kwok Chan, Q.W. Lee and Ho Sin-hang from Hang Seng Bank and afterwards the hearse passed by Yue Ying’s plant in Causeway Bay where the employees paid their respect. (KSDN, 1967-05-30) Y.C. was survived by his two wives, five sons (predeceased by one son Kai-sui) including Kwan Kai-yip (關啓業) who was working at Yue Ying and six daughters. (WKYP, 1967-5-28)
After Y.C.’s death, not much info is available about Yue Ying and Y.P. Kwan and his family remained in the can business with Asia Can Co. Ltd. (嘉齡印花鐵罐製廠), which was incorporated in 1971. Asia Can relocated its production to Shenzhen in the mid-1980s and was renamed “亞洲罐廠” in Chinese in 1994 to be consistent with its English name. The same year, substantial capital was injected and Asia Can bought a large parcel of land in Dongguan where it built a state-of-the art factory. Today, it focuses on manufacturing of food related tin cans, trays and metal wall plaques.
Y.P. Kwan has many children. His second son Benjamin Kwan Kai-man (關啟文) joined Asia Can after studying in the UK and married Chiu Shun-yee (趙純儀), the eldest daughter of Chiu Chung-pak, the second-generation owner of Sheck Wah Tong Printing Co. (WKYP, 1972-12-10)
Y.P.’s second daughter Kwan Fung-yee (關鳳儀) married S.L. Chan (陳兆鎏), a structural engineer working for the Public Works department in 1971 (KSEN, 1971-11-30) while his third daughter Kwan Fung-wah (關鳳華) married University of Birmingham law graduate Albert Lam Hon-chung (林漢中), the second son of Lam Man-kit (林文傑), lawyer and Y.P.’s predecessor as chairman of Po Leung Kuk in 1966. (KSDN, 1966-11-22) His fourth daughter Kwan Fung-mei (關鳳美) studied in the UK and married Laurent Lam Kwing-chee (林炯熾, current chairman of Golden Resources Development), the seventh son of rice magnate Lam But-chung in 1975. (KSDN, 1975-12-26) The marriage however did not last and Lam later married movie producer Linda Kuk (谷薇麗).
The wedding of Albert Lam and Kwan Fung-wah in 1966 with Mr & Mrs Y.P. Kwan on the left and Mr. & Mrs. Lam Man-kit on the right (KSDN, 1966-11-22)
Sources (other those cited above):
This article was first posted on 9th March 2020.
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