The Wongs and the Hungs – Pre-War pioneers of HK real estate and philanthropists
York Lo: The Wongs and the Hungs – Pre-War pioneers of HK real estate and philanthropists
The four founding brothers of the Wong and the Hung families who donated the Four Friends Library at the Shimen Middle School in their hometown in the 1930s. Left to right: Wong Tze-lam, Wong Kin-chi, Hung Mak-yuen, Hung Sean-chau
Natives of the Nanhai prefecture (南海) in Guangdong province, the Wong and the Hung families are pre-War pioneers of the Hong Kong real estate industry through the establishment of their Pun Tak Land and Wai Tak Land in the 1920s. The two families are also noted for their philanthropy in their native Nanhai and Hong Kong for over a century, especially for their support of the HK Buddhist Association, Sik Sik Yuen, the University of Hong Kong and the HK Baptist University.
THE WONG FAMILY AND PUN TAK LAND
Wong Tze-lam (黄梓林, 1873-1962) – founder of Pun Tak Land and Philanthropist
Wong Tze-lam, the founder of Pun Tak Land, passed the xiucai level of the imperial exam at the age of 24 but went into business instead of civil service. He became a successful businessman in the textile business in Nanhai and Canton before moving to Hong Kong in the early 1920s.
In 1924, he incorporated Pun Tak Land Investment & Agency Co Ltd (本德置業) to engage in property development. One of his first projects was Tai Pak Terrace (太白台) in Kennedy Town, one of the seven terraces originally developed by Li Po-lung, the son of Li Sing (see article) who got into financial troubles in the early 1920s. Wong built a series of five storey tenement houses in Tai Pak Terrace and sold/donated some of them to his favorite charities.
Wong also foresaw the potential of Wanchai and in partnership with Macau casino magnate and king of pawn shops Ko Ho-ning (高可寧), building contractor Tang King-po (鄧鏡波) and merchant Ma Tsui-chiu (馬敘朝) developed buildings on the reclamation land in the area. His son later continued the firm’s development in some of these properties.
Wong’s involvement in philanthropy began in Nanhai in 1896 when he teamed up with military official Liu Feng-xiang (劉鳳翔) and merchant Chen Pei-yan (陳沛然) started Tong Yan Sin Tong (同人善堂) to provide free medical treatments. He was also involved with the charitable organization Sung Ching Sin Tong (崇正善堂) in Canton.
Wong Tze-lam (front row, first from left) with his fellow elders of Hong Kong at the second anniversary of the “Thousand Years Birthday Banquet” in 1957. Back row right to left: Lui Chan-ming (呂燦銘, father of painter Lui Shou-kun), Li Yick mui (李亦梅), Ng Hin-chi (伍憲子) Chan Foon-din (陳寬典), Lui Wai-po (雷惠波), Ma Tsui-chiu (馬敘朝), Tong Tin-yu (唐天如), Hui Oi-chow (許愛周), Ma Kam (馬鑑); Front row right to left: Yu Suk-man (俞叔文),Sze Yu-ngai (施雨崖), Lo Sheung-fu (盧湘父), Pan Ching-po (潘澄波), Hui Chai-shun (許濟遜), Chan Yuk-chuen (陳玉泉), Lau Chung-ho (劉仲好), Lau Sing-but (劉星昶), Li Po-kwai (李葆葵), Yuen Yik-pong (袁奕捧), Wong Tze-lam. (WKYP, 1957-11-1)
Wong Tze-lam was a devout Buddhist and Taoist who had adopted the Buddhist name of Liu Yan (了因) and Taoist name of Shun Kin (信乾) and remained very involved in various Buddhist and Taoist causes after relocating to Hong Kong. In 1921, he established the Taoist temple of Po Tho Tong (抱道堂) which published many Taoist texts and operated out of Wong’s Tai Pak Terrace until 1959 when it relocated to Maylun Apartments in North Point. In 1924, he was involved in the founding of Fok Hing Tong of the Hong Kong Society for the Promotion of Virtue (香港道德會福慶堂) and under the leadership of Au Lim-chuen (區廉泉, see article on Connaught Aerated Water), the group acquired 8-9 Tai Pak Terrace from Wong in 1927 and the location has served as its head office to this day. Wong was also friends of the Ching mandarins Lai Chai-hei, Au Tai-din (區大典) and Cheung Hok-wah (張學華) and supported the founding of Hok Hoi Library in the 1920s.
When the Japanese invaded Shanghai in January 1932, Wong Tze-lam sold some of his properties and donated the proceeds to the 19th Army that was defending Shanghai under the name of “an Old man from the Outside” (世外老人). In 1933, Wong Tze-lam and his brother Wong Kin-chi (黄健之) joined with Hung Shean-chau and his brother Hung Mak-yuen to donate the “Four Friends Library” (四友圖書館) at the Shimen Middle School in their native Foshan area. Aside from the two Taoist organizations mentioned above, Wong Tze-lam also supported the construction of schools ran by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, the HK Buddhist Association and the Confucian Academy.
In 1955, a “Thousand Years Birthday Banquet” (千歲宴) was organized for Wong Tze-lam and a dozen other respected elders (see caption of above picture for full list) in Hong Kong. In 1962, Wong Tze-lam died in his residence at Luk Yeung Terrace (綠楊台) on Electric Street in Wanchai. He was survived by 2 sons – Wong Wan-leuk (黃允略) and Wong Wan-tin, 3 daughters, 14 grandsons, 11 granddaughters and 11 great grandchildren. (KSDN, 1962-4-6) While he was alive, he also financially supported his grand-nephew Wong Siu-keung (黄少強,1901-1942), a prominent painter of the Lingnan School and one of the star pupils of Gao Qifeng (高奇峰).
Wong Wan-tin (黃允畋, 1920-1997) – second generation head of Pun Tak and Buddhist leader
Left:Wong Wan-tin; right: ad for Pun Tak Land’s Lok Kwan House in 1957 (WKYP, 1957-4-10)
Wong Wan-tin, the ninth son of Wong Tze-lam, succeeded his father as the head of Pun Tak Land and under his leadership, the firm developed many high-rise buildings in Hong Kong and Kowloon in the 1950s and 1960s triggered by the huge housing demand and related building code changes.
In the late 1950s, Pun Tak Land developed buildings in both HK island and Kowloon with names that began with the character “Lok” (Happiness). This included Lok Kwan House (樂群大廈) at 280-288 Sau Kei Wan Road in Shau Kei Wan (starting at HK$17000 per flat), Lok Ka House (樂嘉大廈) at 240-242 Chatham Road North in Hunghom (starting at HK$12600 per flat), Lok Po House (樂寶大樓) at 2-4 Po Tuck Street in Shek Tong Tsui and Lok Yuen House (樂園大廈) at 2L-2M Nelson Street in Mongkok.
Ads for Lok Kwan, Lok Ka and Lok Yuen in 1957 (WKYP, 1957-6-22, 1957-10-12)
Pun Tak’s ad for Pun Tak Building (left) and Lok Yau Building (right) in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-9-25)
In July 1964, Pun Tak celebrated its 40th century and opened the 16-story Pun Tak Building (本德大廈) at 478 Lockhart Road at a ceremony which was attended by over 1000 guests. (KSDN, 1964-7-18) This was followed by Lok Yau Building (樂友大廈) at nearby 336-342 Lockhart Road.
From the 1970s onwards, Pun Tak became less active in property development. Outside of business, Wong Wan-tin had served on the board of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1955 but was perhaps best known for his involvement with the Hong Kong Buddhist Association (香港佛教聯合會), the Confucian Academy (孔教學院) and Sik Sik Yuen (嗇色園), the operator of the popular Wong Tai Sin Temple. He joined the Buddhist Association in 1956 and was elected its vice chairman in 1964. During his time with the Association, he was responsible for building over 20 schools (ranging from kindergarten to secondary school), the Buddhist Hospital and a recreational camp for youth and the Buddhist Wong Wan Tin College in Tai Wai was named in his honor.
For his community service, he was awarded MBE and appointed Justice of the Peace in 1964 and received the OBE in 1983. He was also a member of the Basic Law Consultative Committee and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the mainland as the representative of the HK Buddhist community.
Wong Wan-tin unveiling the plaque of the Pun Tak building in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-7-18)
Descendants of Wong Tze-lam with CUHK officials at the inauguration ceremony of the Wong Tze-lam Hing Tak Centre of Surgical Outcome Research at CUHK in 2013. Left to right: Dr. Francis K.L. Chan, Joseph Sung, Wong Yee-yeung, Wong Yee-hou, Wong Yee-soong, Wong Yee-ding, Fok Tai-fai, Paul Lai.
Wong Wan-tin has at least 2 sons and 3 daughters. His eldest son Patrick Wong Yee-ding (黃宜定) received his Ph.D. in pharmacology from Cambridge University and was a professor of physiology at the Chinese University. Patrick and other grandsons of Wong Tze-lam such as Wong Yee-soong (黃宜淞), Wong Yee-yeung (黃宜讓) and Wong Yee-hou (黃宜厚) continues the family’s philanthropy through the Wong Tze-lam Foundation and Hing Tak Charity. Wan-tin’s second son Tony Wong Yee-tung (黃宜通) married Kwok Yuen-kwan (郭婉君, d.1978), the second daughter of Kwok Tak-seng (郭得勝,1911-1990), the founder of Sun Hung Kai Properties in 1974. A graduate of the University of London, Tony founded Univic Engineering (義年益公司) in 1975 to engage in trading of building materials, fire protection materials and woodworking machineries. In 1993, he acquired Kwan On Construction, a contractor of roadworks, waterworks and drainage and Kwan On Holdings went public in 2015 before it was sold to mainland interests in 2017.
Wong Wan-tin’s eldest daughter Wong Suk-yee (黃淑怡), a graduate of DGS, married Tan Khek-seng (陳克承), the son of Chiyu Bank (集友銀行) founder Tan Khuat-siong (陳厥祥) and grandson of the prominent Singaporean Chinese tycoon Tan Kah Kee in 1963. (WKYP, 1963-5-17). Born in Singapore in 1931, Tan Khek-seng was an executive at Chiyu Bank in Hong Kong for many years and was also involved with St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. Wan-tin’s second daughter Ada Wong Mo-ngan (黄慕颜) married Augustine Chung Shai-kit (鍾世傑), a high-profile lawyer in the 1970s who was a member of the Urban Council and major player in the taxi business. Wan-tin’s third daughter Wong Tai-yee (黄棣怡) married Show-Hoo Hsu MBE (徐守滬), son of Hsu Yee-hang (徐義衡), head of Hang Lee Plastic, in 1970. (KSDN, 1970-7-23) A graduate of HKU, Show-Hoo worked for the Education Department for 35 years and was Senior Assistant Director of Education and afterwards served as head of the Fung Kai Public School in Sheung Shui and chairman of Sik Sik Yuen.
Picture from the Wong-Kwok wedding in 1974. Left to right: Mr & Mrs Wong Wan-tin, Tony Wong, Kwok Yuen-kwan, Mr. & Mrs. Kwok Tak-seng (WKYP, 1974-1-4)
THE HUNG FAMILY AND WAI TAK LAND
Mrs. Hung On-to (center) presenting a check to HKU’s Rayson Huang in 1975 while Hugo Hung Hin-hong (right) looked on (WKYP, 1975-7-10)
Like 4 million others with the same last name (Hung/Kung in English), the Hung family of Wai Tak Land descended from the philosopher Confucius and their ancestor, Hung Sze-tung (孔仕通), a 58th generation descendant of Confucius settled in Nanhai in 1411. Hung Sean-chau (孔仙洲) and Hung Mak-yuen (孔墨缘), who donated funds towards the construction of the Four Friends Library at the Shimen Middle School in conjunction with Wong brothers in 1933, were 70th generation descendants of Confucius and father and uncle of Wai Tak founder Hung On-to.
Hung Hin-lui presenting a check to Wong Wan-tin in 1971 for the construction of the Buddhist Hung Sean Chau Memorial College (WKYP, 1971-5-14)
Hung On-to (孔安道, 1883-1968), whose original name was Hung Chiu-kwai (孔昭逵), was a son of Hung Sean-chau and is a familiar name to most scholars of Hong Kong studies as the Hung On-to Memorial Library at HKU houses the university’s collection of Hong Kong materials dating back to the pre-colonial days. Like Pun Tak founder Wong Tze-lan, Hung On-to was also involved in the textile business in Canton and moved to Hong Kong in the early 1900s. In 1926, Hung On-to and seven fellow members of the Hung family incorporated Wai Tak Land Investment & Loan Co Ltd (懷德置業按揭有限公司) in Hong Kong with capital of HK$500,000. Half of the founding shareholders resided in HK while the rest were in Foshan. The firm became one of the leading mortgage lenders at the time.
In the early 1950s, Wai Tak developed Wai Tak Industrial Building (懷德工業大廈) at 27-29 Tonkin Street and 249-255 Un Chau Street in Cheung Sha Wan, one of the first multi-tenant high-rise industrial building in Hong Kong. As shown in the old picture below, some of the early tenants of the building included Dorbo Knitting Factory on the top two floors, Wahsunfat Garments (華新發製衣), Tin Yau Yarn & Piecegoods (天佑紗布) and a watch case factory in the ground floor.
Left: Henry, Billy, Daniel and Katherine Hung with their mother Yeung Pong-wah at the 90th anniversary of Wai Tak in 2016 (Shiu Pong group website); Right: Wai Tak Industrial Building in 1955.
Hung On-to died in 1968 at the age of 85 and his funeral was attended by over 1000. He was survived by 7 sons – including Hugo Hung Hin-hong (孔憲康), who was president of the Wah Yan (Past Students) Association from 1981-82 and Harry Hung Hin-ming (孔憲明) and 4 daughters. (WKYP, 1968-8-20) In 1974, the descendants of Hung On-to donated $150,000 towards the construction of the Hung On To Memorial Library at HKU. This was followed by another $300,000 in 1975 towards the establishment of the Hung On To Computer Laboratory (WKYP, 1975-7-9)
Left: Hung Hin-lui (center) and Kineta Hung presenting a check to HK Baptist University in 2012; Right: Mr. & Mrs. Hung Hin-shiu unveiling the plaque of the Dr. & Mrs. Hung Hin-shiu Museum of Chinese Medicine at HK Baptist University
Hung On-to’s nephews Hung Hin-shiu (孔憲紹, 1919-2009) and Hung Hin-lui (孔憲侶) further augmented the family’s fortune through prudent investments in the stock market and jointly operated the stock brokerage firm of Hung Brothers since the days of the Far East Stock Exchange in the late 1960s. Over time, Wai Tak and the Hung family had built up a large portfolio of blue-chip stocks and ranked among the largest shareholders of companies such as HSBC, Cheung Kong Holdings and HK & China Gas.
The son of Hung On-to’s younger brother Hung Chiu-chi (孔昭熾), Hung Hin-shiu and his wife Yeung Pong-wah (楊邦鏵) established the real estate development firm of Shiu Pong Enterprises (紹邦企業, taking a character from each of their names) in 1957. With the help of their children Katherine Hung (孔慶怡), Henry Hung (孔慶年), Daniel Hung (孔慶聰) and Billy Hung (孔慶全, 1953-), Shiu Pong developed many properties in Toronto, Canada beginning in 1972 and the projects over the years include: Dragon City, Dragon Centre, The Radius, Mapledale Condominium, Garden Terrace Condomnium, Two Twenty Duncan Mill Condominium, Victoria Park Business Centre, Bayview Royal Community and Campus 2000. The couple also donated generously to educational causes over the years, especially the HK Baptist University which Hin-shiu helped established its first endowment fund and where the Museum of Chinese Medicine, the Shiu Pong Hall and the headmaster’s residence are named after them. The couple also donated the Shiu Pong College at the University of Macau and HKYWCA Shiu Pong Nursery School.
Hung Hin-lui (孔憲侶), who passed away in 2015, was the son of Hung On-to’s brother Hung Chiu-lan. In 1971, he donated HK$1.8 million towards of the construction of the Buddhist Hung Sean Chau Memorial College. In recent years, he donated large amount to the HK Baptist University, where his daughter Kineta Hung (孔慶勤) is the head of communications studies, through his Chi Tao Foundation (智韜慈善基金)
In 2013, Wai Tak Land sold the Wai Tak Industrial Building for HK$650 million.
This article was first posted on 2nd December 2019.
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