Sunday, 2 March 2014

Eu Tong Sen 余东璇

Eu Tong Sen, OBE, JP
There is an old Chinese adage saying that family wealth never survives for three generations. Witnessing several prominent Chinese families in the Straits Settlements and British Malaya fell into this "generation trap" one would have to nod in agreement. However, this adage is not applicable to the Eu family. Whom profoundly known by the signature, Eu Yan Sang, a legacy known in today as a traditional Chinese medicine store stretching a chain of branches throughout the world. The Eu Yan Sang has been notably remained a family business run by the fourth and fifth generations of its founders. 

Eu Tong Sen was born in Penang on 23 July 1877, he was the only son of Eu Kong-pui also known as Eu Kong (1853 - 1891) by his first wife Leong Kum Yow (1854 - 1927). His grandfather Eu Hok-chung (1822 - 1886) was a fengshui master in China. Eu Tong Sen died on 11 May 1941 survived by 13 sons and 11 daughters through his 11 wives distributing in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The story of Eu Tong Sen is inseparable with the legacy of Eu Yan Sang, in which founded by his father and step-mother. Eu Yan Sang was founded in 1879 in Gopeng and stretched to Ipoh and Kampar in 1881. It was a traditional Chinese medical hall setup near tin mining towns to cure miners whom could not afford for Western medical aids.  

Eu Kong-pui
Madam Leong Kum Yow
Eu Kong was born in 1853 in Foshan, Guangdong with Jiangxi origin. In September 1876, Eu Kong left his native to Penang together with his wife, Leong Kum Yow and a younger brother, Eu Kong Chun. He was then employed to the Wo Yuen Cloth Store as shop assistant. Shortly after three months, he became a business partner in Wo Yuen as well as a bakery shop by investing few hundred dollars. Unfortunately, after eight months both businesses were forced to shut down due to the sudden capital withdrawal by Wo Yuen's owner. After the mishaps, in 1878, Eu Kong became a shop assistant in a Chinese grocery store known as Yue Sang owned by Khoo Wan Heng. The store was an agent distributing goods from Southern China to the tin mining towns in the Malay States. It was here, Eu Kong entrusted by his employer to collect debts in Malaya. In 1881, Eu Kong took his wife and son, Eu Tong Sen back to Foshan. After two months sojourn in his native, Eu Kong left for Hong Kong and married a woman, Man Woon Chang. Man Woon Chang was said to be able to speak in English and was a good helper in Eu Kong's business. In 1882, Eu Kong entered into the Government Farms tenders in Gopeng. He won the bidding and became a revenue collector for the next three years. Following with his successful biding in Gopeng, Eu Kong integrated the tin-mining farm with the Chinese grocery and medicine store, in which he named it Yan Sang. In 1884, he brought his another younger brother, Eu Kong Tak to join him. 

On 24 March 1891, Eu Kong suddenly died and left his businesses in crisis whereby his wives and brothers were fighting over his fortune. Eu Tong Sen who was only 14 years old was then called back to take over his father's businesses. However, his step-mother had arranged him to study English under F. W. Harley in Penang and in 1895-1897 in Anglo Chinese School, Ipoh under W.E. Horley. When Eu Tong Sen reached 21 years old he was officially inherited his father's fortune through his father's appointed attorney, Grant Mackie. In 1902, his half sister adopted by his step-mother was married to Leong Kwong Hin, a Chinese Protectorate in Singapore whom later became his private secretary. Mrs Leong Kwong Hin was born in 1887 and died in 1940 in Singapore. 
Eu Tong Sen

Eu Tong Sen in his early adolescence
By the time Eu Tong Sen inherited his father's fortune, the government farms were in the process of phasing out. As the British were no longer in need for it to attract investors in British Malaya. The concept of capitalism was then introduced, only the wealthiest with capital and connections could operate business in large scale. In order to accommodate this new policy, Eu Tong Sen drew a new direction for the family business. He became amongst the first Chinese miners to utilize the hydraulic pumps in his tin mines. This expensive machinery could extract the earth deeper into the alluvial layer. In Perak, Eu Tong Sen had about eight mines employing about 8,000 coolies, three in Gopeng, two in Kampar, each one in Tronoh, Chenderiang and Papan. In Selangor, he had two mines each in Ampang and Kanching, employing about 3,000 coolies. As for Negri Sembilan he had a one in Batang Benna operated by about 1,000 coolies. Eu Tong Sen also setup a foundry known as Sang Woh to manufacture tin-based products and export it out from Malaya. When the future for tin was uncertainty in the late 19th century, Eu Tong Sen invested in rubber plantation of about 1,000 acres with about 3,000 coolies. 

Eu Tong Sen was the Vice-president of the Anti-Opium Society, a member of the Kinta Sanitary Board, and an Unofficial Member of the Federal Legislative Council of the Federated Malay States (1912 - 1920). In 1903, he purchased a Qing official title to enhance his social status. Eu Tong Sen also known for his generous donation of $55,000 to the Hongkong University in 1918 as well as to the Raffles College in Singapore.  

In order to mark the Eu family's philanthropic efforts and the family business image, Eu Tong Sen renamed Yan Sang with Eu Yan Sang. It was during this time too, that Eu Yan Sang was diversified into remittance business. The remittance services were first extended to Singapore, Penang, Perak and Kuala Lumpur. In 1909 he setup another remittance branch in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong and in 1928, Eu Tong Sen made Hong Kong as his home. By 1914, the remittance services by Eu Yan Sang had reached the Dutch East Indies and Southern China. On 7 January 1932, the Eu Tong Sen (Singapore) Ltd. was founded as a remittance agent for overseas Chinese in British Malaya and Straits Settlements. 

By the late 1920s, Eu Yan Sang already had a strong base for remittance business in Southeast Asia and Southern China. During this time, the Eu Yan Sang extended its core business to real estate, property investment and banking sectors. In 1920, he co-founded the Lee Wah Bank in Singapore, a Cantonese bank setup to serve the Cantonese community.

In Hong Kong, Eu Tong Sen was famed for his three mansions located at Bonham Road, Repulse Bay and Tai Po, they were known as Euston, Eucliff and Sirmio, respectively. Each mansion costs about $500,000 and was built from the best materials imported from Europe. He also owned several villas in Ipoh, Gopeng, Kampar, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, etc. His official Singapore residence cost at least $1 million was at No. 7 Addis Road named Eu Villa built in 1913, where his mother spend her remaining years. His other Singapore homes including the Katong Pier near the Singapore Swimming Club, the Burnside Mansion at Tomlinson Road, and the Roseland Mansion at Grange Road.  

The Eu Tong Sen Street in Singapore was named after Eu Tong Sen in 1919 to honor his achievement and his contribution to the Singapore economy and more importantly for his contribution to the British war effort during the World War I, in which he donated a tank and two fighter planes. In 1922, Eu Tong Sen was decorated with the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his meritorious services. Eu Tong Sen's mother Leong Kum Yow died on 9 February 1927 at Eu Villa, Singapore. She was buried at the family burial ground at Bukit Timah Road. Whereas, Eu Tong Sen died on 11 May 1941 in his mansion in Tai Po, Hong Kong and was cremated and buried there. His eldest son Eu Keng Chee (popularly known as K.C. Eu) who was also a joint owner of his company since 1926 succeeded his business empire.

Eu Tong Sen and sons
Wong Ping Fook / Wong Seet Kin (1878 - 1953)
Chong Soon Nui (b. 1881)
Wong Soo Ngoh (b. 1882)
Choi Hei Yong (b. 1904)
Jenny Eu (aka Liu Suk Ching; Liao Zheng’er) (1903 - 1978)
Liu Lai Chan (b. 1914)
Jennie Ching-yee Liu

Eu Keng Chee (aka K.C. Eu) (1900 - 1957)
Eu Keng Loon (b. 1916)
Eu Keng Ngo (b. 1917)
William Eu Keng Yuet (1920)
Edward Eu Keng Oi (b. 1921)
Henry Eu Keng Hong (b. 1923)
Richard Eu Keng Mun (b. 1923)
Charles Eu Keng Pang (b. 1926)
Alexander Eu Keng Kee (b. 1927)
John Eu Keng Dean (aka Eu Keng Tien) (1927 - 2009)
Fred Eu Keng Fai (1930 - 1993)
Andrew Eu Keng Wai (1931 - 1977)
Roy Eu Keng Iu (aka Eu Keng Yiu) (b. 1933)

Eu Sai Yeok (b. 1904)
Eu Khee Po (b. 1912)
Eu Lim Sam (b. 1916)
Eu Fong Lin (b. 1918)
Eu Nancy (b. 1925)
Eu Lucy (b.1925)
Eu Josephine (b. 1926)
Eu Pansy (b. 1926)
Eu Celia (b. 1929)
Eu Kathleen (b. 1930)
Eu Sau Chan (b. 1907) - adopted

CHUNG, Stephanie Po-Yin. (2005). The Transformation of an Overseas Chinese Family: Three Generations of the Eu Tong Sen Family, 1822-1941. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 39, No. 3, (pp. 599-630)
LIAN, Kwen Fee & KOH, Keng We. (2004). Chinese Enterprise in Colonial Malaya: The Case of Eu Tong Sen. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, (pp. 415-432)
CHUNG, Stephanie Po-Yin. (2002). Surviving Economic Crises in Southeast Asia and Southern China: The History of Eu Yan Sang Business Conglomerates in Penang, Singapore and Hong Kong. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, (pp. 579-617)
RIMBA. (1922). Bygone Selangor. Kuala Lumpur. (p. 21)
TONG, Fock Siew. (2009). Dynamics of Family Business: The Chinese Way. Cengage Learning Asia (pp. 84-86)
WRIGHT, Arnold. (1907). Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its History, People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources. London: Lloyd’s Greater Britain Publishing Co., Ltd. (p. 534)
YEUNG, Henry Wai-Chung. (2004). Chinese Capitalism in a Global Era: Towards a Hybrid Capitalism
YEUNG, Henry Wai-chung. (2001). Managing Traditional Chinese Family Firms Across Borders: Four Generations of Entrepreneurship of Eu Yan Sang. (pp. 184- 207). In DOUW, Leo, et al. (Eds.). Rethinking Chinese Transnational Enterprises: Cultural Affinity and Business Strategies. Surrey: Curzon Press.
CHUNG, Stephanie Po-Yin. (2001). Doing Business in Southeast Asia and Southern China - Booms and Busts of the Eu Yan Sang Business Conglomerates, 1876-1941. (pp. 158-183). In DOUW, Leo, et al. (Eds.). Rethinking Chinese Transnational Enterprises: Cultural Affinity and Business Strategies. Surrey: Curzon Press.
SHARP, Ilsa. (2009). Strategies Path of the Righteous Crane: The Life & Legacy of Eu Tong Sen. Singapore: Landmark Books 

News Archives:
The Straits Times, 11 February 1927, Page 8
The Straits Times, 19 March 1927, Page 9
The Straits Times, 9 September 1934, Page 4
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 21 June 1940, Page 3
The Straits Times, 13 May 1941, Page 2
The Straits Times, 9 April 1952, Page 8
The Straits Times, 24 December 1953, Page 7
The Straits Times, 28 March 1970, Page 18