Tiger Balm Hong Kong factory - where?

Submitted by philk on Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:07

Following on from the recent discussions about Haw Par Mansion and Tiger Balm Gardens and the mystery pavilions (Gwulo.com/node/52422), I purchased the Tiger Balm Gardens book from the Haw Par Music bookshop inside the mansion (it is currently available at $250 if you are interested to buy).

The book mentions in passing the Hong Kong factory that produced Tiger Balm and includes an illustration (see below) of the factory building but makes no mention of its location. Does anyone know where it was located? 

Tiger Balm factory (Canton/Guangzhou)
Tiger Balm factory, by Philk

Hugh's Industrial History website mentions a company HQ at 179 Wanchai Road that was resold for development in the 1970s but I don't believe this was the factory. One of the staff at the mansion mentioned a shop on Wing Lok Street, but given the size this also seems to be unlikely. The scale of the building n the illustration above makes me think it must have been located in the NT (Castle Peak Road?) or is just that, an illustration, and the building itself was not as grand in reality.

Any clues appreciated. Even the staff at the mansion were curious and had been wondering themselves. It was a significant location because the book mentions it was the 2nd largest production facility in the company and so required multiple visits from Aw Boon Har. It was on one of these visits that he brough his wife who decided she wanted to move to HK and led to the purchase of the land for the mansion and gardens.


It appears that this rather grand illustration of a factory might be the one built in Canton. (wiki image) which makes sense to me, but it doesn't solve the mystery of where the HK factory was located (assuming it was in HK and not Canton).

A 2009 Singapore Libraries Time-Line for the business only mentions factories at Swatow (abandoned) and Canton. And a head-office move to Hong Kong in 1932 to capture the Chinese market.

The business originated in Yangon as did its founder.

Thanks IDJ. The 1932 date coincides with the purchase of the land for the mansion and gardens. In the book it's mentioned that he was in HK to oversee the production at the factory, but this may not be the case if the real factory was indeed in Canton/Guangzhou. I'm assuming the head office is the one set up at 179 Wanchai Road.

My understanding is that at this time, both sets of families (Haw's and Par's) had relocated to Singapore (from Rangoon) where the main production was run from Neal Road. 

The factory doesnt exist, the myth of the factory originated from a mistranslation/miscommunication ("Moving to Hong Kong to build new factories" gets misinterpreted as building factories in Hongkong, whilst he was actually just setting up a new HQ). He was opening new factories from his base in Hong Kong in places like Santow and Canton, this is most likely a misunderstanding or something like the "Mandela Effect" happening. That illustration may be a drawing of the Eng Aun Tong Building (see image below)in Canton.

many thanks Gino - you have confirmed what I had begun to suspect. Yes, I believe it is the Canton factory - it's a perfect match -  but it makes me wonder when the illustration (I posted above) was made, and why say it was Hong Kong and not Canton. Was there some sort of status to be gained from using HK instead? We know he (Haw) was an expert at marketing so perhaps this was jusy part of his "spiel". It wouldn't surprise me if this single illustration alone has compounded the misunderstanding over time. 

I assume the HQ was the one recorded at 179 Wanchai Road.