Hong (business)

For other uses, see Hong (disambiguation).

The Hongs (Chinese: ) were major business houses in Canton (now known as Guangzhou), China and later Hong Kong with significant influence on patterns of consumerism, trade, manufacturing and other key areas of the economy. They were originally led by Howqua as head of the cohong.


See also: Cohong

Prior to the establishment of Hong Kong, the name hong was given to major business houses using the Chinese word (Chinese: ; pinyin: háng; Jyutping: hong4; literally: "profession") based in Canton. The Thirteen Factories were the original Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) merchants of China responsible for foreign trade under the aegis of the cohong.

The original Canton factories faded from the scene after the First Opium War (18391842), just prior to Hong Kong's economic birth and hence had little effect on the new colony's development. A second generation of hongs arose during the Colonial Hong Kong era that were operated directly by foreign companies. Known as the "Foreign Hongs" (Chinese: 洋行; pinyin: Yángháng; Cantonese Yale: yeung4 hong2), each had a Tai-pan or boss and a comprador responsible for dealings with Chinese merchants. One of the earliest Foreign Hongs established was Jardine Matheson & Co., who bought Lot No. 1 at the first Hong Kong land sale in 1841.[1] In 1843 the same firm established a mainland China headquarters on the Bund in Shanghai, just south of the British Consulate. The building was known as "the Ewo Hong", or "Ewo House", based on the Cantonese pronunciation of the company's Chinese name (怡和行, Cantonese: Yiwo Hong, now 怡和洋行).[2] Jardine's took the name from the earlier Ewo hong run by Howqua.[3]

The term is most often used in reference to Colonial Hong Kong companies directly. In the modern sense, the term is loosely used to describe influential Asian companies.


Prior to any banking institutions other than small foreign bank branches, the three firms that financed most of Hong Kong's economic activities were the Jardine's, Dent's and the Russell's.[4] As a result, most sources credit the three as the original hongs.

Most of these firms became multinational corporations with management consisting of mostly European expatriates.[5]

By the time of the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, many of the hongs had diversified their holdings and shifted their headquarters offshore away from Hong Kong to avoid any potential communist party takeovers.[5]

Conglomerates of colonial Hong Kong

Note: Below are lists of companies that had a predominant effect on Hong Kong's economy at a particular era. Their noteworthiness is debatable. The official names of the era are used.









Conglomerates of modern Hong Kong






The old British hongs continue to operate in Hong Kong after 1997, but a few are now held by local Hong Kong Chinese businessmen.

Since the 1980s, a number of local Chinese and mainland Chinese firms (red chips) have challenged the control of the Hong Kong economy previously held by the British hongs:

Red Chips:

Local Tycoons:

See also


  1. Jardine Matheson – Official history.
  2. Tales of Old Shanghai. "Earnshaw.com." The Hongs. Retrieved on 29 March 2007.
  3. Cheong, W.E. (1997). The Hong merchants of Canton: Chinese merchants in Sino-Western trade. Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-0361-6. p.122 Online version at Google books
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Hong Kong Hongs with Long Histories and British Connections" (PDF). Hong Kong University. 1990. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 Genzberger, Christine A. [1994] (1994) Hong Kong Business: The Portable Encyclopedia for Doing Business with Hong Kong. ISBN 0-9631864-7-7
  6. Dan Waters, "Hong Kong Hongs with Long Histories and British Connections", Paper presented at the 12th Conference of the International Association of Historians of Asia, at Hong Kong University (June 1991): 230–231; http://hkjo.lib.hku.hk/archive/files/8deeba7475f950a5f3938fc24f687bbe.pdf

Further reading

External links

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