Aw Boon Haw (1882~1954)

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Aw Boon Haw (”gentle tiger”) was born 1882 Rangoon (Yangon), Burma and died 1954 Hong Kong (on his way back to Singapore from US). He was a Burmese Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for introducing Tiger Balm. He was the son of Hakka herbalist Aw Chu Kin, with his ancestral home in Yongding County, Fujian Province.

In 1918, Aw Boon Haw developed Tiger Balm as a trade mark, with his younger brother Aw Boon Par. Also use “Ban Kim Ewe” or “Ten Thousand Golden Oil” as its trade name and their versatile balm a household standard in their native Rangoon and then Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China. Eventually the rest of Southeast Asia.

Just when everything was going so great in Rangoon, Boon Par and Boon Haw were charged with illicit trafficking in opium, and counterfeiting. The British Chief Inspector of Police, Cyril Taylor, put the brothers under house arrest. But the police were not able to pin anything on the brothers.This was humiliating to the brothers, Boon Haw decided to leave Burma and move the business to Singapore.

In 1924, Aw Boon Haw built a factory building, a 3-storey neo-classical building, at the corner of Neil Road and Craig Road.

The Aws eventually migrated to Singapore in 1926, where he began the business of Tiger Red Balm by setting up Haw Par Brothers Private Limited. Aw also founded several newspapers, including Sin Chew Jit Poh in 1929.

Aw Boon Haw moved to Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation of Singapore (between 1942 and 1945) and managed the businesses from there, while his brother stayed in Singapore until he closed down the factory and went to Rangoon. Aw returned to Singapore after the end of World War II and re-established his business. In 1950, he set up the Chung Khiaw Bank and placed the management of the bank under the leadership of his son-in-law, Lee Chee Shan, also a Burmese Chinese who arrived in Singapore in 1929.

The Singapore’s Haw Par Villa was one of this many his legacy.

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