Bak Cheung Tong at Bonham Street West

Rise and Fall of the Nam Pak Hong. The term Nam Pak Hong referred to the entrepot trading firms in Bonham Strand West, Bonham Strand and Wing Lok Street in Sheung Wan. They were mainly engaged in exporting non-staple foodstuffs from places north and south of the Yangtze River. Their business later expanded to Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, the United States and Africa. The one with the longest history was Yuen Fat Hong, followed by Kin Tai Long Hong, which opened in 1851. The North and South Hongs were basically organised along the lines of the "Thirteen Hongs" in Guangzhou. It first acted as a middleman and charged a commission equal to two percent of the goods' value. The Nam Pak Hong Association was formed in 1868 to unify those in the same business in their fight for benefits. The existing building in Bonham Strand was built in 1954. As members charged a commission of two percent, the association was also known as the "Ninety-Eight Percent Hong." The Nam Pak Hong was most prosperous by the turn of the 20th century. In 1922 and 1925, Hong Kong's economy suffered as a result of two major strikes by seamen, with firms closing down one after another. After 1949, China began nationalising the export business, and also in recent years, it has opened its doors again. Competition in the market became keen, and the new generation has its own way of doing business. Today, the Nam Pak Hong is no longer what they used to be in the past. The early Nam Pak Hong celebrated Lunar New Year by organising parties and setting off firecrackers. Companies were decorated with lanterns as a sign that they were not in debt. On the days of spring and autumn worshipping ceremonies, operas were arranged to entertain the neighbourhood. In the early years, Hong Kong was not very peaceful. Even the police could not offer much help. The Nam Pak Hong therefore organised their own patrol bureau. Guards armed with guns patrolled the area night and day. The three most important Chinese guilds, the Nam Pak Hong, the Silk Hong and the Mortgage Hong, jointly owned Hong Kong's only three fire engines, but their operation was under the command of the government's Fire Services Department. The government's fire-fighting squads were formed in 1868 as part of the police force. The insignia of the Nam Pak Hongs was not fixed until 1951. It features a map including Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia, together with planes, ocean liners and trains. Japan and the Philippines however were omitted from the map. Even members of the Hong were baffled by this omission.

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