Nam Pak Hong is one of the oldest industries in Hong Kong. Its history could be back dated to the period prior to the year 1851. It is the oldest surviving Chinese funded export and trading industry. It was very active during the early period of the establishment of the colony. The meaning of the name “Nam Pak Hong” refers to the operation and trading of goods between the North and the South, whereby the South mainly involves trading of the native products and the food of Southeast Asia whereas the North mainly involves export of goods in China. It served as a link to connect the trading industries in the North and the South, and its subsequent development gradually extended to the other parts of the world. The entire industry is recognized as Nam Pak Hong . The business and operation of Nam Pak Hong during the early stage involved export and import, bank remittance of funds, insurance, shipping etc. Some barters who charged a fixed trading commission at 2% subsequently appeared, and therefore, Nam Pak Hong was also known as “98% traders”. The business associations operating in the industry were mainly located in Bonham Strand East and Bonham Strand West of Sheung Wan. Some of them were scattered throughout Wing Lok Street and Ko Shing Street. As a result, Bonham Strands is still known as the “Nam Pak Hong Street” up to now.
Nam Pak Hong Association was established by the collective efforts of the association’s entrepreneurs back in 1868 (the 8
th year of the Tongzhi Emperor, Qing Dynasty), and was first named as the “Association” with its address located at Bonham Strand East. Subsequently, it changed its name to Nam Pak Hong Association, which was the first business association established by the Chinese in Hong Kong. The background to its establishment involved resolving disputes, setting up trade rules, and becoming the union for business operating in the industry. Soon after its establishment, it had developed into an autonomous association within the local community coordinating local affairs and issues. During the early stage, it established “Fire Engine House” and “Patrol Unit” for the purpose of prevention of fire & crime.
“Hong Kong is located at the main hub of Southern China. Externally it links to Europe and America while internally it connects to China. It possesses thousands of variety of goods and products and is the freight transport hub. The development of our “North and South” industry took the opportunity of Hong Kong’s geographic location.” The above description is extracted from a record of events inscribed on a tablet of Nam Pak Hong Association, evidencing the importance of the North and South industry to the trade industry of Hong Kong. According to the annual reports of the Hong Kong government, there were 215 Groceries and Nam Pak Hong in 1876, which further increased to 395 in 1881. These Chinese business associations contributed massively to the economy and trade of Hong Kong during that period. In the early 20
th century, “Nam Pak Hong Street was also known as the “Wall Street of Hong Kong” and Nam Pak Hong Association was the largest association among all the Chinese associations in Hong Kong.
Export trade experienced great development since the establishment of the new China. Members of Nam Pak Hong Association had a very high market share in the trading business in China. It acted as a bridge to the exchange of goods inside China and outside China, and contributed to China’s increase in foreign exchange gain as well as the supply of daily utensils, oil, food and non-staple foods to Hong Kong citizens. It is a very significant segment in the Hong Kong trading industry.
For over 100 years of its operation, the seniors of Nam Pak Hong have set up an operational model of integrity with good virtues such as placing emphasise on reputation and honour of promises. Such model and philosophy based on “togetherness and reputation” has also become the role model for the business unions and associations nowadays to follow. Indeed, the operational model of Nam Pak Hong, together with its underlying philosophy, has also driven Hong Kong to become such an important trading port as of today.
As present, Nam Pak Hong Association is undergoing reform. It aims to enlarge the scope of its membership for the purpose of enlarging the business operating in the industry, developing the affairs of the association and deriving mutual benefits for all, with the goal to further develop and promote the more than 100 years old Nam Pak Hong Association such that it can continue to flash with a new life and vitality!