The Awe-inspiring Aw Brothers

Aw Boon Haw (1882-1954) 胡文虎
Aw Boon Par (1884-1944) 胡文豹

Has anyone told you how much they appreciateTiger Balm? It’s an ointment that relaxes muscles and nerves. You can pop it in your pocket for easy use. I’m sure you’ve smelt its distinctive smell somewhere.

imageThe brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par are famous for making Tiger Balm ointment a household name. They also founded the Sing Tao Publishing Corporation.

Nicknamed “Tiger” and “Leopard”, the brothers were brought up in Burma (modern-day Myanmar) where their father owned a Chinese medicine shop. Which of them invented Tiger Balm ointment remains a secret but when their father died, the brothers worked tirelessly to promote it.

First, they travelled across Asia to get ideas about how to make the ointment seem more attractive. Then they designed a tin box, colouring it bright red and adding a leaping tiger on the lid. The ointment became well known all over the world.

Between 1929 and 1951 the Aw brothers also founded 17 Chinese and English-language newspapers in Hong Kong,

China and Southeast Asia. Can you guess why they created a publishing empire? Because they wanted to promote Tiger Balm. Because, at that time, there were many similar products on the market and advertising in newspapers was the best way to let as many people as possible know how special their ointment was.

The Aw brothers also became rich from banking, buying property and managing rubber companies. To share their wealth with Hong Kong people, they set up a large amusement park in Tai Hang on Hong Kong Island where children could play, adults could rest, and history lovers could admire statues and scenes of ancient Chinese stories. Maybe your parents visited the park when they were young.

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