【Soon Hong Kongsi】
Soon Hong Kongsi of Soon Hong Street (the current Main Bazaar), Bak Kow Kongsi of Bak Kow Street (Carpenter Street) and Chiang Heng Kongsi of Chiang Heng Street (Gambier Street) were the three major Teochew organisations of early Kuching. The three companies jointly managed the Hiang Tian Siang Ti Temple. The presence of many major businesses on Soon Hong Street made fundraising easy for Soon Hong Kongsi, which came to accumulate ample funds for buying properties and financing community projects. As the other two kongsi dwindled and eventually dissolved, the dual responsibility of running the temple and managing Teochew affairs fell solely to Soon Hong Kongsi.
To comply with the Societies Order passed by the Sarawak Government, Soon Hong Kongsi was registered as a Teochew representative society in 1914. Two years later, it established the Min Teck School to provide higher learning for the Chinese community at the time. In 1921, certain Teochew founded the Teo Khiaw Gong Suo (潮侨公所) to address what they saw as Soon Hong Kongsi’s inadequacy to represent the Teochew people as a whole. The new society was based at No. 1 Main Bazaar, in a property that belonged to Soon Hong Kongsi. In 1933, Soon Hong Kongsi formally became the Teo Khiaw Association (潮侨公会); the Teo Khiaw Gong Suo was accordingly renamed Teo Khiaw Club (潮侨俱乐部) to avoid confusion.
In 1937, as part of a push to unify the nomenclature of various Teochew organisations, the Teo Khiaw Association adopted its current name of Kuching Teochew Association.
For more information: www.kuchingteochew.com/
【Dato Sri Wee Kheng Chiang】
Wee Kheng Chiang was of Kinmen Hockien ancestry and while born in Kuching, he was sent back to Kinmen during his childhood. He returned to Kuching when he was 15 years old and continued his education at the St Thomas mission school. He then worked as a clerk with the British Borneo Company (慕娘公司) and also as a civil servant. He joined the Sarawak Steamship Company (砂拉越轮船公司) and was highly regarded by Ong Tiang Swee, eventually marrying Ong’s eldest daughter, Ong Siew Eng (王秀英).
In 1921, Wee Kheng Chiang started his own business and over the next 10 years he founded more than 10 other companies. His business interests were diverse and included the establishment of banks in Kuching and Singapore. The globally famous United Overseas Bank (大华银行) was one of Wee’s more well known establishments, and the shop No.1 Main Bazaar is the base camp of Wee Kheng Chiang Company. In the business world, he was referred to as the ‘Uncrowned King of Sarawak’. Not only was he successful in his personal and family business, he also helped to nurture many Kinmen entrepreneurs. He also played important roles in promoting education and looking after the welfare of the people. He was bestowed the honourable title of “Commander of the Star of Sarawak” by the third Rajah in 1941. And he was also awarded the Panglima Negara Bintang Sarawak by the first governor of Sarawak making him the first Chinese with a “Datuk” title. The accomplished leader passed away in Kuching in 1978.