Updated (partial) on 9/29/ 2010
Compradors 買辦 in the Nineteenth Century
Comprador is a Portuguese word that literally means “buyer”.
"A comprador is an agent in a foreign country employed by a domestic businessman to facilitate transactions with local businesses within the foreign country."
The International Dictionary of Trade Terms
"A comprador is a Chinese agent engaged by a foreign establishment in China to have charge of its Chinese employees and to act as an intermediary in business affairs."
The Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
"Comprador (a Portuguese word used in the East, derived from the Lat. comparare, to procure), originally a native servant in European households in the East, but now the name given to the native managers in European business houses in China, and also to native contractors supplying ships in the Philippines and elsewhere in the East."
The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
"A comprador (in the context of Chinese society) is a member of the Chinese merchant class who aided Western traders in China in the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Hired by contract, the comprador was responsible for a Chinese staff of currency-exchange specialists, interpreters, coolies, and guardsmen. Many compradors became extremely wealthy and established businesses of their own. In recent times, the term comprador has come to denote those people who aided Western exploitation of China."
The Britannica Online Encyclopedia
Butterfield & Swire
Mok Si-yeung 莫仕揚 (1873-unknown)
Wu Hei-tong 胡禧堂
Dent and Co. 寶順洋行
Yeong Atai 楊亞帝
Alias Yeong Chun-kum; b. year unknown - d. 1870 Hong Kong
Yeong Lan-ko 楊蘭高
Alias Yeong Sun-yow 楊慎餘 alias Yeong Asam 楊亞三; b. year unknown - d. 1884 Hong Kong; succeeded Yeong Atai; one of Hong Kong’s ten biggest landowners, ranked the fifth position in 1881.
Douglas Lapraik and Co. 德忌利士公司
Ng Acheong 吳亞昌 (ca.1855-1873)
Alias Ng Ying Cheong 吳英昌; b.year unknown Macau - d.1873 Hong Kong; joined Douglas Lapraik when the Scot ventured into trading business in the early 1950s as his firm’s first comprador. When Ng Acheong died in 1873, he left an estate of HK$260,000. His post was filled by a near relative Ng Sang 吳生 alias Ng Ying Sang alias Ng Chuk Shau. He speculated heavily in land and suffered tremendous losses in 1881, stress and poor health followed. Two years later he died leaving behind debts that had been cumulated in his comprador’s accounts. Legal action was brought by Douglas Lapraik and Company against the Ng family property to cover these debts.
Gibb, Livingston and Co.
Leung On 梁安, alias Leung Wan-hon 梁雲漢, Leung Hok-chau 梁鶴巢
Gilman and Co. 太平洋行
Choy Wing-chip 蔡永接
Alias Choy Lung-chi 蔡龍之; b.year unknown – d.1874 Hong Kong; Founding Chairman of Tung Wah Hospital
Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
Lo Chung-kong 羅振綱 (1865-1877, died in office)
Alias Lo Pak-sheung 羅伯常
Lo Hok-pang 羅鶴朋 (1877-1892)
Alias Lo Sau-sung 羅壽嵩; third son of Lo Chung-kong;
Lau Wai-chuen 劉渭川 (1892-1906)
Jardine, Matheson and Co.
Ng Chook 吳祝
Ng Wing-fui 吳榮魁, alias Ng Ping-un 吳炳垣
Robert Ho-tung 何啟東 (1883-1900)
Succeeded Robert Ho-tung in 1889; grandfather of Stanley Ho, the casino and property magnate; member of the Legislative Council;
b.1866-d.1950; succeeded Ho Fook; maternal grandfather of Bruce Lee.
comprador to William Keswick
Lyall Still and Company 孻也洋行
Ho Asek 何亞錫, alias Ho Fai-yin 何斐然
McBain and Co.
Mercantile Bank of India, London and China 有利銀行
Wei Kwong 韋光 (1857-1879)
b.1825 Heungshan (present Zhongshan) - d.1879 Hong Kong; son of a comprador to two American merchants, namely: Benjamin Chew Wilcocks (ran mercantile business in China from 1800 to 1829 and as American consul in Canton from 1815 to 1822) and Oliver H. Gordon (joined the opium firm of Russell and Co. in 1826); forsaken by his family at the age of eleven, Wei left Heungshan for Macau where he begged in the street before getting a job in an opium divan owned and ran by a Portuguese; two years later, he met American missionary Elijah Coleman Bridgman 裨治文 who took him in and had him sent to Singapore under the auspices of Morrison Education Society to attend a school of the American Board of Commission for Foreign Missions as the Society’s first pupil; came to Hong Kong in 1843; became comprador of Bowra and Co. - the most prominent of the ship chandleries of that period in Hong Kong; worked as an interpreter to the Supreme Court in 1855; became comprador of a new bank in 1857, the Mercantile Bank of India, London and China, a post he held until he died in 1879; a Christian himself and married a Chinese Christian woman in Hong Kong, Wei had three sons: Wei Yuk who succeeded him at the bank in 1879, the Oxford-educated Wei On 韋安 who joined the law firm of Johnson Stokes & Master in 1897 as its first local solicitor and Wei Pui 韋培 who was permitted to practice as a barrister in Hong Kong on October 22, 1888; in twenty one years, Wei rose from a street beggar in Macau to the comprador of a prominent bank in Hong Kong and when he died in 1879, he left behind an estate valued at HK$170,000 – a substantial sum considering the whole of Tung Wah Hospital was built on a government grant of HK$115,000 in 1869 - this, however, compared with the fortune of the Ho's of the house of Jardine is so insignificant.
Alias Wei Bo-shan 韋寶珊; b.1849 Hong Kong - d.1922 Hong Kong; graduated from the Government Central School, attended Leicester Stoneygate School in England from 1867; attended Dollar Institution in Scotland from 1868; returned to Hong Kong in 1872 after a pro-longed tour of Europe and was employed by the bank; succeeded his father as comprador to the bank in 1879 and held that post until retired in 1910; started a mercantile firm in 1910, and associated with Ho Kai, Au Tak and others in the attempted development on the land that later became the site of the Kai Tak International Airport; elected a director of Tung Wah Hospital in 1880 and became its chairman in 1887; appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1883; appointed unofficial member of the Legislative Council on October 22, 1896 (as the second Chinese to be appointed, Dr. Ho Kai was the first); became the Senior Chinese Unofficial Member of the council in 1914 when Ho Kai retired; a Christian and a member of the Hong Kong Masonic Order; invested CMG in 1908 and knighthood in 1919; retired from public service in 1917 at the age of 68; died in 1922; naming honor – Bo Shan Road 寶珊道. Wei Kwong and son Wei Yuk collectively controlled the Mercantile Bank’s local and China liaison for more than half a century since its inception in Hong Kong in 1857.
Fung Ming Shan 馮明珊, alias Fung Po Hai 馮普熙, Fung Chew 馮照
Philips Moore and Co.
Russell and Co. 旗昌洋行
Au Yeung Shing
Smith Archer and Co. 美商史密斯—阿徹洋行
Kwong Ahang; company collapsed in 1874.
Turner and Co. 華記洋行
William Caine (Lt. Col.)
As shown in the following table, the number of compradors in Hong Kong increased by sixteenth-times from 1851 to 1881.
The following is what American merchant Augustine Heard Jr., wrote in c. 1894 in an essay entitled “The Poisoning in Hong Kong - An Episode of Life in China”
The Comprador to whom allusion has frequently been made was a most important element in the large China Houses. In these there was a Chinese Firm, subordinate to the Foreign, of which the Comprador was the Head. Nearly all of the mercantile transactions with the natives, buying and selling, passed in some shape through his hands, or under his supervision, and on very many of them he received a commission. In those days there were almost no Banks. Each House was its own Bank, of which the Comprador was Cashier. All the money was in his charge and orders, or checks, were drawn on him, precisely as on a modern Bank. These were in one sense the more important of his duties, but, besides these, he had another function, which was perhaps of almost equal consequence He engaged all the native servants and employees, and was personally responsible for their honesty and general good conduct. The foreigner of course had no means of ascertaining the character of his Chinese servants, and relied implicitly on the selections of his Comprador, who as implicitly accepted the responsibility. If, for instance, a robbery were committed in the house - a watch or money was stolen - the foreigner simply notified the Comprador, who was expected to find the thief and the property, or to make good the loss out of his own pocket.
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