Tiger Balm

Beez Neez now Chy Whella
Big Bear and Pepe Millard
Wed 23 Jun 2010 22:17
Tiger Balm



 Chinese: ;


pinyin: hǔbiao wànjīnyóu


Tiger Ban Kim Ewe or "Ten Thousand Golden Oil" is the trade name for a heat rub or ointment manufactured and distributed by Haw Par Healthcare Limited in Singapore. It was originally developed in the 1870’s by an herbalist, Aw Chu Kin, in Rangoon, Burma, who asked his sons Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par on his deathbed to perfect the product. Chinese people around the world will remember Tiger Balm, especially the older generations, as this was the medical herbal oil that accompanied them from childhood to old age. Even the young generations of today are familiar with Tiger Balm, as am I, as my parents, mum especially found out about the magic little jar during their time in Hong Kong, when dad was posted there. Tiger Balm is available in several varieties, the weaker Tiger Balm White (which is recommended for use with headaches) and the stronger Tiger Balm Red (which is not to be used on the head). There is also another version called Tiger Balm Ultra. I don’t like the red as it smells of cinnamon and I haven’t had the pleasure of finding the Tiger Balm Ultra, but I hope to. I grew up with and using the white and I buy a new jar every time I see it – last purchase – in a pharmacy in Tobago for the princely sum of one pound sixty, bargain, last one I bought in the Chinese shop on the Barbican in Plymouth, five pounds. Always on hand for bites, blocked nose, aches and pains.

Personally devised use as a poultice for Bear when he hurts his knee or ankle.

Slice of brown bread, no crust.

Slather one side with Tiger Balm. Place on swollen joint. Cover with cling film to retain heat.

Bandage firmly and leave overnight.

Wash hands as not to accidentally rub it in my eye.

I know it sounds crazy and I was skeptical, but, it works 


How did it all begin I wondered ??? 


Aw Chu Kin (胡子钦) (? - 1908 in Rangoon, British Raj) was a Burmese Chinese herbalist. He is best known as the original inventor of Tiger Balm. Aw Chu Kin's father was a Chinese herbology practitioner in Xiamen and a Hakka from Zhongchuan, Yongding, Fujian Province, China (福建省永定下洋中川村客家人). Being of a poor background, Aw Chu Kin first immigrated to Singapore in 1863 where he stayed at the kongsi of his clan at Telok Ayer Street. He then moved to Penang and started to work as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese medicine, known as a sinseh (先生) in Penang Hokkien. Afterwards, he moved to Rangoon where, with the help of his uncle, founded his medical hall or medical shop, named Eng Aun Tong (永安堂药行) ("The Hall of Eternal Peace") in 1870, located at 644, Canton Road (仰光广东街644).

Aw Chu Kin was married to Lee Kim Peck in Rangoon. He had three sons, the eldest of whom, Boon Leng (Gentle/Refined Dragon) died young. He was survived by his two sons, Boon Haw (Gentle/Refined Tiger) and Boon Par (Gentle/Refined Leopard). In 1892, Aw sent Boon Haw to his grandfather's village to be instructed in traditional Chinese methods while Boon Par stayed in Rangoon to receive a British education.
In 1900, his two sons Aw Boon Haw, who had returned to Rangoon, and Aw Boon Par decided to manufacture and market the medicinal ointment under the name Eng Aun Tong, the name of the medical hall.

In respect of the said balm, they adopted a trade mark consisting of the device of a tiger. The word "TIGER" is taken from the name of the elder brother Aw Boon Haw. "Haw" () in Chinese means the animal tiger. The Chinese word "Par," the name of the Younger brother means the animal leopard.

The trading name Eng Aun Tong was coined to denote the quality of the product from the popular medical hall in Rangoon. The trade mark TIGER and the device of a leaping tiger have been used in respect of the balm since 1900. When Aw Chu Kin died in 1908 at Rangoon,he left his medical hall, Eng Aun Tong, to his son, Aw Boon Par, having despaired of eldest son Boon Haw's rebel-rousing ways. The gentle leopard, finding the responsibility too much to bear, later asked for his older brother's return from China to carry on the family business in Rangoon.


Aw Boon Par (
胡文豹); born 1888 in Rangoon, died 1944 in Rangoon, was a Burmese Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for introducing Tiger Balm. He was educated in English school in Rangoon, Burma. He was the lesser known, and a quiet leopard, compared to his brother, Aw Boon Haw. Boon Par was the son of Hakka herbalist Aw Chu Kin, who upon his death in 1908, left the business to Boon Par. Boon Par then called his elder brother, Aw Boon Haw, to help run their father's apothecary Eng Aun Tong ("The Hall of Eternal Peace") together. "I will learn all I can about Western medicine, you can prescribe Chinese medicine," Boon Par said to his brother. "Together we won't lose a single patient. He can choose between east and west and the fee will stay with us." To perfect and exploit their late father's recipe, the sons took over their mother's kitchen. Boon Par, the quiet leopard, toiled whilst Boon Haw, the gregarious tiger organised. Together they produced Ban Kim Ewe, Ten Thousand Golden Oil, panacea for all ills. In 1918, Aw Boon Haw co-developed Tiger Balm as a trade mark, with his younger brother Aw Boon Par. Through artful packages and clever marketing, with the brand name of Tiger Balm (虎標萬金油) or Tiger Ban Kim Ewe or "Ten Thousand Golden Oil" is the trade name. The brothers later made their versatile balm a household standard, first in their native Rangoon, then Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Just when everything was going so great in Rangoon, a squad of policemen showed up at the brothers’ house to serve them with an arrest warrant.

Boon Par and Boon Haw were charged with illicit trafficking in opium, and counterfeiting. The British Chief Inspector of Police, Cyril Taylor, put the brothers under house arrest. But the police were not able to pin anything on the brothers. Still, this was humiliating to the brothers, Boon Haw decided to leave Burma and move the business to Singapore. Although Aw Boon Par wished to stay in Rangoon, it was because in addition to his two official wives (Piah Lan, Daw Saw who remained in Rangoon), he had a secret wife, Hong Yin, in Rangoon. Mum always swore that the Tiger Balm she very first bought in 1954 was “better” than modern stuff, she asked a really elderly Chinese man why that was and he said he was sure the old stuff had opium in it……….

Nevertheless, Boon Haw who had settled in Singapore in 1926 convinced him to immigrate, move the family business and found the precursor of today's Haw Par Corporation. By 1926, the headquarters of Eng Aun Tong "House of Eternal Peace" had been transferred to Singapore. A new and larger factory was built at 89 Neil Road where production was ten times greater than that of Rangoon's. The factory building, a 3-storey neo-classical building, is still standing prominently at the corner of Neil Road and Craig Road - it was built by Aw Boon Haw in 1924. Boon Par took up a residence at Tanglin Road in Singapore. The house eventually become known as the "Jade House." Boon Par later moved to larger mansion at 178, Pasir Panjang Road. The Aw brothers launched Sin Chew Jit Poh - their first paper - in Singapore in 1929; mainly to advertise their tiger series of products. In 1932, a Limited Company was incorporated in Singapore, know as Haw Par Brothers (Pvt.) Ltd (“药有限公司”). It took over the business of the two Aw brothers including their assets, such as trade marks.

From Singapore, the company continued to carry on business and export Tiger Balm to various countries, including India, until the Japanese occupation of Burma and Singapore during World War II. The company devised various trade markets to be used in various countries, the essential features of each of which was the device of a leaping Tiger, the word "Tiger Balm" written in English and also in Chinese characters. These trade marks were registered in different countries all over the world.

Aw Boon Haw bought land in 1935 to build a villa that would be a unique and fitting residence for his beloved brother, Aw Boon Par. He commissioned Ho Kwong Yew, a brilliant young architect, to design a house that would complement the gardens which were to feature thousands of statues and tableaux depicting Chinese myths and legends and which were to become well known all over the world as the Tiger Balm Gardens. The villa was originally called "Tiger Balm Gardens". A new mansion, Haw Par Villa, was built on a hill in Pasir Panjang surrounded by unique gardens depicting Chinese mythology for the younger, quieter Boon Par in 1937. Haw Par Villa was opened in March 1937 and many guests were invited to the grand reception hosted by Aw Boon Par, the lord of the manor. By the eve of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, the Aw brothers had built a business empire with 10,000 workers toiling in their Tiger Balm factories. Aw Boon Par lived in Haw Par Villa only a few years before the Second World War broke out in 1939. The Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II occurred between 1942 and 1945 after the fall of Singapore on the 15th of February 1942.
Military forces of the Empire of Japan occupied Singapore after defeating the combined Australian, British, Indian and Malayan garrison in the Battle of Singapore.

The occupation was to become a major turning point in the history of several nations, including that of Japan, Britain and the then colonial state of Singapore. Singapore was renamed Syonan-to (昭南島 Shonan-to), which means "Island of the Light of the South" or "Southern Island (obtained) during Showa period". During the Japanese occupation of Singapore, Aw Boon Haw moved to Hong Kong to manage the business from there, while Aw Boon Par stayed in Singapore to run the factory.

In 1942, Boon Par was forced to close the Singapore factory and flee with his family to Rangoon, which was also occupied by Japanese. The Allies drove out the Japanese from Singapore in April 1945, but unfortunately Aw Boon Par died in Sept 1944, prior to the victory. Boon Par's wives: Piah Lan, Daw Saw, Hong Yin. Sons: Cheng Chye (
胡清才) who died in Chile in 1971, Cheng Tek (胡清德)
Daughters: Cheng Sim or Suri Santipongchai, married to Lee Aik Sim (
李森, Lee Santipongchai), who in 1971 was given Sing Sian Yit Pao to manage. The newspaper is now managed by their children Netra and Winn. This may be the only company set up by Aw Boon Haw which is still in the hands of the family; Cheng Hu (Emma), married to banker Lee Chee Shan (李志城, 1909-86) who became the President of the family owned Chung Khiaw Bank. The bank was subsequently merged into Haw Par Brothers International Ltd (by then a public company) which was taken over by the predator firm Slater Walker Securities to whom Aw Cheng Chye sold his shares.


Aw Boon Haw (胡文虎); born 1882 Rangoon, Burma - died 1954 Hong Kong, was a Burmese Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for introducing Tiger Balm. He was the son of Hakka herbalist Aw Chu Kin, with his ancestral home in Yongding County, Fujian Province. He was a very good negotiator and businessman. His life was not only business, how he managed to deal with KMT, CPC, Puppet government in China during Japanese occupation, and Japan government during WW2 was amazing...

Aw migrated to Singapore in 1926, where he began the business of Tiger Red Balm with his brother, Aw Boon Par. Aw also founded several newspapers, including Sin Chew Jit Poh (
星洲日報) on 15-1-1929 in Singapore, Sin Ping Jit Poh(槟日报), now known as Guang Ming Daily (光明日報) was founded in 1939. Both of these newspapers are now based in Malaysia. A third Aw brothers newspaper, Sing Tao Daily (星島日報), dates back to 1-8-1938 and is currently based in Hong Kong. A fourth newspapaer, Sin Siam Jit Poh (星暹日), was founded in 1951 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Aw Boon Haw moved to Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and managed the businesses from there, while his brother stayed in Singapore until he closed down the factory and went to Rangoon. Aw returned to Singapore after the end of World War II and re-established his business.
While on a trip to Hong Kong from Boston in 1954, Aw died at the age of 72 from a heart attack following a major operation. His legacy is found in the Haw Par Villas throughout Asia, with locations in Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Fujian Province.

There was a story of racing rivalry of Au Boon Haw and Sultan Ibrahim of Johore. Sultan Ibrahim was a sportsman and hunter. The incident took place when the Sultan, enraged at being overtaken by Aw Boon Haw in his famous Tiger Car. Sultan Ibrahim shot at the Tiger Car on Bukit Timah Road. It was considered lese-majesté to overtake royalty even on foreign roads. Notwithstanding, the British colonial administration forbade the Sultan thereafter from visiting Singapore ever again except for purpose of going to and from the Singapore airport, then at Kallang.


1908: Taking over the business from the late father, together with brother Aw Boon Par.                   

1911: First branch outside Rangoon set up in Bangkok.                                                                       

1926: He moved his head office to Singapore after the British conducted an unsuccessful opium raid in his house. He opened the Eng Aun Tong Medical Hall in Singapore. Turnover of his company reached $10 million.                                                                                                                                        

1929: Founded Sin Chew Jit Poh, a Chinese newspaper competing with Tan Kah Kee's Nanyang Siang Pau. To further promote his Tiger products he also published the Tiger Standard.                              

1932: Moved his head office to Hong Kong to capture the China market

1935: Built Haw Par Villa in Hong Kong for his 2nd wife, Kyi Kyi.

1937: Built Haw Par Villa otherwise known as the Tiger Balm Gardens for his brother, Boon Par. The gardens depict Chinese mythology.

1938: An OBE conferred on him for his philanthropic contributions.

1950: Set up the Chung Khiaw Bank. He placed the management of the bank under the leadership of his son-in-law, Lee Chee Shan, also a Burmese Chinese who arrived in Singapore in 1929.  

1954: He died in Honolulu in September 1954 at the age of 72 years old, half-way home after a stomach operation in America. His empire was divided among six of his nine surviving children and four nephews. Sally Aw taking control of what is now the Sing Tao group (centered in Hong Kong with Sing Tao) and cousins forming Haw Par Brothers (centred in Singapore and including titles such as Sin Chew Jit Poh, which later experienced difficulty in competition with that nation's two dominant players).


1961: Aw Boon Haw's will provided all estates in Hong Kong to be given to Tan Kyi Kyi and Sally Aw. The other children of Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par were not happy and demanded for the return of Haw Par Villa and Eng Aun Tong (永安堂) to be equally shared by the next of kin. There was a legal battle between Tan Kyi Kyi and Sally Aw on one side, and, on the other, the other children and nephew of Aw Boon Haw for the estate of Aw Boon Haw. Sally Aw applied for liquidation of Haw Par Brothers Ltd. The outcome of the legal battle was that the Eng Aun Tong and Har Par Villa was owned by Haw Par Brothers Private Ltd.
1964: Sing Tao edition launched in San Francisco
1969: Sally Aw launches daily editions of Sing Tao for diaspora Chinese. Haw Par Brothers Private Ltd was listed as Haw Par Corporation Limited in the Singapore Exchange on the 16th of August 1969.
1971: Slater Walker Securities gains control of Haw Par Brothers International Ltd (inc Chung Khiaw Bank and newspapers such as Sin Chew Jit Poh, Hong Kong Eng Aun Tong). It was sold by Aw Cheng Chye (
胡清才), son of the Aw Boon Par, when he cashes out by selling all his shares.
Union Overseas Bank (UOB) acquires 53% of Chung Khiaw from Slater Walker. The Haw Par Deal was later reported irregular by the Singapore government. On the 22nd of August 1971, Aw Cheng Chye reportedly committed suicide in Santiago, Chile. Some said he died of stroke, but some said it was the curse of Aw Boon Haw.
1972: Sing Tao Holdings goes public
1973: UOB raises holding in Chung Khiaw to 82%
1973: Sing Tao closes The Asian
1983: Sing Tao launched in Vancouver
1983: Sin Chew Jit Poh in Singapore merges with Nanyang Siang Pau as Lianhe Zaobao
1985: Launch of JobMarket recruitment magazine in Hong Kong
1986: Sing Tao relisted in Hong Kong after move from Australia
1986: Launches and closes English-language Evening Standard in Hong Kong
1986: Launches monthly business magazine Billion
1987: Sing Tao's Newspapers of Fiji Ltd (Fiji Sun) withdraws from Fiji after second military coup
1987: Sin Chew Jit Poh delicensed in Malaysia under Mahathir crackdown, later acquired by Sarawak timber tycoon Tiong Hiew King
1988: UOB acquires remaining shares in Chung Khiaw Bank
1989: Sing Tao closes Billion
1989: Closes monthly news magazine China Review
1992: The Chinese government returned the 10 storey Canton Eng Aun Tong (
广州永安堂药店) building to Sally Aw
1993: pays US$40 for stake in Hong Kong newspaper and comics publisher Culturecom
1998: Sally Aw sells Hong Kong property holdings for HK$100m
1999: loses control of Sing Tao to Lazard Asia Fund after debts of US$274m
2000: Sally Aw sells Tiger Balm Gardens to Li Ka-shing for US$13m
2001: sells 55% of Sing Tao's Canadian arm to Torstar for US$14m
2001: Cigarette mogul Charles Ho Tsu-kwok buys 51.4% stake in Sing Tao Holdings


Aw Boon Haw's family

Father: Aw Chi Kim (胡子), a herbalist from Zhongchuan, YongDing, Fujian Province in China.
Brothers: Aw Boon Leong (
) ("gentle dragon") died early; Aw Boon Par (文豹) ("gentle leopard").
Wives: Boon Haw had four wives. First wife, Tay Piang Hong (
郑炳凤, 郑氏是广东惠阳客籍人,长于仰光); his second wife, Tan Kyi Kyi (陈金枝), he built a special home at Tai Hang Road, Hong Kong for her. Third wife (黄玉) was from Penang, and fourth wife (邱秀英).
Adopted Sons: Dato Aw Kow (
胡蛟), wife Tan Kah Joo, became General Manager () of the Sin Chew Jit Poh in 1941, the Singapore Tiger Standard and the Chung Khiaw Bank; Aw San (胡山), who became general manager of the Eng Aun Tong Medical Hall and its Canton factory; Aw Hoe (胡好),1919-1951, became general manager of the Medical Hall and managing director of the Tiger Standard and the Sin Chew Jit Poh. He died tragically in a plane crash in North Malaysia in 1951. A Standard-owned Dakota airplane crash-landed in Thailand, killing everyone on board, including Aw Hoe. He was only thirty two years old. Aw Boon Haw was very sad when Aw Hoe died so young. Aw Kow and Aw San were the adopted sons of Tay Piang Hong, the first wife. Aw San was disliked by Aw Boon Haw and did not get any inheritance from the father. Aw Hoe and Sally Aw are the adopted children of the 2nd wife, Tan Kyi Kyi, the two children were the most capable.

Sons: The 3rd wife (黄玉) has two sons It Haw (胡一虎), Er Haw (胡二虎) who passed away during WW2. The forth wife (邱秀英) give birth to two sons one daughter, Aw Sin (胡星), Aw San Haw (胡三虎) who passed away during World War II.

Aw Si Haw (胡四虎). Aw It Haw (胡一虎) and Aw Si Haw (胡四虎) were still young when their father passed away. Aw It Haw (胡一虎) and his Japanese wife (晓子) however open a Japanese supermarket in Singapore.

Adopted Daughters: Sally Aw Sian (胡仙), who was a Hong Kong businesswoman and former Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member, a renowned Hong Kong newspaper publisher but had to sell of much of the family's fortunes to avoid bankruptcy.

In 1931, Aw Boon Haw and the second wife Tan Kyi Kyi, adopted the five-year-old daughter of a distant relative from Burma, changing the girl's name from She Moi to Sian. Aw Sian inherited her late adopted father's assets. Aw Sian and Aw Hoe are the adopted children of Aw Boon Haw's second wife, Tan Kyi Kyi, and their most favorable children.
Daughter: Aw Sin (
胡星), the daughter of  邱秀英.


Haw Par Villa (虎豹別墅), Hong Kong

Haw Par Villa is located at 15, Tai Hang Road, Tai Hang, Hong Kong Island, SAR. Built by Aw Boon Haw in 1935 this garden was one of the main attractions of Hong Kong. However, in 1998 the ownership inheritor sold the whole complex to a land development company Most of the Garden has been sold to be redeveloped into a residential area.
In 1998, the owner and inheritor, Aw Sian sold the whole Garden complex to a land development company, Cheung Kong. The Hong Kong Government reached an agreement with the company for the Hong Kong Antiquities and Monuments Office to preserve and restore the Haw Par Mansion and its private garden when the Garden complex is redeveloped.

Haw Par Villa (
虎豹別墅), Pasir Panjang, Singapore

Located along the Pasir Panjang road, Singapore's Haw Par Villa is actually a theme park depicting stories from the Chinese mythology. The great entrepreneur Aw Boon Haw built it in the year 1937 for his loving brother Boon Par, thus the name Haw Par Villa came into being. Haw Par Villa, the quintessential place depicting Chinese folklore is a great tourist attraction of Singapore. There is another Haw Par Villa in Fujian, China.

The story of Aw family is full of drama covering Burma, Singapore, Hong Kong; much more than Tiger Balm.....it is unfortunate that the business empire of the Tiger Balm King Aw Boon Haw were all sold, and only Sing Sian Jit Pao was still remain with Aw Boon Par's daughter Cheng Sim or Suri Santipongchai, and now it has passed to the next generation. The saying of the properties cannot passed through to 3rd generations is true for Tiger Balm family, it only passed to the 2nd generation to Sally Aw. However Aw Boon Par will be happy that at least Sing Sian Jit Pao has passed to 3rd generation.....





From the notes that accompany Tiger Balm: Tiger Balm is made from a secret herbal formulation that dates back to the times of the Chinese emperors. The Aw brothers, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par inherited the formulation from their herbalist father who left China. They call it Tiger Balm, after Boon Haw, (whose name in Chinese meant "Tiger") who was instrumental in devising the remarkable selling strategies that made Tiger Balm a household name all over Asia today.


Who would have thought such an extraordinary story could come from such a tiny pot that has been a constant all my life. It started as a silly little blog and just grew.