Chang and Eng Bunker

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This article is about the Siamese twins. For the musical theatre production based on their lives, see Chang & Eng.
Chang and Eng Bunker
A painting of Chang (right) and Eng Bunker (left), circa 1836
Born (1811-05-11)May 11, 1811
Samutsongkram, Siam (now Thailand)
Died January 17, 1874(1874-01-17) (aged 62)
Mount Airy, North Carolina, U.S.
Resting place
White Plains Baptist Church Cemetery
Citizenship Siamese
Spouse(s) Adelaide Yates (m. 1843–74) (Chang)
Sarah Anne Yates (m. 1843–74) (Eng)
Children 11 (Chang)
10 (Eng)

Chang (Chinese: ; pinyin: Chāng; Thai: จัน, Jan, RTGS: Chan) and Eng (Chinese: ; pinyin: Ēn; Thai: อิน In) Bunker (May 11, 1811 – January 17, 1874) were Thai-American conjoined twin brothers whose condition and birthplace became the basis for the term "Siamese twins".[1][2][3]


Chang and Eng, promotional lithograph c.1829.

The Bunker brothers were born on May 11, 1811, in Siam (now Thailand), in the province of Samutsongkram, to a fisherman and his wife (Nak; Thai: นาก).[4] Because of their Chinese heritage (as they were born from a Thai Chinese father and a Chinese-Malay mother),[5] they were known as the "Chinese Twins" in Siam.[6] They were joined at the sternum by a small piece of cartilage. Their livers were fused but independently complete.

In 1829, British merchant Robert Hunter "discovered" them and paid their family to let them be exhibited as a curiosity during a world tour. Upon termination of their contract with Hunter, the brothers successfully went into business for themselves. In 1839, while visiting Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the twins were attracted to the area and settled on a 110-acre (0.45 km2) farm in nearby Traphill.

Determined to start living a normal life as much as possible, the brothers settled on a plantation, bought slaves,[7] and adopted the name "Bunker". On April 13, 1843, they married two sisters: Chang to Adelaide Yates and Eng to Sarah Anne Yates. Upon their marriage, the brothers became naturalized American citizens.[8]

Their Traphill home is where they shared a bed built for four. Chang and his wife had eleven children; Eng and his wife had ten. In time, the wives began to squabble[9] and eventually two separate households were set up just west of Mount Airy, North Carolina in the community of White Plains – the twins would alternate spending three days at each home. During the American Civil War, Chang's son Christopher and Eng's son Stephen both fought for the Confederacy. Chang and Eng lost part of their property as a result of the war, and were very bitter in their denunciation of the government in consequence. After the war, they again resorted to public exhibitions, but were not very successful. They always maintained a high character for integrity and fair dealing, and were much esteemed by their neighbors.[9]

Later years and death[edit]

The Bunkers in their later years

In 1870, Chang suffered a stroke and his health declined over the next four years. He also began drinking heavily (Chang's drinking did not affect Eng as they did not share a circulatory system). Despite his brother's ailing condition, Eng remained in good health. Shortly before his death, Chang was injured after falling from a carriage. He then developed a severe case of bronchitis. On January 17, 1874, Chang died while the brothers were asleep. Eng awoke to find his brother dead and cried, "Then I am going". A doctor was summoned to perform an emergency separation, but he was too late. Eng died approximately three hours later. An autopsy revealed that Chang had died of a cerebral blood clot but Eng's cause of death remains uncertain. Doctors of the time theorized that Eng died of shock due to fear of his impending death. They based that theory on the fact that Eng's bladder had distended with urine and his right testicle had retracted.[10] Two North Carolina neurologists, Dr. Paul D. Morte and Dr. E. Wayne Massey, reviewed the case and concluded that Chang likely died of pulmonary edema and heart failure. They also dismissed the claim that Eng died of shock and attributed the muscle cramping that caused his testicle to retract was caused by "acrocyanosis from induced vasospasm and microthrombi due to disseminated intravascular coagulation, the tissue factor released from necrotic tissue and the endotoxin from sepsis activating coagulation cascade."[8]

Sarah Anne Bunker (Eng's widow) died on April 29, 1892, and Adelaide Bunker (Chang's widow) died on May 21, 1917.


Grave of Eng and Chang Bunker near Mt. Airy, North Carolina

The fused liver of the Bunker brothers was preserved and is currently on display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Numerous artifacts of the twins, including some of their personal artifacts and their travel ledger, are displayed in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; this includes the original watercolor portrait of Chang and Eng from 1836.

Mark Twain wrote a short story, The Siamese Twins,[11] based on the Bunkers. In 1996, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 90-minute radio play called United States about the lives and deaths of Chang and Eng Bunker. The writer was Tony Coult and the director was Andy Jordan. Transmission was on June 17, with a cast that included Bert Kwouk and Ozzie Yue as the twins. A Singapore musical based on the life of the twins, Chang & Eng, was directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham and written by Ming Wong, with music by Ken Low. Chang & Eng premiered in 1997 and has since been performed around Asia, starring Robin Goh as Chang Bunker, Sing Seng Kwang as Eng Bunker, and Selena Tan as their mother, Nok. Subsequent productions starred Edmund Toh as Chang Bunker and RJ Rosales as Eng Bunker. The best-selling and multiple-award-winning 2000 novel Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss was based on the life of the famous Bunker twins. The film rights to the novel were purchased by award-winning filmmaking team Gary Oldman and Douglas Urbanski. Oldman is currently working on the screenplay and will also direct.[12]

I Dream of Chang and Eng, a play by noted Bay Area playwright Philip Kan Gotanda that is based on the lives of the Bunker Twins, was produced in workshop form at UC Berkeley and was produced on their main stage in the spring of 2011.[13]


Chang and Eng Bunker fathered a total of 21 children, and their descendants now number more than 1,500[citation needed]. Many of their descendants continue to reside in the vicinity of Mt. Airy, and descendants of both brothers continue to hold joint reunions. Two hundred descendants reunited in Mount Airy in July 2011 for the two-hundredth birthday of the twins, which was the twenty-second annual reunion.[14]

Prominent descendants include United States Air Force Major General Caleb V. Haynes who was a grandson of Chang Bunker through his daughter Margaret Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bunker. General Haynes's son, Vance Haynes, earned a doctorate in geosciences, performed foundational fieldwork at Sandia Cave to determine the timeline of human migration through North America, and served as professor at several universities. Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer of Florida, is a great-granddaughter of Chang Bunker,[15] and was the Democratic nominee in the 2010 Florida gubernatorial election.

Eng's grandson through his daughter Rosella – George F Ashby – was President of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1940s.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iola (January 1, 2001). "Eng Bunker". Entertainers. Find a Grave. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Iola (May 14, 2002). "Chang Bunker". Entertainers. Find a Grave. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Conjoined Twins". University of Maryland Medical Center. January 8, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Chang and Eng, the Siamese Twins". Calisota Online. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Eng and Chang Bunker". Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  6. ^ Young, Stephen B. (2003). "Book Review: Two Yankee Diplomats In 1830's Siam by Edmund Roberts and W. S. W. Ruschenberger; edited with an introduction by Michael Smithies and published by Orchid Press". Journal of the Siam Society 91. Retrieved March 2, 2012. Ruschenberger reports that the two Siamese Twins — Sam and Eng — were widely known in Bangkok after their departure for the United States, but significantly for their failure to send home remittances to their mother. 
  7. ^ UNC Univ. Libraries, Southern Historical Collection no. 03761
  8. ^ a b "Chang and Eng's Grave". Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Chang and Eng". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.  This source confirms the wives' dispute, but disagrees on the number of children and says nothing about the household arrangements.
  10. ^ Chichester, Page. "Reader Favorites: Eng & Chang Bunker: A Hyphenated Life". December 1, 1995. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  11. ^ Twain, Mark. "The Siamese Twins". The Siamese Twins, Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Retrieved July 2, 2008. 
  12. ^ Whirling upstream in Hollywood: Douglas Urbanski
  13. ^ "Philip Kan Gotanda's I Dream of Chang and Eng". San Francisco Chronicle. March 3, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Siamese twins descendants hold 22nd annual reunion". Mount Airy News. July 31, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Twins' great-granddaughter seeks a different kind of fame". St. Petersburg Times. June 11, 2006. 
  16. ^ Wood, Deborah Shelton (March 25, 2009). "Union Pacific RR President, George F Ashby". Surry – Family History & Genealogy Message Board. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  17. ^ Klein, Maury (2006) [1989]. Union Pacific: Volume II, 1894-1969. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 437. ISBN 0816644608. OCLC 276175222. 

Further reading[edit]

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