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Howqua, 1830.jpg
Portrait by George Chinnery, 1830
Born Wu Bingjian
Fujian, China
Died 4 September 1843 (age 75)
Canton, China
Known for Founder of Cohong - Ewo (怡和)
Net worth Over $8 billion
Portrait by Lam Qua
Chinese 伍秉鑑
Business name
Chinese 浩官

Howqua (1769 – 4 September 1843[1]) was the most important of the Hong merchants in the Thirteen Factories, head of the E-wo hong and leader of the Canton Cohong. He was once one of the richest men in the world.[2][3][4][5]


Born in Quanzhou, Fujian, China, he was known to the West as Howqua (the second). His father, Wu Guorong was also Howqua (the first) and was founder of the family company. Because his Chinese name was too difficult for western traders to pronounce,[citation needed] the name Howqua comes from his Chinese Business Name "浩官" (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hō-koaⁿ), very similar to a DBA.[6] He became rich on the trade between China and the British Empire in the middle of the 19th century during the First Opium War. Perhaps the wealthiest man in China during the nineteenth century, Howqua was the senior of the Hong merchants in Canton, one of the few authorized to trade silk and porcelain with foreigners. According to historic records,[7] there was a fire in 1822 and many of the cohongs were burned down. The melted silver allegedly formed a little stream almost two miles in length.[4][5] Of the 3 million dollars of compensation that was required to pay the British from the Treaty of Nanking, he single-handedly contributed one million, one third of the total sum.[8] He later died in Canton the same year.

To this day, portraits of the pigtailed Howqua in his robes still hang in Salem and Newport mansions built by U.S. merchants grateful for his assistance.[citation needed]


During his time as one of the Hong merchants in the Thirteen Factories, under the Canton System, the Qing Dynasty saw a short period of trade prosperity. Canton also became one of the most populated cities in the world.[9]

The founders of then world-renowned firms including James Matheson, William Jardine, Samuel Russell and Abiel Abbot Low all had a close relationship with Howqua. Following the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, which spelled the end of the Thirteen Factories, Jardine Matheson & Co continued to use "Ewo" as their Chinese name.[10]

With the spelling Hu-Kwa, his name and likeness are used for a brand of imported lapsang souchong smoked tea.

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