Yongding, Fujian: The story of Tiger Balm
Nestled in the green hills of the Hakka county of Yongding lies a small village like so many others in the area. It is called Zhongchuan and is the ancestral home of Aw Chu Kin, the man who invented an ointment that the world would come to know as ‘Tiger Balm’.
Aw Chu Kin was born in the middle of the 19th century, the son of a herbalist. Like many of his region, Chu Kin left home to seek his fortune in Singapore, later moving on to Malaysia and finally settling in Burma. In Rangoon, he got married, started his family, and founded a little apothecary in 1870. It was there that he concocted the famous ointment using menthol, eucalyptus, clove, cassia and mint oil.
From father to sons
On his deathbed, Chu Kin called his sons Aw Boon-Haw and Aw Boon-Par to his side and told them to take the ointment and perfect it. Several decades later, Aw Boon-Haw’s business instincts and marketing brilliance had turned Tiger Balm into Asia’s best-known ointment, suitable for anything ranging from headaches and colds to muscle strains and mosquito bites. No overseas Chinese home was to be complete without it.
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