Eu Tong Sen was a well-known tycoon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with business interests across Southeast Asia. He was also vice-president of the Anti-Opium Society and a somewhat eccentric property owner. Heir to his family’s retail and mining businesses, he took control of his father’s estate in 1898. Over the decades that followed, he multiplied his fortune several times over. By age 30, he was one of the region’s richest men, specialising in the tin mining and rubber industries.
Eu built three castles in Hong Kong – Eucliffe was the most well-known. It was famous for being a social hot spot in the 1930s and was located next door to the Kadoorie’s Repulse Bay Hotel. The folly featured a large collection of ancient western armour as well as stained glass windows.
There was a lush garden, a greenhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and easy access to the city’s most popular beach.
During the 18-day Battle of Hong Kong in 1941, the Japanese took over Eucliffe where they slaughtered 54 prisoners of war. It became “the most ill-omened house in Hong Kong” and – for many years – was used as a TV and movie set.
Named after an ancient Italian village, Sirmio was Eu’s schloss-like country home near Tai Po.
Each of his homes were under permanent renovation as a fortune teller once told him that he would have a long life if he continued to build. Sirmio also ended up being used as a horror film set for movies such as ‘The Ghost Informer’ before its demolition.
Built after Eu settled in Hong Kong, Euston Castle on Bonham Road was home to his five wives and an unknown number of concubines. Eu also had at least 34 children, hence the need for so many residences across the city.
Having survived multiple heart attacks, he finally suffered a fatal one in 1941, aged 63. His many wives and children diluted his fortune and his properties were sold off in the 70s and eventually demolished.
His traditional Chinese medicine manufacturing company, Eu Yan Sang, remains well known today in Hong Kong. It is run by his great-grandson Richard Eu Yee Ming.
Original article appeared in hongwrong.com.