A Most Auspicious Year

The Year of the Dragon coincides with the centennial of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and the reign of the just-crowned Narcissus Court: (from left) third princess Julianne Cheng, fourth princess Cherie Ching, chamber president John Hui, queen Tiffany Au, first princess Amanda Wong and second princess Stephanie Wang

Susan Sunderland
Wednesday - January 18, 2012
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John Hui. Nathalie Walker photo, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Year of the Dragon coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerece

For all the symbolism in Chinese tradition, there couldn’t be a more propitious year than 2012. It is the Chinese lunar year of the dragon. It’s also the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, and it’s the 63rd year of the Narcissus Festival, a cultural pageant that is an institution.

Finding storytellers for these established traditions isn’t difficult. John Hui, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, has been involved in the organization as a businessman for many years, and this year spearheads its landmark centennial chapter.

Beautiful Tiffany Ho Yun Au is the new Narcissus Festival queen who will reign during the auspicious year of the dragon.

They are the faces of Chinese New Year. Hui mirrors the past and present. Au is the next generation the future.

As for the dragon, well, let’s just say it is not as available for interviews, thanks to a busy schedule of ceremonial commitments. We just couldn’t break into the dragon’s agenda of prancing in Chinatown parades, chasing evil spirits from the doors of local merchants, snagging red lisee envelopes from bamboo poles, and side-stepping exploding firecrackers and spirited percussionists who follow him everywhere.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

John Hui presents new Narcissus Queen Tiffany Au with her sash as 2011 queen Ningjin Miao looks on. Lawrence Tabudlo photo, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Trade Diplomat

We start our conversation in Chinatown at 8 S. King St., the second-floor office of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Hui is there to meet us and tells us about the humble beginnings of a merchants association that has evolved into a modern-day powerhouse of influence in Asian trade.

If you’re a China-watcher and who isn’t these days with China being the second largest economy in the world you’ll want to know more about the Chamber. Its established connections with government and trade organizations in China open many doors.

“Our organization was started in 1911 by a small group of merchants, and for the benefit of the local Chinese community,” Hui says. “The Chinese Merchants Association had its first headquarters on the second floor of the C.Q. Yee Hop market on King Street. Chu Gem served as the first president of this merchant group until 1918.”

The Narcissus court (from left): third princess Julianne Cheng, first princess Amanda Wong, Narcissus queen Tiffany Au, second princess Stephanie Wang and fourth princess Cherie Ching. Lawrence Tabudlo photo

In 1926, the name was changed to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Honolulu. With a growing membership and need for larger quarters, the then president, Doo Wai Sing, negotiated with the United Chinese Society for a 50year lease on the property behind the present headquarters at 42 N. King St.

A two-story concrete building was constructed and a dedication celebration was held on Chinese New Year’s Day, Feb. 9, 1929. The building was used by the Chamber as a meeting place and also as a center for social and welfare activities.

The Chamber’s origins and the establishment of Honolulu’s Chinatown happened about six decades after the first Chinese contract laborers arrived in the Islands. With the growth of the sugar industry, the need for plantation laborers became imperative, and China was the best source of immediate cheap laborers because of proximity and the interest of Chinese in coming to Hawaii to work.

Today, the 25-acre area of Chinatown is a hub of diversified commerce and cultural attractions where busy marketplaces, restaurants, trade shops and financial enterprises are based. It is one of the oldest and largest Chinatown districts in the country. Through the years, the Chamber has been active in a number of areas, including assisting Chinese immigrants, aiding old and indigent Chinese, and facilitating

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