Chinese Characters

  • Howqua
  • Lin Zexu


The leader of the Chinese co-hong (traders) he was esteemed and respected by the foreign traders. He was also the richest man in the world.

Howqua was the most important of the Hong merchants in the Thirteen Factories, head of the Ewo Hong and leader of the Canton Cohong. He was the richest men in the world.

Born in 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, the name Howqua comes from his Chinese Business Name. He became rich on the trade between China and the British Empire in the middle of the 19th century during the First Opium War. As 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, 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. 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. 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.

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.

The founders of world-renowned firms including James Matheson, William Jardine, Samuel Russell and Abiel Abbot Low all had a close relationship with Howqua.