09 September 2014

Who was William Mong, the ‘rice
cooker tycoon’ from Hong Kong?

Dr William Mong … a portrait in the William Mong Building in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

The International Summer Conference organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies is taking place once again this year in the William Mong Hall in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

The William Mong Building is the main lecture theatre in Sidney Sussex College. Our coffee breaks each morning and afternoon make good use of the garden between the William Mong Hall and South Court.

With the Chapel on one side and the rooms of South Court, dating from the early 1930s, on the other side, this sun-filled space provides an ideal space this week to renew old friendships and to make new friends in the autumn sunshine.

Each day, as I work on my laptop at the back of the hall, I am sitting beneath a portrait of William Mong. But who was William Mong? And why is this lecture room and conference space named after him?

Dr William Mong Man Wai (1927-2010) was known in Hong Kong as the “rice cooker tycoon.” He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist and the Chair and Senior Managing Director of the Shun Hing Group, the distributor of Matsushita products (National, Panasonic, Technics) in Hong Kong.

Mong was born in Hong Kong in 1927 and after returning from Beijing to Hong Kong in 1948 he set up Shun Hing Holdings in 1953. He used his father’s business links with Panasonic to import Japanese goods, and went door-to-door to sell the first eight rice cookers.

Many university buildings in Hong Kong and China are named after him. In 1996, the Nanjing Purple Mountain Observatory named Asteroid 3678 the Mong Man Wai Star in recognition of his work to promote economics, science, technology and education in China.

In 1996, he donated £1.5 million to Sidney Sussex College for building a multi-purpose lecture and conference hall.

Queen Elizabeth II and Dr William Mong officiated at the unveiling ceremony of the Mong Building in 1996, and the Mong Hall became the first building named after an Asian in a college in Cambridge University. The building was completed in 1999.

William Mong died from cancer on 20 July 2010. He left behind a fortune estimated to be worth tens of billions of Hong Kong dollars, but multiple lawsuits involving his family and his business interests have continued in legal battles over his fortune for the past four years.

Enjoying the sunshine in a small corner between South Court and the William Mong Building in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

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