Following the Path of the Righteous Crane

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Meet Richard Eu, CEO and fourth-generation leader of leading family-controlled Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) company Eu Yan Sang. You’re going to be hearing a lot more of his name, and his company, in travel retail in the future.

I spent an hour or so in Richard’s engaging company last Thursday, taking a break from the Tax Free Asia Pacific show to visit E Yan Sang headquarters in Singapore.

You’ll see the result of our chat in a few weeks in an interview that is as compelling as any I have done in recent years. For what a story Eu Yan Sang’s is.

The company was founded by Eu Kong in 1879 as a medicine shop for his opium-addicted tin mine coolies. In the intervening years, much like most family enterprises, it has seen triumph and tribulation, some of it more like the stuff of fiction – and racy fiction at that. Richard kindly presented me with a copy of a book called ‘Path of the Righteous Crane’, the enthralling story of his grandfather Eu Tong Sen, a narrative packed with tales of murder, mysticism, sex and romance (he had 11 wives), opium, colonialism and dare-devil exploits.  As the back-cover blurb says, “His life was not a footnote to the period of history he lived in; it was an integral part of the main narrative of the lives of the people who called themselves hua qiao, the overseas Chinese.”

I’ll explain all about the ‘Righteous Crane’ in my article.  The timing is good as Eu Yan Sang is stepping up its presence in travel retail significantly this year (it recently appointed the well-regarded Tonya Tan as General Manager Corporate Business Development) and Traditional Chinese Medicine is enjoying booming popularity all around the world. The company’s sense of integrity comes across in everything it does (an important consideration in the still oft-misunderstood world of Traditional Chinese Medicine) and its commitment to giving back to society is inspiring.

Richard graciously signed his grandfather’s biography with the words, “Martin, thank you for listening to my story.” It should be me thanking Richard for telling his – and the enthralling tale of Eu Yan Sang.

Eu Yang Sang’s headquarters contains some superb Singapore artwork, reflecting Richard Eu’s commitment to local society. Amazingly, these two pieces of magnificent sculpture were created by a near-blind artist, Victor Tan, who only works with one material, wire.

“My sculptures are about being on a journey.  Whether you are standing, sitting or lying down, the journey continues. In my journey and through my sculptures, I hope I can touch the hearts and influence the minds of fellow passengers. And if I can in some way alleviate human sufferings through my art; that would make my journey a worthy one.” – Victor Tan


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