The Armenians and Chinese are the most ancient peoples who managed to build the great civilizations of their time. The word “Armenia” in Chinese sounds “Ya-mei-ni-ya,” which’s hieroglyphs mean “The Beautiful Maid of Asia.”
One of the most famous Armenian figures who managed to build his own business empire in Hong Kong was Sir Khachik Paul Chater (Khachik Astvatsaryan – Խաչիկ Պողոս Աստվածատրյան), better known in business circles as the Armenian “prince” of Hong Kong.
Khachik Astvatsaryan was born in 1846 in Calcutta (India) into a large family of Armenian traders, in which there were 14 children. His father was nicknamed “Astvatsatur”, that is, “The Gift of God”, and for his children, he was really a gift of fate, but little Khachik became an orphan early without experiencing the parental love.
At the age of 18, without a penny, he moved to Hong Kong. With industriousness specific to the Armenian people, he worked tirelessly and had a decent life. With dignity, he step by step overcame various ordeals on the way to a successful career.
He was a director of twenty companies and associations, banker, co-owner of international firms, one of the richest people in Hong Kong, justice of the peace, member of the Legislative Council, chairman of the Committee on the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, Doctor of Jurisdiction, Prince of the Order “Saint Michel and Saint George”. He was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor (France).
“This young Armenian from Calcutta filled the whole Hong Kong,” the historical testimonies say, “He is everywhere, nothing can be done without his knowledge and participation. He is the father of Hong Kong!”
All his life, Sir Paul Khachik Chater sacrificed large sums to the social-public and religious-educational organizations of Hong Kong, Calcutta, London, Paris, Nanking, and Beijing.
According to the will unconditionally executed by his wife, Lady Maria Christine, the most of the fortune of the childless couple passed to the Armenian churches in Calcutta and other cities of India, Southeast Asia, and also the college where he had studied.
To perpetuate the name of its benefactor, the educational institution decided to preface the morning prayer of the schoolchildren with the hymn beginning with the words, “We are grateful to you, Paul Chater, our benefactor…”
It was performed before his portrait by a famous English artist George Henry. The name of Khachik Chater will be remembered and expressed with gratitude for many generations.
The Armenian church in Calcutta also paid its respect, naming a special extension to the main building “The House of Sir Paul Chater” after Chater.
In addition to financial resources, Chater granted the city of Hong Kong his own house, which was called the “Marble Halls” during his lifetime. It was a palace complex and also had an unmatched porcelain collection, including statuettes from China and pictures that were personally adapted to the theme “Hong Kong During the Centuries” (about the 500-year history of the city).
Khachik Paul Chater made great contribution to the construction and economy of the city. It was he who developed the program on expanding the island by mastering oceanic areas. Studies of the ocean floor have been carried out and a number of business centers have been established.
Khachik Paul Chater was well aware of the peculiarities of the geographical location of Hong Kong and was fueled by the idea of prosperity of ports, and, accordingly, trade. He independently restored the city’s historical development plan, which would be later adopted as the basis for the construction of the 21st century.
Therefore, it can be said without exaggeration that Hong Kong has achieved serious positions and continues to play a significant role in the world economy thanks to the efforts of Khachik Paul Chater (Astvatsaryan).
Khachik Paul Chater died in 1926, but he was, is, and will be serving as an example of a world citizen with an Armenian heart. The news of death, among others, shocked Hong Kong, where he would be buried. City streets, parks, and government offices were named in his honor.
by Alexander Bakulin