Chen Fang

In 1849, Chen Fang left his Chinese Xiangshan village for Honolulu to profit from a business boom caused by the California Gold Rush – there were only about a hundred Chinese in the entire kingdom when he arrived; at that time, there was no Chinatown in Honolulu.

Over the years in Hawaiʻi he was widely known as Chun Afong, a respected Cantonese merchant, who was proficient in the Hawaiian and English languages and conversant with Western manners. By 1855, Afong had made his fortune in retailing, real estate, sugar and rice, and for a long time held the government’s opium license (he is Hawaiʻi’s first Chinese millionaire.)

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In ancient Hawaiʻi, men and woman ate their meals apart. Commoners and women of all ranks were also forbidden by the ancient tradition to eat certain foods. This changed in 1819, when King Kamehameha II is best remembered for the ‘Ai Noa, the breaking of the ancient kapu (tabu) system of religious laws, six months into his reign, when he sat down with Kaʻahumanu and his mother Keōpūolani and ate a meal together.

Up to about 170-years ago, the ʻahaʻaina or pāʻina were the calls to feast and party together. Later, a new term was used – Lūʻau – to refer to these festive events; however, it’s not clear when that term came into use. It’s interesting how a word that is associated as one of the most Hawaiian of activities (a feast,) is actually a relatively new term. The name came from the name of the young tender kalo (taro) leaves. An early reference, possibly the first time, was in an April 1, 1850 story in ‘The Friend.’

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Staying Connected

In our wonderful world of wireless – and connectivity to the internet, etc, we sometimes forget the relative ‘remoteness’ Hawaiʻi has with the rest of civilization. Hawaiʻi is the world’s most-isolated populated-place. While, today, technology keeps us constantly and instantly in touch and aware of world events, the same was not true in the past. Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, you had at least a one-week time lag in receiving “news” (that arrived via ships.)

But without faster worldwide communications to the Islands, Hawaiʻi was deprived of staying current with world events. That changed in 1902, when the first submarine cable across the Pacific was completed (landing in Waikīkī at Sans Souci Beach) linking the US mainland to Hawaiʻi, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji (1902) and Guam to the Philippines in 1903. (The first Atlantic submarine cable, connecting Europe with the USA, was completed in 1866.)

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These posts are part of a personal learning experience; I have been searching to learn more about the place I and my family were born, raised, and live (and love) – then, share what I have learned.

Because of my Planning work across the Islands, as well as previously serving as Director of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, State Historic Preservation Officer and Deputy Managing Director for Hawaiʻi County, I have had the opportunity to see some places and deal with some issues that many others have not had, nor will have, the same opportunity.

So, I am sharing some insights, events and places with others. These informal historic summaries are presented for personal, non-commercial and/or educational purposes. I hope you enjoy them. Thanks, Peter.

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