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The headquarters of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in San Francisco, California

Kongsi (Chinese: 公司; pinyin: gōngsī; Wade–Giles: kung-ssu; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: kong-si) is broadly defined as a type of Chinese social organization or partnership, but the term has acquired other meanings under different historical contexts.[1][2] According to historian Tai Peng Wang, "almost every Chinese institution during the 19th century was called a kongsi."[1] Among overseas Chinese, the word kongsi was applied to both clan organizations whose members shared a common descent or social clubs for Chinese immigrants originating from the same province.[1][2] After the 19th century, these organizations came to be known as as hui guan (會館, literally meaning "meeting hall").[3]

In Southeast Asia, the kongsi republics were made up of Hakka Chinese mining communities that united into political entities that functioned as self-governing states.[4] By the mid-nineteenth century, the kongsi republics controlled most of western Borneo. The three largest kongsi republics were the Lanfang Republic, the Heshun Republic (Fosjoen), and the Santiaogou Federation (Samtiaokioe).[5]

The Chinese word Kongsi is used in modern Chinese to mean a commercial "company".

Functions of the Kongsi system

The system of kongsi was utilized by Cantonese throughout the diaspora to overcome economic difficulty, social ostracism, and oppression.[citation needed] In today's Cantonese communities throughout the world, this approach has been adapted to the modern environment, including political and legal factors. The kongsi is similar to modern business partnerships, but also draws on a deeper spirit of cooperation and consideration of mutual welfare.

It has been stated by some that the development and thriving of Cantonese communities worldwide are the direct result of the kongsi concept. A vast number of Cantonese-run firms and businesses that were born as kongsi ended up as multinational conglomerates. In the Chinese spirit, derived in large part from Confucian ideals, these kongsi members or their descendants prefer not to boast so much of their wealth but to take pride in earning worldly and financial success through their work ethic and the combined efforts of many individuals devoted to group welfare.

Picture of a Cantonese districts Association & Temple in Penang, Malaysia.
Picture of Teochew Clan Association of Muar, Johor, Malaysia.
Triều Châu (Chaozhou) Assembly Hall in Hoi An, Vietnam

See also


  1. ^ a b c Wang 1979, p. 102.
  2. ^ a b Yuan 2000, p. 3.
  3. ^ Wang 1979.
  4. ^ Heidhues 1996, p. 176.
  5. ^ Heidhues 2003, p. 55.


  • Heidhues, Mary Somers (1996). "Chinese Settlements in Rural Southeast Asia: Unwritten Histories". Sojourners and Settlers: Histories of Southeast China and the Chinese. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 164–182. ISBN 978-0-8248-2446-4. 
  • Heidhues, Mary Somers (2003). Golddiggers, Farmers, and Traders in the "Chinese Districts" of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications. ISBN 978-0-87727-733-0. 
  • Wang, Tai Peng (1979). "The Word "Kongsi": A Note". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 52 (235): 102–105. JSTOR 41492844. 
  • Yuan, Bingling (2000). Chinese Democracies: A Study of the Kongsis of West Borneo (1776-1884). Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies, Leiden University. ISBN 978-9-05789-031-4. 

External links

  • Chinatownology: clan associations in Singapore
  • Huang Clan Associations Worldwide
  • Overseas Chinese Associations
  • Singapore Chan Khoo Kong Huay 新加坡地曾邱公会 http://chankhoo.freezoka.net/
  • Singapore Hui Ann Association 新加坡惠安公会 http://huiann.icr38.net
  • Grand Family Association, Philippines [1]
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