This article is about the Cantonese term. For other uses, see Tai-Pan (disambiguation).

A tai-pan (Chinese: ; pinyin: bān,[1] literally 'top class',[2] or 'big shot') is a senior business executive or entrepreneur operating in China or Hong Kong.


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, tai-pans were foreign-born businessmen who headed large Hong trading houses such as Jardine, Matheson & Co. and Dent & Co. amongst others.

The first recorded use of the term in English is in the Canton Register of 28 October 1834.[3] Historical variant spellings include taepan (first appearance), typan, and taipan.[3] The term gained wide currency outside China after the publication of Somerset Maugham's 1922 short story "The Taipan" and James Clavell's 1966 novel Tai-Pan.


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See also


  1. Andrew J. Moody, "Transmission Languages and Source Languages of Chinese Borrowings in English", American Speech, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Winter, 1996), pp. 414-415.
  2. 汉英词典 — A Chinese-English Dictionary 1988 新华书店北京发行所发行 (Beijing Xinhua Bookshop).
  3. 1 2 Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edn, 1989).
  4. Nicholas D. Kristof (June 21, 1987). "Jardine Matheson's Heir-Elect: Brian M. Powers; An Asian Trading Empire Picks an American 'Tai-pan'". The New York Times. ... William Jardine, the first tai-pan, a shrewd Scotsman ...
  5. "Lawrence Kadoorie, 94, Is Dead; A Leader in Hong Kong'g (sic) Growth". The New York Times. August 26, 1993.
  6. "The Taipan and the dragon.". The Economist. April 8, 1995.
  7. Rone Tempest and Christine Courtney (April 12, 1994). "Hong Kong's New Business Dynasties : The great British trading houses rush to hire more Chinese executives, shed their colonial veneer before Beijing takes over in '97.". Los Angeles Times. Simon Murray was one of the last British 'taipans.'
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