Founded in Hong Kong in 1956 by seven prominent businessmen, including Lawrence and Horace Kadoorie - members of one of the best-known families in Hong Kong - Tai Ping has grown into a global company with headquarters in Hong Kong; flagships in New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Paris; and fourteen showrooms across the USA, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Tai Ping means Great Peace
The group soon set about manufacturing Tianjin style knotted carpets under the ‘Tai Ping’ brand - meaning Great Peace - to appeal to overseas admirers of Oriental artistry. The company’s first make-shift workshop was established in 1956 in a two-storey villa named ‘Cheung Yuen’ in Castel Peak, employing 32 workers and a supervisor. The workshop’s operations were soon expanded thanks to a large tent fitted over the concrete surface of a basket-ball court situated next door. The tent was bought from a visiting circus which had gone bankrupt while in Hong Kong. Production started on a small scale at first. When the time came for the Governor’s visit, only a very small piece of knotted carpet could be shown. It quickly became apparent that hand-knotting was neither a widely held skill in Southern China, nor something that translated easily to the production line.
The main building of the 'Cheung Yuen' villa
From the Magical Needle to the electric hand tufting gun invented by Mr. Yeh
Production started on a very small scale in a villa in Hong Kong’s New Territories. With little knowledge of carpet production, but deep commitment to making the project work, the young company simply bought some wood to make looms, ordered wool, and set about trying to make Tianjin-style hand-knotted carpets.
It quickly became apparent that hand-knotting carpet was neither a widely-held skill in Southern China, nor something that translated easily to a production line. Slightly deterred, the founders transferred a young textile engineer from Nanyang Textiles, Mr. Anthony Yeh, to manage the small factory. Soon after, through a timely mix of serendipity and engineering innovation, Yeh developed the cut-pile Magic Needle that is a predecessor of the hand-tufting tools used today. Perhaps it was China’s rich tradition of embroidery and artistry that resonated more with this new approach to carpet making, but once armed with the ingenious hand-tufting needle, Tai Ping’s young workers quickly adapted to creating hand-tufted carpets, and the most talented became amazingly adept at interpreting designs.
The Magic Needle
Early electric tufting gun
The Legend of Tai Ping Tent Story
In 1958, the company received a commission from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles for a carpet so large it would need to be constructed in a 100 foot by 50 foot tent erected outside the factory – a tent bought from a visiting circus that had gone bankrupt whilst in Hong Kong. The temporary arrangement worked well until a typhoon drew near and the tent was about to collapse. Workers braved the typhoon to secure the tent until the storm passed. The carpet survived, and the teamwork ensured the company fulfilled its critical order. The legend of the Tent Story was born. Symbolic of dedication to a craft, the tent was incorporated into the Tai Ping logo by designer Tyler Brûlé.
The rug was made for the foyer of the legendary cinema
Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles
The new attraction and vision: Tai Po facility
With manufacturing problems solved and orders coming in fast, it was time to quit the Cheung Yuen villa at Castle Peak and find a production centre where the company could handle every possible request - any shape, size, colour or design.
They bought land in Tai Po, on the edge of Plover Cove, at a cost of 70 cents a square foot for 70,000 square feet. The deal included a large old metal shed belonging to Nanyang Cotton Mills Ltd., where Anthony Yeh had worked as a textile engineer in former years. This building was to house the company's carpet-making operations for the next nineteen years, until 1990.
1959 - Tai Ping was the first factory to be established in the small market town of Tai Po, on the shore of Tolo Harbour
The Directors of the Company in 1978. They include: (left to right) Y.C. Wang, Sir Horace Kadoorie, David Marchington (company secretary), K.K. Tse, W.T. Grimsdale, David Loo, Lord Lawrence Kadoorie, Tony Yeh, H.C. Yung, Linden Johnson
The Tai Po factory, besides producing carpets and rugs for the great buildings of the world, has become itself a "must" for every very important person visiting Hong Kong. The visitors' album has signatures which would make it a valued collector's piece for the autograph hunter.
The manufacturing industry prospered through the 1960s and 1970s, as did Tai Ping. Among those taking an interest in the new carpet business was the then-Governor of Hong Kong, Alexander Grantham, an early visitor to the factory. The Hong Kong Government took note of Tai Ping’s beautiful carpets and commissioned the company to produce wedding gifts on behalf of Hong Kong for Princess Alexandra, Princess Anne, and later for the Prince of Wales. The company also catered to Buckingham Palace and for the Princess Margaret. Opened in 1960, the first factory in Tai Po was soon included on the itinerary of the Hong Kong Tourist Association’s New Territories tour. Over the years, Tai Ping received many distinguished visitors from Hong Kong and abroad, including the Governors of Hong Kong, The Duchess of Gloucester, The Duchess of Kent, His Majesty King Baudouin of Belgium, Princess Anne and Prince George of Denmark, Mr. J.D. Rockefeller and Ms. Elizabeth Taylor.
The Duchess of Gloucester and Mr Yeh
Ms. Barbara Black, daughter of the then-Hong Kong Governor Sir Robert Black, performs ribbon cutting at the opening ceremony of Tai Po factory, accompanied by Sir Lawrence Kadoorie (left) and Mr. Anthony Yeh (right)
Mr. Anthony Yeh explaining carpet production to His Majesty King Baudouin of Belgium, accompanied by Sir Lawrence Kadoorie (back)
Ms. Elizabeth Taylor and Mr. David Loo