Sir John Bowring: Fourth Governor of Hong Kong & Hyperpolyglot Who Knew 100 Languages

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Written By Henry Dalziel

I've been living and working in Hong Kong since 2016 as an SEO Professional.

In the year 1792, Sir John Bowring was born in the city of Exeter, which is located in England. He attended Exeter Grammar School and University College London for his formal education. He started out his professional life working as a clerk in the office of his prosperous merchant uncle in London. In the year 1819, he was delegated to represent his uncle’s business in the Chinese city of Canton, which is today known as Guangzhou. After that, he went on a trip to India, as well as Macau, Singapore, Siam (now Thailand), and Burma (now Myanmar).Bowring was given the position of British consul in Siam in the year 1824. He played a pivotal role in the negotiations that led to the signing of the first treaty between Siam and Britain in the year 1826. Additionally, he was instrumental in the development of British commercial ties with the countries of Burma and Vietnam.Bowring moved back to London the following year, in 1829. The Kingdom and People of Siam is the title of the book that he wrote and published about his trip. The book enjoyed widespread success and was instrumental in elevating the profile of Southeast Asia in British culture.Bowring was given the position of governor of Hong Kong in the year 1832. He put up a total of four years of service in this post. During his time in office, he was in charge of supervising the construction of a number of significant public buildings, such as the Hong Kong Observatory and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Additionally, he was instrumental in the establishment of Hong Kong as a free port, which stimulated both commercial activity and economic expansion.In the year 1836, Bowring relocated back to London after leaving Hong Kong. He continued his extended travels and wrote a number of more books about his adventures along the way. He was given the honor of a knighthood in the year 1846 and was a member of Parliament from the years 1849 to 1872.Sir John Bowring was an extraordinary individual who made a significant contribution to the growth and development of Hong Kong. He was an exceptionally talented linguist who was able to speak 100 different languages and understand 200 other languages. He was a relentless wanderer who was instrumental in facilitating British commercial and political interests in Southeast Asia. In addition to this, he was a devoted public servant who made an enduring contribution to the expansion and prosperity of Hong Kong.
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