Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chan - Chang in Honolulu

Charlie Chan is a fictional character based on an actual Honolulu Police Department detective. Chang Apana, known by this localized version of his Chinese name Chang Ah Ping, was born on the Island of O’ahu in 1871. He spoke fluent Hawaiian but never learned to read. As a paniolo, Hawaiian cowboy, he regularly carried a bullwhip. Later he joined the police force as its only Chinese member.

Detective Chang patrolled areas of Chinatown, working on opium-smuggling and gambling cases. He also helped find people with leprosy who were then transported to the colony on Molokai. One story has the detective rounding up forty gamblers and marching them to the police station, with only his bullwhip for backup.

The author of the Charlie Chan detective novels, Earl Derr Biggers, changed the racial stereotype of Chinese characters to less resemble villains like Fu Manchu. His first novel, The House Without A Key, is set in Honolulu. The restaurant of the same name, in the Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach, faces the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful view of the volcanic landmark, Diamond Head.

Don’t you find it interesting that Mr. Biggers based his rotund, mild-mannered sleuth on the bullwhip-wielding, sinewy HPD detective?


  1. The bullwhip may have had a special meaning to Mr. Biggers--authority, obedience, respect. Ok... that's the "social worker" talking... :-))

    Very interesting.


  2. I never knew this about Charlie Chan...and I'm so glad I stopped by and learned something new :)

    Cheers, Jenn

  3. This is a whole new world to me - thanks!!

  4. Hi Gail,nice to meet you. I loved the'old' Charile Chan movies. Interesting factoids.

  5. Very interesting post! My son and I visited Honolulu at the end of February. We had a wonderful time!

  6. I had no idea. I really am learning many new and interesting facts and tid bits during this challenge. I just popped over from Sarah's blog. I saw your theme and had to have a look (it is the same as mine (sort of). My theme is the unusual and odd laws and crimes in Louisiana.

    I lived in Hawaii one summer while attending summer school. I am so jealous that you get to live there all the time. It is paradise to me.

    I am a new follower. It is nice to meet you.

  7. Hello there,

    I'm here via A-Z, and I'm glad to have landed here out of the 1600-odd entries... ; P

    Very interesting post! I wonder how many literary detectives have real-life inspirations?

    Tessa, your newest follower

  8. That is a very interesting post. Bullwhip and helping lepers? hmmm. Interesting to say the least. ;-)

  9. Thank you for visiting today. The Honolulu detective carried the bullwhip with him for control.

    Margo, sorry I missed you when you were in Honolulu. Hope you enjoyed your stay.

    Melissa, I hope you get to visit again someday.

    I will see you all on your blogs now! Aloha.

  10. Fascinating! I didn't know this bit of history. Is there a biography about him?


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