Chang Apana (Chang Apana)

Chang Apana

Folk Figure.  He was the inspiration for the fictional sleuth Charlie Chan.  The son of Chinese immigrants,  he worked as a cowboy on Oahu before joining the new Honolulu Police Department in 1898.  Carrying a whip instead of a gun,  he often led the force in arrests and became Hawaii’s most famous cop.  During his 34-year career Apana was stabbed six times,  shot once,  thrown out of a second-story window,  run over with a horse and buggy,  attacked with machetes,  and bludgeoned with an axe handle;  on each occasion the wounded detective managed to apprehend his suspect.  He was a three-time recipient of the department’s Medal of Valor.  In 1919 author Earl Derr Biggers read of Apana’s exploits in a newspaper while vacationing in Hawaii,  and later met him in person.  Biggers’ first Charlie Chan novel,  “The House Without a Key”,  appeared in 1925.  Five more Chan novels followed,  and Biggers sent Apana an autographed copy of each.  Apart from tenacity and a penchant for Panama hats,  the slight,  two-fisted,  cigar-chomping Apana bore scant resemblance to his portly,  cerebral fictional counterpart.  He couldn’t even read the Chan books because he was literate only in Hawaiin (though he spoke fluent Cantonese and some English).  But the popularity of Charlie Chan,  especially after Hollywood made dozens of films starring the character,  has assured Apana at least a footnote in American pop culture. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)  Family links:  Spouse:  Annie Luihiwa Lee Kwai Chang Apana (____ – 1979)* *Calculated relationship


  • September, 26, 1871
  • USA


  • December, 12, 1933
  • USA


  • Manoa Chinese Cemetery
  • Hawaii
  • USA

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