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A Lifetime in Academia

A Lifetime in Academia: An Autobiography by Rayson Huang, Expanded Second Edition

An Autobiography by Rayson Huang
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 2
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    A Lifetime in Academia
    Book Description:

    After receiving a classical Chinese primary and a bilingual secondary education in his father's school Rayson Huang entered the University of Hong Kong in 1938. The forty-eight years thereafter, except for two short intervals, were spent in studying, teaching, research, and/or administration in universities in Hong Kong, China, Britain, the United States, Singapore and Malaysia. The first of the two intervals, of about a year, came as a result of the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese in late 1941 when he moved, as a refugee, into Free China and after a spell of school teaching started his career in a university in Kweilin. The second interval, lasting some six months, was spent making his way by land, air, and sea via Chungking the war-time capital in China's hinterland, and India, to England to take up a scholarship awarded him by the Rhodes Trust at Oxford. The last seventeen years of his working life were taken up serving as vice-chancellor of Nanyang University, the controversial Chinese university in Singapore, and of Hong Kong University.This autobiography records Rayson Huang's diverse university experience of a half century. It also gives an account of the siege of Hong Kong and life in war-torn China and of two bodies on which he later served: the Legislative Council in Hong Kong and Beijing's Drafting Committee which formulated a Basic Law for the territory after its return to China in 1997.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-71-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. vii-x)
    Rayson Huang
  4. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 The Early Years: My Father and Munsang College
    (pp. 1-18)

    I was born on the nineteenth day of the seventh moon in the year of the Monkey. This was the birthday I knew and celebrated until I was seventeen years old, when I applied for admission into the University of Hong Kong and had to supply on the application form my date of birth on the solar calendar. It was then that I made the necessary enquiries and found that this was the first of September 1920.

    My birthplace was 150 miles from Hong Kong up the South China coast in Shantou (Swatow), the main seaport of Chauzhou, a region...

  6. 2 University Days and the Siege of Hong Kong
    (pp. 19-30)

    Although established in 1911, the University of Hong Kong in fact originates from the Hong Kong College of Medicine which came into being in 1881, and which boasted of having Dr Sun Yat-sen, father of the Republic of China, as one of its first graduates. The founder of the university was Lord Lugard who had the vision of the university serving China, partaking in the education of its young and functioning as a meeting place for East and West. For many decades after the university came into being, this ideal of the founder was hardly realized: there was little if...

  7. 3 Into Free China as a Refugee: Life in Samkong and Kweilin
    (pp. 31-46)

    On 31 July 1942, my brother and I and Leslie Sung, a friend from the university, having joined a group of other refugees, left for China. We had a guide who at an agreed price was to meet us at the other side of the border and would take us, through an area known as ‘no man’s land’, to the first outpost of the Chinese army. We were dressed in simple labourers’ clothes and equipped with exit permits issued by the occupation forces. Actually we did not look much like common labourers, least of all as both my brother and...

  8. 4 To Chungking: The War-time Capital
    (pp. 47-56)

    And so I was on the road again, this time with much better prospects and in much higher spirits than when I left Hong Kong as a refugee a little over a year ago. This time I was bound for Chungking and ultimately Oxford. My travel was to take me from Kweilin by train to Liuzhou and Jinchengjiang, thence by road through Kweiyang to Chungking, and from there by air, across the Himalayas to India and then by sea to England. I felt so elated that even the possibility, indeed likelihood, of encountering Japanese planes in the air and German...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 5 To England via India: Postgraduate Studies at Oxford
    (pp. 57-70)

    After calling at Kunming and Assam to refuel, we flew into Calcutta in the evening. I stayed there for only a few days and can recall but little of the city, but what I cannot forget is the heat and the humidity and the aroma of cheese and goat milk which assailed my nostrils as we drove in the semi-darkness into town. It was all a very different world and I could not help feeling a strong sense of liberation to be out of blockaded China: on this side of the Himalayas I was in touch with the rest of...

  11. 6 Post-Doctoral Training in Chicago
    (pp. 71-80)

    After Oxford, Chicago was another world again. Even the language, admittedly English, sounded unfamiliar. Here I met quite a number of Irish descendants who said I spoke English with a British accent. But they meant no offence; in fact they were quite informal and hospitable, and made friends easily.

    What struck me in this country was the attitude towards achievements in life. Success seemed to be measured mainly by how much money one managed to make. The dollar was almighty here. I could not help feeling a little put off by this attitude. For instance, whenever someone admired a new...

  12. 7 Starting a Career the Hard Way in Singapore
    (pp. 81-90)

    The University of Malaya came into existence on 8 October 1949 shortly before our arrival in Singapore, by the amalgamation of the existing Raffles College, a diploma-granting arts and science college, and King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore. These two colleges served all Malaya, and were the only post-secondary institutions in the whole territory. The need to upgrade them to university standard had long been felt since before the war, when young men and women who aspired to a university education had to go overseas, either to the University of Hong Kong or all the way to Britain....

  13. 8 The Emergence of a Chinese University
    (pp. 91-100)

    The mid-1950s saw in Singapore the establishment of Nanyang University. This was a significant event in the annals of higher education as Nanyang was the first ever Chinese language university to be put up outside China. It was, however, a development to be expected as I shall try to explain in the following paragraphs.

    There were since before the war two mainstreams of schools in Malaya: the English stream consisting of government and government-aided schools (including mission schools) that were run or largely supported financially by the government, and the Chinese stream consisting of schools built and run by the...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. 9 A New University in a New Country
    (pp. 101-116)

    University teaching in Kuala Lumpur started soon after Malaysia achieved independence in 1957. Instruction was given in a few subjects to begin with and was conducted by University of Malaya teachers who visited regularly from Singapore. This was followed by the creation of a faculty of agriculture and the transference of the Department of Engineering from Singapore, and in 1959, with the establishment of new faculties of arts and science, the new University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur came into being. The institution in Singapore then became the University of Malaya in Singapore. My move to the Malaysian capital in...

  16. 10 Nanyang University: The One and Only
    (pp. 117-130)

    The ‘Nantah’ (Chinese abbreviation for Nanyang University) into which I walked in early 1969 was in many ways a different institution from the one I visited as a member of the Gwee Ah-leng Committee ten years before. Since 1959 when Singapore achieved self government and even more so after total independence in 1965, the government had been anxious to bring the university into the national system of education and spared no efforts in attempting to do this. The promulgation of the Nanyang Ordinance in 1959 which provided for the university as an institution of higher learning in the territory’s education...

  17. 11 Back to Alma Mater
    (pp. 131-158)

    It was almost exactly 30 years after leaving Hong Kong as a refugee from Japanese occupation that I at last returned. Although after the absence of the first eight years I did, on returning to the Far East in 1950, manage to make fairly regular but short visits to the territory, it was a very different matter coming back to live and work and be with my family, relatives and friends again. For well over a year after my return, I had many pleasant surprises bumping into friends and former schoolmates in all sorts of places. For Grace, however, Hong...

  18. 12 Post-Retirement Activities
    (pp. 159-174)

    My first activity after retirement was perhaps a little out of the ordinary — I enrolled myself in a violin-making course in Cambridge conducted by Juliet Barker. By then I had come to possess five violins, one of which was by Ettore Soffritti dated 1924, and two by my friend Xu Fu, one of which, dated 1985, was one of his masterpieces and had my name inscribed inside it. By now I had developed a great interest in violins not only in the beautiful sound they produce, but also in the instruments as works of art. When one looks at the...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  20. Appendix I Extracts from a Presidential Address to the General Assembly of the Association of South-East Asian Institutions of Higher Learning
    (pp. 177-180)
    Rayson Huang
  21. Appendix II Nanyang University Convocation Address
    (pp. 181-188)
    Rayson Huang
  22. Appendix III The Basic Purpose of Secondary Education: Address by the Vice-Chancellor to the 91st Congregation, the University of Hong Kong
    (pp. 189-196)
    Rayson Huang
  23. Appendix IV Aspects of the Basic Law: Relationship between the Central Authorities and the Special Administrative Region
    (pp. 197-202)
  24. Glossary
    (pp. 203-210)