Cover

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p. i

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ii-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword

Paul Kwong

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pp. vii-x

Lam Woo died more than eighty years ago, but his memory lives on in his family, in his contributions to Hong Kong church and society, and through the foundation that bears his name. His memory is very much a part of the history of our church.

As a young boy of fourteen, Lam went to Australia, joining the Chinese diaspora at that time. Endowed with an enterprising spirit, he benefitted greatly by his sojourn in Australia which opened his eyes to a...

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Foreword

Lam Pak Nin, Samuel

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pp. xi-xii

I have never met my grandfather as he died before I was born. However, I have heard so much about him that I greatly admire him. It seems inconceivable for a young boy of fourteen with very little education to leave his impoverished village and venture to Australia as a labourer. He not only worked hard but also improved his education by going to the local YMCA to learn English, attended the Anglican church, and was baptised. All that helped towards the great success that my grandfather...

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Preface

Moira Chan-Yeung

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pp. xiii-xx

This book focuses on Lam Woo, a well-known, highly successful Chinese building contractor whose company was based in Hong Kong at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it is also about the marginal group of people he exemplifies—those who joined the Chinese diaspora because of poverty and political turmoil and were later driven back home because of racial discrimination and other difficulties. Many ended up settling in Hong Kong, a relatively stable place congenial to business. They were deeply attached to their mother country, but knew that they...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. xxi-xxii

I wish to thank Dr. and Mrs. Lam Pak Nin, Mrs. Gennie Lee (李林建華), Mr. Gordon Lam (林建國), and Dr. Tenny Lam (林仲瑜) for their time gathering materials of Lam Woo, speaking to me about their ancestor and supplying most of the pictures in this book. I am most grateful to the Reverend Canon S. F. Lam (林壽楓) of St. Paul’s Church and the Reverend K. F. Yip (葉錦輝) of St. Stephen’s Church for supplying me with information about the activities of Lam Woo in their respective churches,...

List of Figures

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

List of Tables

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p. xxvii

Family Trees

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pp. xxviii-xxx

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One. The Dragon Flew from Its Nest

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pp. 1-16

One morning in the fall of 1884, the village of Flying Dragon1 (飛龍里) of Niuwan (牛灣) in Xinhui (新會) District, South China, usually quiet and sleepy at this pre-dawn hour, was bustling with activity. Four male travellers had gathered with their families in the ancestral hall, hoping to secure the blessings of their ancestors. The elders of the group once again underlined that those who were leaving carry responsibilities and obligations to those they were leaving. The travellers bowed their heads,...

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Two. Life in the “New Gold Mountain”

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pp. 17-34

British colonisation of Australia began in the late eighteenth century. The first colony to be established was New South Wales in 1788, followed by Tasmania in 1825, Western Australia in 1829, and South Australia in 1836. Victoria was separated from New South Wales to become an independent colony in 1851 and Queensland was established as a colony in 1859. Each colony had its own governor and its own legislature until 1901, when the six colonies joined together to form the Federation of Australia...

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Three. A Follower of Confucius and a Devoted Servant of Christ

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pp. 35-56

When Lam Woo turned 21 and his savings had reached just over a thousand dollars, he decided that it was time to leave Australia for home, the Flying Dragon Village. With a great deal of misgiving he grew his hair again in anticipation of his homeward journey. There was great rejoicing among the Lam clan as most people returned with only a few hundred dollars. Lam became an instant celebrity—and the most eligible bachelor in his village and neighbouring ones....

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Four. A Patriot, Reformer, and Revolutionary

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pp. 57-70

Lam’s loyalty and his attachment to China extended beyond his Confucian filial values, and his social network of friends and fellow businessmen. Despite his dislike of outmoded Chinese traditions such as foot binding, and his admiration for aspects of Western culture, Lam had an abiding sense of Chinese patriotism. It was in fact his love of the Chinese nation that also turned him into a reformer—and then a revolutionary. Ironically, it was his experience in far off Australia that...

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Five. Learning the Trade and the First Painful Lesson

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pp. 71-82

Lam Woo became the type of building contractor unique to the colony in the last half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and quite different from those in other countries then or in present day Hong Kong. This was due to the dearth of trained personnel in the construction industry and language problem between the ruling British and the Chinese working class. There was no need for a contractor then to have a certified degree in construction or have a deep knowledge of...

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Six. Modernising Urban China

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pp. 83-100

As with many others, the story of Lam Woo cannot be separated from the history, politics, and economics of his country, particular one undergoing a titanic shift in identity. Similarly the fate of Lam Woo & Co cannot be separated from China’s modernisation.

China’s modernisation began with the opening of treaty ports including Shanghai, Ningbo (寧波), Fuzhou (福州), Xiamen (廈門) (Amoy) and Guangzhou, after the First Opium War and the signing of the...

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Seven. Building Infrastructure in Hong Kong

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pp. 101-130

Those who know the exorbitant land values in Hong Kong today may find it difficult to imagine that there was a time when this small island once had reasonably priced land available for development. For Captain Elliot who chose it as a sheltered anchorage for the British fleet in the Far East, and for British merchants who saw it as a secure place under the protection of the British flag for trading with China, it seemed an ideal port. Yet, despite the advantages of its geography, situated at the junction...

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Eight. Land Speculation and Land Creation

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pp. 131-148

At the beginning of his career, it was land speculation that brought Lam Woo his first pot of gold. Once he had saved a bit of money, even as a young man, he began to invest in land.

As discussed in the last chapter, Hong Kong’s land area increased considerably after the cession of Kowloon. In 1898, Hong Kong’s land mass further increased when the area north of the Boundary street and south of the Shenzhen River (New Territories), together with more than...

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Nine. The Family and the Company

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pp. 149-170

The flourishing company brought financial security for the Lam family for the rest of their lives. Wanting the best education for his children that he himself did not have the opportunity to receive, Lam Woo sent his sons and daughters to Lingnan College (嶺南學院, later Lingnan University) in Guangzhou; all three daughters married a Lingnan graduate after their own graduation. Chik Sang, the eldest son, preferred to start his career in his father’s company without going to college. After...

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Ten. The Legacies of Lam Woo

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pp. 171-188

Descriptions in the family album and interviews of his grandson and grandniece suggest that Lam Woo (Lam Kau Cheuk) was a soft-spoken man who, like many people with strong inner authority, never raised his voice at home. He was a true family man, obedient to his mother, respectful to his wife, and loving to his children. He was generous and friendly, and loved the company of his friends, especially those from the church. During the thirtieth anniversary of St. Paul’s Church, a plaque...

Notes

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pp. 189-204

Appendix One. Chronology of Lam Woo Life Events

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pp. 205-210

Appendix Two. Sources of Information

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pp. 211-218

Index of Names in English and Chinese

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pp. 219-230