Shunde Revisited

We returned Wednesday evening from a 3-day visit to Shunde, which was part and parcel of a reunion programme between Wah Yan College alumni marking the 60th anniversary of their graduation in 1963 when our numbers were around 150 plus or minus 10%.

Alumni associations are not the easiest organisations to manage, and jokes and anecdotes abound on their colourful and common features, which by and large are reflections of our mortal life and its impermanence. Typically, there were more people attending in the first years, but when they met, they always talked about the past, without exception. These meetings were more frequent in the beginning and were attended by most alumni, particularly by those who were ascending the social ladder fast and more successfully. People from abroad would come back too. Then the numbers began to dwindle, but would pick up later with participation of spouse initially and later children. Meetings became less frequent, from the initial quarterly or half-yearly, to annual, biannual, quinquennial and eventually decennial, when they would go back to quinquennial or perhaps even more frequent, depending on who are left. They nearly almost would observe their Silver or Golden Jubilees. In our case, I can’t recall the pattern, but I suspect we would be no different, and I had reports of reunion meetings having taken place in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Toronto or Sydney, depending on the numbers. By 2003 when we had our 40th Anniversary, we became more serious on having one in Hong Kong every five years, and I recall that we had dinners with Jesuit priests and past teachers including our favourite Late Raymond Yu. Then some of us who joined the School as Primary Five students and hence had known each other two years earlier decided to add more meetings to mark, say, the 50th anniversary of having known each other etc., and Su and I recall having attended two such reunions, even though I had only joined the School in 1958.

I think I became involved in organizing such reunions from or around 2013. I certainly was involved in the last one in 2018 and the current one. Before that, we had a highly efficient and effective Wilson Wong who almost single handedly organized everything. Sadly, he passed away around 2016. Most of us are approaching 80 – a few were over that – and it is by no means certain that we can drum up enough support in five years’ time or in 2028 for the next meeting, which makes the current one some sort of a milestone.

Anyway, for the current one, we had reserved the week from November 11 to 17 for the reunion programmes, beginning with a Welcome Dinner and ending with the Reunion Dinner, with a 3-day trip to the Greater Bay Area (GBA) in between, which brings us to the present. We expect close to 70 attending the Dinner tonight.

Back to the GBA trip, we started off just before 9 am in a bus good to hold 49 people from Wanchai on Monday 13th November. There were 36 of us including spouse, plus the tour leader, a Mr. Kwok, and the driver, a Mr. Ngan. We were joined by the local guide, a Mr. Leung, after we entered the GBA through the Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macao Bridge (HZM Bridge). Now, this HZM Bridge is 55 km long, cost ¥127 billion, with a design life of 120 years. Construction began in December 2009 and ended in February 2018. The Bridge was inaugurated on 23 October 2018 by President Xi Jinping, and was opened to public a day afterwards. We had indeed used the Bridge in our last Reunion in 2018 when we also had a 3-day programme in the GBA, covering Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Shunde Foshan and Panyu, staying in two hotels in two separate cities, and taking the high-speed train from Guangzhou South back to Hong Kong. This time, we were less adventurous. We decided to stay both nights in the same hotel in Shunde and stayed on the same tour bus throughout, returning Hong Kong through Shenzhen Bay. The trip was billed as one featuring gourmet food and indeed we never stopped eating. And could hardly finish what were on the table.

It turned out that a highlight for Su and me was the visit on the last day to the Shunde Museum in Daliang, Foshan. This is a rather modern and well designed and managed facility, featuring various aspects of Shunde, including the history, culture, heritage and famous patronages of the district or city at many levels and throughout the ages, as far back as 5,000 years before and certainly from the Song Dynasty. We found in a section a picture of Wen Rukuo (1754 – 1820) from Longshan, Shunde, who was a high-ranking official in the Qing Dynasty Jiaqing (1796 – 1820) and who, during the great flooding in the area, managed to persuade the people of Shunde and Nanhai to cooperate in the maintenance of the mulberry-dyke and fish ponds through an interest-free loan of 80,000 taels of silver from the national treasury, and whose contributions were hence described as immeasurable. Su noticed a discernable resemblance of his facial features to that of Wen Su (1879 – 1939), my Grand Uncle whom I had mentioned in Chapter One of my memoir issued in 2021, and since both were high officials in their respective governments and were natives of Longshan, concluded that they were related and by inference, that I could be related. Su later researched through the internet that there are many museums and ancestral halls, shi tong, in Shunde related to the Wen clan, many of which are well maintained, and that maybe one day we could revisit Shunde to explore my ancestry in greater depth. But that would be another story.

Meanwhile, I would hold my breath on who would turn up tonight for the Reunion Dinner.

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