Huang, Rayson

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Family Background
The life of Huang’s father. His father, Mr. Huang Ing-Jen, was born in Shantou in 1891. In around 1910, he came to Hong Kong to study at St. Stephen’s College. He did not grow up in a happy environment when he was a child. Huang’s grandfather was a pastor under the Presbyterian Church in Shantou, whose first wife passed away early. His second wife was a selfish and cold-hearted woman who treated his father as if he were her slave.

Huang's father’s student life at St. Stephen’s College, Hong Kong. Ms. Harkness, a lady from England, came to China to preach and she liked his father very much as a young boy. Feeling sympathetic for his father’s situation, she met with his grandfather and proposed to sponsor his father for schooling in Hong Kong. Grandfather was pleased and let Ms. Harness took his father to Hong Kong. She paid for all his expenses. His father began learning English in Hong Kong, and entered St. John's University in Shanghai two years later.

His father’s study in Shanghai and the USA, and his career development at Shantou Queshe Middle School. Ms. Harkness continued to sponsor Huang’s father when he went to study engineering in St. John's University in Shanghai between 1912 and 1916. Apart from working hard at school, he also learned how to play the violin. Rayson Huang is still keeping the violin that he used in those years. After graduation, he was appointed Deputy Principal of Shantou Queshe Middle School. Since there were only few people with university qualification throughout the country at that time, his father was able to become deputy principal of a secondary school right after graduation. After teaching for two years, he went to the USA for further studies. He was already married then, and Huang's elder brother was already born. In 1919, he went abroad for two years. Studying abroad was a great achievement to a Chinese person during that time. There was probably only 1 student who could go abroad out of 10,000. His father studied in Chicago, and had to work part-time outside his study to pay for his own living expenses and provide support for his wife and son back home. Huang was born in 1920, after his father went away to the USA. When Huang came back to Shantou after graduation, he was hired as the Principal of Queshe Middle School – a reputable school in Shantou at that time.

Huang's father’s morality. He believes he is somewhat similar to his father in the way that he is morally rigorous and care most about honesty. He is grateful for having a father like mine. He might scold the children when they were naughty, but he never beat them. Huang's elder brother, younger sister and Huang were all well-behaved children. He would punish disobedient students with a cane, although he seldom really used it. It was common to use a cane or a ruler to beat children in those days. Sometimes they were used on secondary school students. Father never neither humiliated disobedient students nor physically punished them in front of the whole school. It was quite extraordinary for a person with a background like his father’s to become a secondary school principal.

Mother’s background. His father spoke Chaozhou dialect with us at home. His mother was a native of Chaozhou and the daughter of a pastor. She studied at the Xiamen Teachers Training College and then went to Shantou to marry Huang’s father. Huang does not know how his father and mother met. In any case, it was a wonderful thing for two pastors’ children to get married. HIs mother used to teach English to junior form students at Munsang College.

Title Family Background
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Social Life
Duration 9m47s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-001
Munsang College (I)
The whole family moved to Hong Kong. In 1923, Huang's father decided to move the whole family to Hong Kong. He was a student in Hong Kong, so he immediately took up a teaching job at his former school. St. Stephen’s College, which was a boys’ school in Sai Ying Pun. Our family settled down near the school. Two years later, father accepted the invitation from the founder of the newly founded Munsang Collage, which was in Kowloon City, to become the first principal of the school. Because of this, the family moved to Kowloon City.

Memories of Kai Tak Bund. Kowloon was a newly developed district at that time. There was a new, small airport. It was first called an aerodrome instead of an airport. It was only used by crafts of the Royal Air Force; not passenger flights. There were only four roads in Kowloon City that stretched from the north to the south, namely Kai Tak Bund, Kai Yan Street, Cheung On Streer, and Kai Yee Road; and three that stretched from the east to the west: Yat Tak Road, Yi Tak Road, and Sam Tak Road. The district had around 3,000-5,000 inhabitants and one police station.

The enrolment of his siblings in Munsang College. Huang younger sister went to the kindergarten section of the College, while his elder brother and he started from Primary 1 at the primary school section. His brother and he started on the same grade because his entry was delayed by sickness. He studied at Munsang until Primary 4. In his fifth year, he was promoted to junior secondary school. Having spent 3 years in the junior secondary, followed by three more years in the senior section, and one in the matriculation class, he could say he is a real “old boy” of Munsang.

The founding of the school and its characteristics. Munsang is a very special school. In those days, government schools were the only kind of school in Hong Kong.  Schools founded by the Church received grants from the government too. There were only several private schools teaching Chinese Language. Only after the Sino-Japanese War did more Chinese schools set up in Hong Kong. Government schools and -subsidised schools operated on the funds granted by the government each year. Munsang was established in 1926 by Mr. Au Chak-mun and Mr. Mok Kon-sang. Each of them donated $10,000. The operating funds for the subsequent years were raised from donations. The school was named by combining the name of the two founders (“Mun” and “Sang”). It also matches with the“Three Principles of the People” (which was translated as Three People's Principles, or San-min Doctrine) advocated by Mr. Sun Yat-sen, which denotes the ideas of “nationalism”, “democracy” and “people’s livelihood”.

Getting government subsidy. A few years after its establishment, Munsang almost used up the funds they had raised before. His father thought the school could not depend only on tuition fees from students. It should receive financial support from the government. Therefore, he invited officials of the Education Department to come for an inspection in the hope of applying for government subsidy. Huang was then a Junior One student of around 12-13 years old. The Department sent Mr. Brown to inspect the school, who Huang perceived as a confident and commanding official. At the end of the inspection, Mr. Brown recommended against granting subsidy to Munsang for the reason that the school used Chinese as the instruction language, despite the good performance it showed in many other aspects.

A year later, the Department sent Mr. Brown to inspect the school again, but the outcome remained the same: No Subsidy. His father did not give up and re-applied to the government. He mustered up his courage and went to meet the Secretary for Education in person, requesting a different inspector and explaining to the Secretary the major features of this school. The Secretary subsequently sent Mr. Handyside, who was the principal of a well-known government school in Hong Kong, to do the inspection. Mr. Handyside spent three mornings observing the school closely. In his report, he said that Munsang was an outstanding school in many ways, but it could not become one of the grant schools according to the Grant Code. However, he recommended the government to offer $6,000 as a special subsidy for Munsang. From then onward, whenever the Department sent out official notices to the subsidized schools, they always put Munsang along government schools and grant schools on the recipient list. Although the financial problem was solved, Munsang soon faced a different problem. The school building had reached its full capacity, but the government never provided subsidy to local schools for construction work of school premise.

Scale of the school. Munsang was first started as a secondary school before setting up its primary school and kindergarten sections. The secondary school was in Kai Tak Bund. After a few months, a primary school was opened on Kai Yan Road.

The original school building. The school building of Munsang was located at Kai Tak Bund, next to a police station on the right side of Kai Tak Airport. Its neighbour was the home of Wu Ting Fang’s family. The school was set up in a rented building of three storeys high, with six rooms on each storey. The building had a nice environment, and Huang’s family lived in two of the rooms on the third level. Three other rooms were occupied by teaching staff. That building is perhaps now deep under the sea due to the reclamation works in the later period. Time really brought changes, and he is not sure where Kai Tak Bund is today. At any rate, Huang spent a happy childhood at Kai Tak Bund. Next to the building was a huge piece of empty land, where they played basketball, football and even tennis as children.

Raising funds to expand the school premise. With the increase of student number, Huang’s father deemed that the building would no longer be big enough and had to find a different place, or else it would limit the growth of the school. So, from 1936, he began to raise funds and many students were enthusiastic in joining the activities. Huang was in Senior One then. The whole class of 18 classmates including Huang organised a variety show of music performances, singing and a drama play. He also played a string quartet with his brother and his music teacher. They spent a month practicing the instruments for the show. The drama they played was called The Good Son, and it was a fine performance. This was the only drama Huang had ever joined in his lifetime, which he acted the role of a woman, putting on female clothes and make-ups.

His father went about to call for donations. His classmates were particularly enthusiastic. They were all proud that they subsequently managed to raised a sum of $83. His father told them it did not matter how much they raised, for their efforts already representing our support to the school. The students were members of Munsang and had actively helped in fundraising. As a private school, Munsang had to buy its own land, but the government also did Munsang a favour. Huang’s father found a piece of land opposite to the Hau Wong Temple on Grampian Road. It became the site of the current Munsang College nowadays. This piece of land, 14 acres in size, was previously a farmland. To build a school on farmland, the landlord had to pay a premium to the government, which was five times the price of the land. Munsang could not afford it if it had to go through this procedure. The Education Department redefined the lot as a “building area” so that the school could afford to buy it and build a school on it.

There were two wings in the new building. In between the wings, there is a one-level structure that housed the school administration office and a sitting room. The wings were three storeys high and had a school hall in it. The increase in classrooms made room for opening matriculation classes. Meanwhile, the primary school stayed on Kai Yan Street. Since the school no longer provided dormitory for the staff, Huang’s family moved to a place near the seaside. The moving out of the teachers allowed boarding students from Chaozhou to live in the campus. There was a huge playground inside the campus and they loved to play football there. Munsang placed a focus on sports and always joined sports teams in inter-school basketball competition. In one year, they were almost awarded champion. But he was only in the cheering team then.

Teachers: teachings living in the campus. Three teachers from Mainland China lived with the Principal’s family. The one that impressed Huang most was Mr Yan Ren Jun, who graduated from the University of Shanghai and spoke standard Mandarin. Mr. Yang Shiduan also spoke Mandarin and never communicated with students in Cantonese. Both Yan and Yang came from Northern China. Huang’s classmates and he always had to call on all our courage to speak to the two teachers in Mandarin. Students learnt Mandarin in secondary school. His father thought all Chinese people should speak Mandarin. Few people, however, used it in Hong Kong for conversation in those days. The third teacher is Mr. Mak Kai Hung, and his father liked him especially. He was a graduate of The University of Hong Kong, and taught mathematics and science at Munsang.

Teachers: English teachers. Huang’s father’s educational ideal was that, even though Hong Kong had been a colony, it was still a Chinese society and therefore students should learn Chinese well. The primary classes were all conducted in Chinese, and the students also studied elementary English. The English classes, led by Mrs. Anne Luck from England, focused on oral English. Huang liked her very much, but she moved back to the UK later with her husband. Huang met her again years later in the UK when he was already an adult. He did not remember much about Mrs. Grey, who succeeded Mrs. Luke as his English teacher. After Mrs. Grey’s departure, Mr. John Blofeld replaced her as the English teacher. He became a good friend of Huang. In his autobiography, he also mentioned things that happened in his life.

Title Munsang College (I)
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Education, Social Life
Duration 24m35s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-002
Munsang College (II)

The Students: where did the students come from. Rayson Huang’s family came from Shantou. The students came from afar because of the school’s reputation, so they set up a dormitory where they could lodge. Munsang was among the few schools that allowed boarding students from Chaozhou to stay. There were a few dozens of them and they mainly came from Shantou. One of the students was an orphan from Singapore of Chinese origin. The child’s mother got cancer and died after the father’s death. On her dying bed, the mother asked Huang father to take care of her son and bequeathed a sum of money to provide for the child’s cost of living. His father was sympathetic to the child and let him live in the student’s dormitory of Munsang. Huang took him as his own brother, and the two of them were close friends. After graduating from high school, he returned to Singapore. Years later, his son became a successful businessman.

Most of the Munsang students were local Cantonese. After finishing school at Munsang, some of them continued their education in Mainland China. There were no overseas Chinese in Munsang. Most overseas Chinese students came to Hong Kong for university; only a small number came to study in secondary school.

Admission of female students: Munsang’s secondary section did not take female students; only the primary section did so. This was how the secondary section began to open its door to girls: Huang’s father decided to admit female students when his sister was promoted to secondary school. Apart from his own sister, there was another girl in her class who was the younger sister of a teacher. His father went to the Education Department himself and applied for permission to accept the two girls into the secondary section.

Scholarship and staff salary: His father also set up full as well as half scholarships, supporting students from poorer families. Compared with government schools, the tuition fee of Munsang was lower while the staff salary was also lower.

Curriculum: textbooks. Munsang adopted the curriculum of the Mainland’s schools. The history textbooks were published by Zhonghua Book Company in Shanghai – the same textbooks used by students in the mainland. Chinese history was one of the examination subjects in the admission of The University of Hong Kong. Huang had studied three sets of textbooks of the junior secondary level and the senior secondary level. Geography was taught in English at senior secondary level. The subject covered mostly world geography and had little coverage on China’s geography.

Curriculum: languages. Munsang put an emphasis on Chinese language. However, an increasing focus was placed on English Language as the students got promoted to higher levels so that they could meet the language requirement of The University of Hong Kong.

Curriculum: Mandarin education. The principal insisted that the students should learn Mandarin Chinese because it had been the national language of China. He believed every educated person should know it. During lunchtime on every Saturday, the school would hold a Mandarin speech contest. Every contestant spoke Mandarin for 4-5 minutes and the outstanding speakers would be awarded. Later, the YMCA in Hong Kong also promoted Mandarin education among secondary school students, and they started to organise annual Secondary School mandarin speech contests. Chan Sin Chak, a Munsang student, won in the first year. In the second year, Munsang sent Huang out to be the representative. He also got the first prize and was awarded a big medal. This is the most precious treasure he have ever gotten in his life; therefore he put it at his desk. The front part of the medal was made of glass, while the back part was made of silver engraved with the name and the school of the awarded student. He carried this medal with him wherever he went, and finally donated it back to the school for display in the exhibition room. Among the schools that recommended students to The University of Hong Kong, Munsang was the only one offered Mandarin education.

School life in Munsang: Chinese classes. Munsang students did not learn Chinese until Primary 1 or Primary 2. In class, they learned the teachings of the Confucius and Mencius. Some Chinese teachers were scholars back in the days of the Qing Dynasty, with titles of Xiucai, Juren, or Gongsheng. His first Chinese teacher in junior secondary school was a xiucai called Mr. Li. He wore traditional Chinese cheongsam and spoke in a graceful Jinjiang accent. He was eloquent in speaking and writing with four-word idiomatic expressions. His second teacher was a juren called Mr. Ye Xiangnan . He taught the ideas of Confucianism and Mencius ideals. He liked to drink alcohol, and always attended class half-drunk after lunch. When learning classic writings such as those of Han Yu, Confucius and Mencius, the students would read aloud after the teacher. One time, when the principal heard the loud voices of the students, he came to check up and asked what was happening. The principal had deep respect for the Qing scholars.

The teachers taught the works of Confucius and Mencius with great enjoyment. In the writing classes, the teachers would briefly introduce the topic and then asked us to write an essay of 300 words in Classical Chinese using an ink brush. The style was old Chinese style. The three Qing scholars were relatively old, but their teaching of Classical Chinese texts brought enjoyment to everyone, especially when they followed them in reading the sayings of Confucius and Mencius, such as “Confucius do not talk about prodigies, forces, disorders, and gods”, “Do not eat what is not correctly cut”, “Do eat with the ginger, but do not eat excessively”, that’s why he often eat ginger now. Looking back, he still regard the learning of classical essays a pleasurable thing. Vernacular Chinese was taught by young teachers such as Mr. Yan Renjun.

School life at Munsang: religious activities. Munsang organised extra-curricular activities such as ball games, choir, and bible study classes. The school also cared about moral education. His father was a devout Christian. There were religious classes available in school and students could attend Sunday bible classes on a voluntary basis. Most attendants were boarding students from Chaozhou. He took part in Sunday school and bible classes, so he was very familiar with bible verses, especially the New Testament. He was responsible for leading students in Sunday school then. His grandfather was a pastor, so his father had him baptized right after his birth. The school would hold a morning service and an evening service each day. Those who attended the service were all Munsang students.

A formal service would be held on Sundays, attended by residents in Kowloon City and other believers from elsewhere. The services took place in the school hall that Huang’s father built using the funds he led us to raise years ago. A guest pastor would be invited to preach at the Sunday service. Sometimes the preacher spoke in Mandarin Chinese, and he would help translate his speeches into Cantonese. Consequently, he became even more familiar with the Bible. There was a preacher one time who spoke the Xiamen dialect. The religious officer, Mr. She Guangtang, asked Huang to translate the preaching, but he did not know the dialect of Xiamen. Mr. She told Huang that Xiamen was not far from Shantou, so the two local dialects should not be too different. But when the preacher talked, he realised that the two dialects were only 50% similar. Fortunately, he was quoting from the Bible throughout the most part of his speech, so he was able to translate from his memory. He connected the verses at his own wit, while the audience had no idea if he was translating accurately. This was an interesting experience.

A formal service would be held on Sundays, attended by residents in Kowloon City and other believers from elsewhere. The services took place in the school hall which was built by Huang’s father using the funds he raised years ago. A guest pastor would be invited to preach at the Sunday service. Sometimes the preacher spoke in Mandarin Chinese, and he would help translate his speeches into Cantonese. Consequently, he became even more familiar with the Bible. There was a preacher one time who spoke the Xiamen dialect. The religious officer, Mr. She Guangtang, asked him to translate the preaching, but he did not know the dialect of Xiamen. Mr. She told him that Xiamen was not far from Shantou, so the two local dialects should not be too different. But when the preacher talked, Huang realised that the two dialects were only 50% similar. Fortunately, he was quoting from the Bible throughout the most part of his speech, so he was able to translate from his memory. He connected the verses at his own wit, while the audience had no idea if he was translating accurately. This was an interesting experience.

Munsang students’ schooling path. Only a few senior secondary students could successfully graduate from Munsang. Many students chose to go to Lingnan University or Yenching University in Mainland China. Many failed to enter The University of Hong Kong (HKU) because they were not proficient enough in English. Huang could be counted as a special one because he had good standard of English, although he was not the only Munsang graduate who got admitted by the HKU.

Title Munsang College (II)
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Education
Duration 18m14s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-003
University of Hong Kong (I)
The status of The University of Hong Kong in Asia. In those days, The University of Hong Kong (HKU) was the only university in Southeast Asia in British system. The British did not build any other university in the Southeast Asian region until the founding of The University of Singapore in 1951. HKU was then small in size and did not have abundant financial resources.

Admission requirements. Students did not have to know Chinese to apply for HKU in the early years, but they must be excellent in English. The graduates from government schools did not have strong Chinese language proficiency. Some of them actually learnt French rather than Chinese.

Getting a scholarship. Owing to Rayson Huang’s outstanding examination results, he obtained a scholarship for his university education. The Education Department gave out scholarships to outstanding students at HK$1,000 per year, which was enough to cover tuition fees as well as food and living expenses. An additional hundred dollars or so was granted for buying books. The students also got a monthly allowance as well as a holiday allowance during the summer break. Students could spend the allowance on entertainment, on the condition that they had to teach in government schools after graduation. He thinks of himself as a lucky one, because he could complete his studies with the aid of the scholarship. Graduates of The University of Hong Kong could teacher at Queen’s College, which was considered a very nice job. The salary was high and they could teach until they retired, ensuring them a stable livelihood. Unfortunately, the Japanese invasion into Hong Kong on 8 December 1942 shattered Huang’s dreams.

The institutional set up of the University. He was then a student in the Faculty of Arts who took science subjects. Faculty of Arts was the only faculty then, since the Faculty of Science had not been set up yet. All science students were under Faculty of Arts, and had to attend certain course together with the arts students. English Language was a compulsory subject, which both arts and science students studied together. Science students learnt English, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry in the first and second years. In the third year, they took three subjects: Physics, Chemistry and Maths. In the fourth year, they could choose two subjects of their own interest. He chose Physics and Maths, but not Chemistry. He studied every subject from general perspectives, and delved into them very deeply. Students were not specialized in any subjects upon graduation. There were few talented tutors and specialists in the science faculty and there were not many of them.

The institutional set up of the University. He was then a student in the Faculty of Arts who took science subjects. Faculty of Arts was the only faculty then, since the Faculty of Science had not been set up yet. All science students were under Faculty of Arts, and had to attend certain course together with the arts students. English Language was a compulsory subject, which both arts and science students studied together. Science students learnt English, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry in the first and second years. In the third year, they took three subjects: Physics, Chemistry and Maths. In the fourth year, they could choose two subjects of their own interest. Huang chose Physics and Maths, but not Chemistry. He studied every subject from general perspectives, and delved into them very deeply. Students were not specialized in any subjects upon graduation. There were few talented tutors and specialists in the science faculty and there were not many of them.

Teacher qualification: number of teaching staff. Almost all the faculty heads were British, with one or two Australians. The only Chinese in the university was Mr. Xu Dishan, Head of the School of Chinese.

There were only one professor, two lecturers and two to three teaching assistants among the Chemistry staff. The Physics staff, on the other hand, comprised one professor, one lecturer and two teaching assistants. The Maths staff comprised one professor, one lecturer and one part-time teaching assistant. The School of English had more teaching staff, with one professor, two lecturers, and a group of teaching assistants who ran tutorials. Each tutorial only had two students.

Teacher qualification: Department of Chemistry. The research facility in the Faculty of Science was very limited. Yet, Prof. G.T. Byrne insisted on conducting experiments under these constraints. Although he was a learned Chemist, he was not good at using teaching methodology. He simply wrote the formulae on the blackboard in class, and let the students copy them onto their own notepads. Nevertheless, he was very kind to them.

Huang never studied Chemistry before entering the university; therefore he found it hard to catch up with the progress during the first year at HKU. Fortunately, the standards at HKU were not too high. The university offered help to all non-science students. There were two teaching assistants in the department, one of them being Mrs. Chung Leung Ngai Tak. Huang was grateful to Mrs Chung as she treated Huang kindly and paid great attention in guiding him through his studies. The other assistant was Ms. Hui Wai Han, who returned to HKU to teach after the Second World War. She was still teaching when he became HKU’s Vice Chancellor years later.

Teacher qualification: School of Chinese. After the death of Head of the School of Chinese, Prof. Xu Dishan, an Australian succeeded his position. It was a strange thing to have an Australian teaching Chinese language to Chinese students. This Australian knew Chinese literature and could write some Chinese, but was not too well acquainted with the fundamentals of the Chinese language. Students in Hong Kong used to learn Chinese from primary school onward. Wealthier and more traditional family would hire private tutors to teach their children  the works of Confucius and Mencius. Classical Chinese literature was also taught in primary school, and the education continued well into secondary school. Although students from government schools did not study Chinese much, most of them had good foundations in Chinese. The class did not show much respect to this Australian teacher, and sometimes the students would ask him difficult and trying questions. Perhaps the teacher felt embarrassed of himself. From what Huang heard from others, he committed suicide by jumping into the sea. Huang thinks he must be very depressed. All of these happened before Huang entered HKU.

Students of The University of Hong Kong. There were around 300 students at HKU at that time, with very few female students. All of them lived in the dormitory. Since only one female dormitory was available, the university allowed female students to go home at night. A lot of boarding students in the dormitory came from Singapore and Malaysia. About ¼ of the students were overseas Chinese from Malaysia and Singapore. One or two Thai students, who were also overseas Chinese, boarded at St. John’s Hall.

The change in curriculum system of the university and the students’ further studies. During my second year, the university established the Faculty of Science. There were seven students, one of whom was Oswald Cheung. During Huang’s third year, only three students remained because the others failed the examinations and had to retake the second year. He was in his fourth year when Hong Kong fell into the hands of the Japanese in 1941, after which he was conferred a war degree. Those who retook did not get their degrees. A student failed in the third year, so there were just one boy and one girl remained in the fourth year: Huang and Ms. Lam Yung-tai. The fourth-year students had not finished their studies when the Japanese attacked Hong Kong. Fortunately, the university created war degrees for the graduating class so that they could use it to find jobs.

Title University of Hong Kong (I)
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Education
Duration 15m38s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-004
University of Hong Kong (II)
Students at The University of Hong Kong. Rayson Huang had known many good friends at HKU, including Clifford Matthews, who was also a science student like him. He is now a professor at the University of Illinois in the USA. He is smart and talented in music, although he did not join the music group that he was in.

Huang knew Oswald Cheung well, as we were both science students. Cheung passed away in 2004. When he met him in Guilin during the war, he had already settled down there and was involved with the BAAG (British Army Aid Group). After the war, he studied law at the University of Oxford and became an outstanding lawyer after coming back to Hong Kong. He used to see him every time he returned to Hong Kong.

Another good friend is Wong Hing Chung, an overseas Chinese from Malaysia. He was one class above Huang in the Faculty of Science. Since he graduated a year earlier than him, he was granted a formal university degree instead of a war degree. He was hired by Joseph Needham as his secretary in Chongqing, and followed Needham into the battle fields in Gansu and North-western China. Later, he went to the University of Oxford on scholarship, and arrived there six month after Huang. They were able to study together again. Subsequently, he went to the USA to develop his career. He is Huang's good friend in Huang entire life.

Dormitory life: sports activity. Huang came to like basketball after entering HKU, and he represented St. John’s Hall in ball games. He played the forward position since he was not very tall. He also organized table tennis team at St. John’s. Team spirit in St. John’s Hall was weak. Once St. John’s basketball team played against Elliot Hall’s. Elliot Hall’s captain was Hui Kwan Lun, a good friend of Rayson’s who later became a famous doctor. During that tournament, Elliot Hall was St. John’s keen competitor. They were also the strongest among the university teams. When the game was about to begin, only four players on the St. John’s team showed up including Huang. A full team should have 10 people including reserves. The honorary secretary of the Students’ Union also came to the event, but he wasn’t able to participate in the game. The No. 1 Boy of St John’s was also present as he came to serve tea and snack for the team . The final score of that game, in which the four of them played against the 10 from the other team, was 17:51. The 4 players were exhausted because they did not have any reserve to substitute them during the game. This was one of the unforgettable memories of Huang’s hall life.

The attendants at St John’s Hall took great care of the hall residents (students), and made them feel that they enjoyed the living standard as good as a prince would enjoy. There would be attendants standing by to serve the students during meals. St. John’s dining room wasn’t particularly luxurious. It was just big enough for only a few dozens of people to dine at one time. During meal hours, an attendant would stand by the table and take students’ orders. There were six Chinese dishes on the menu, including soup, fish and four other dishes. Those who were richer could choose more expensive dishes. If the total amount of the bill exceeded the ceiling of the food allowance, students had to pay the price out of their own pocket. The second part of the menu was a western-style set dinner with one soup, one fish, one meat dish, and one dessert. They would also ask the servants to do different tasks for them. After dinner, the students would return to their rooms. The rooms were single rooms. Huang remembered the life at St. John’s College dearly.

Dormitory life: music activities. Solomon Bard was probably one or two years above me. He was a medical student and stayed in Morrison Hall. They did not have much contact when they were students. His family lived on Hatton Road, on the Mid-Levels. We only got closer after the Second World War. He was also a very refined musician. He once helped promote the orchestra of St. John’s, that’s why he had been to the Hall himself. Huang’s older brother and Tong King Dun played the first violins, while he played the second violin. Solomon Bard himself was the conductor. One of the most prominent characteristics of St. John’s Hall was that it was the first forming an orchestra in the hall within HKU. Nevertheless, it only had four first violins, four second violins, and a cello when it was originally formed. There were not too many musical talents in St. John’s at that time. One could just find one viola, one oboe and one clarinet across the whole university. Solomon Bard, who was Russian and a talented musician, could play the clarinet. The orchestra had made many performances pushed ahead by Huang’s brother, Tong King Dun and Huang. They had staged concerts at St. John’s, the Great Hall, and Loke Yew Hall. The orchestra was called St. John’s Hall Orchestra, which in fact did not played too well.

Dormitory life: after-class entertainments. St. John’s Hall was like a secondary school dormitory. It locked its gate and took attendance at 9.00pm. If a student showed up during the attendance calls, it proved he had not sneaked out of the hall to fool around. The housemaster believed that students should either be sleeping or studying at those hours during the night. However, students in Year 4 were exempted from the attendance calls. When attendance was being taken, the servants would go to knock at every room and ask the student inside to sign on the record books. Huang was a little privileged because the housemaster usually did not come to his room until 9.30pm. Yet, he would never go outside and play around. The hall-mate who lived opposite to his room always disappeared during certain hours. Although he did not endorse the way that his hall-mate surreptitiously sneaked out for fun, He did not turn him in given his family background and upbringing. This hall-mate was an ill-disciplined student in Year 2. Huang was then in Year 1. Three years later, Huang graduated while he still remained in Year 3. He had to study each school year twice. There was no rule that governed how many times a student could repeat. Perhaps because he was a wealthy student from Malaysia, he indulged himself in playing as much as he liked, when he found out how much autonomy he enjoyed living in Hong Kong. He was a great student, yet he did not want to graduate because he would have to return home and work in his family business after finishing university.

Title University of Hong Kong (II)
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Education
Duration 18m32s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-005
The Fall of Hong Kong
The situation in the university: on the first day of war. At that time, Rayson Huang lived in a room at the corner on the third floor of St. John’s. If the weather was fair in the morning, he would take a walk outside. That day, he heard the noise of airplanes and thought it was a drill by the British Royal Air Force. It turned out they were Japanese fighters flying from the north, signifying the start of the invasion. The British administration in Hong Kong were mistaken that the Japanese would attack from the sea south of Hong Kong, so they pointed all the guns southward. When the Japanese flew in, it was too late for the British to turn their guns around. In four days’ time, Kowloon was lost. To fight against German invasion into Britain, most of the British troops in Hong Kong were already deployed back to their homeland. Only a small number of troops left behind to defend Hong Kong with the help of some newly recruited Canadian soldiers, Indian soldiers and voluntary forces formed of Hong Kong people.

The situation in the university: student army volunteers. The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at that time encouraged medical students to join the army. A small number of students had once received some training in the volunteer army, and they were sent to the front line when the Japanese attacked. The Japanese air force and navy launched an offence together. The navy landed in Stanley and the south of Hong Kong Island. In fact, the Japanese navy had no difficulty advancing into Hong Kong Island because Hong Kong forces were too feeble to fend off any attack.

The situation in the university: the university suffered damages. The old Main Building, i.e. Loke Yew Building, did not have a rear wing then. The Great Hall was small in size at that time, before it was expanded later. The roof of the Great Hall was blown off, and that was the only area within The University of Hong Kong damaged by the war.

Escape into Mainland China. When Hong Kong was under Japanese Occupation, Huang decided to leave the territory. The Japanese administration issued exit permits to those who wished to return to their homeland in Mainland China. He hid his degree certificate (a letter of recommendation) in his shoe canvas (which was made of cloth) to shun the attention of Japanese scouts. The Japanese soldiers would rudely confiscate whatever they wanted. If he hid his documents in his leather shoes, the letter would surely be found and confiscated. Only Rayson and his elder brother fled to China; his father did not leave because he was remarried and had a child. Huang’s sister was a small girl, and he did not want to take the risk of bringing her along, fearing that the Japanese soldiers might harm her. During the escape, his brother and Huang left Hong Kong through the border town of Sha Tau Kok. Some of our luggage was taken by the Japanese soldiers. They subsequently walked to Huizhou on foot, and then took a small boat to go up the Dongjiang River. They passed through Heyuan and Huizhou to arrive at Laolong, where they moved on to Qujiang by truck.

During the war, a lot of local HKU students escaped into Mainland China. The Ministry of Education of China took care of them and let them continue their studies in mainland’s universities. There was a Relief Office in Qujiang set up by the British to take care of Hong Kong students in the mainland. The office was managed by Arthur Bentley, a British who fled Hong Kong. Bentley was once a pharmaceutical officer in the Hong Kong Government, and served on their army volunteers as well as the Red Cross. The Japanese let him go on working at the Red Cross, but he took the opportunity and escaped into Mainland China. He became supervisor of the British Council in Qujiang, north of Guangzhou, where he took charge of caring for and settling HKU students from Hong Kong. As there was no house for rent in Qujiang, his office was set up on the bow of a long boat.

He must praise the YMCA. When he was in Mainland China, he had stayed at the YMCA where six people shared a room. Most boarding students came from Hong Kong. In Qujiang, he suffered from malaria and developed a serious fever. His older brother brought me to Bentley’s office. It was around late August and early September in 1942. During daytime, he was trembling all over because he felt cold, and had to wear a woollen sweater. Bentley felt strange to see me that way. He and Huang were very good friends and they used to play violins together when they were in Hong Kong. Bentley sent me to hospital immediately. He recovered from the disease and was released from hospital 10 days later.

Later on, he began looking for a job. There were not many people in Mainland China who possessed a degree from HKU. The headmaster of True Light Middle School recognised his war degree and let me teach there. True Light was a school which first moved to Hong Kong from Mainland China to flee from the war, and moved back to the mainland when Hong Kong was occupied.

After teaching for two terms at True Light, he received a letter from Guilin by Oswald Cheung. He told me not to remain in such a tiny place and should pursue work and study opportunities at the Guangxi University. There were no further study opportunities in Qujiang, so Huang went to Guilin to work as a teaching assistant at Guangxi University. At the same time, he began to do research on the properties of Tung Oil.

Huang spent half a year as teaching assistant before Blofeld arrived in Guangxi University. He used to be his English teacher at Munsang College. He was then British Council’s University Communication Officer, delivering money and books to universities in various regions. This was why he came to Guangxi University. Book prices were high during the war, so the books he brought along helped the university a lot. Blofeld stayed in Guangxi University for three days and he would not let him go because he was his student. His father had treated him well, and he was also kind to me. We got along very well. When Blofeld arrived, Guangxi University’s principal, professors and the student representatives organised a welcome party for him. The university’s principal gave a speech in Mandarin, and Blofeld said thanks to him in even more fluent Mandarin. It was unnecessary for the translator to do anything. Blofeld left a very deep impression on all the teachers and students. Everyone was impressed by how a British person could speak in such standard and fluent Mandarin. Blofeld had spent two days with me during his stay in Guangxi University. He treated Huang as if he were his younger brother.

As they said farewell to each other, Blofeld asked Huang to give him all his academic credentials without explaining why. Two months later, he received a letter from Blofeld, which said that, with his nomination, he had successfully got a scholarship from the Rhodes Trust to study at Oxford University. That was the first time the Trust had ever granted a scholarship to a student from Asia. Blofeld asked him to resign from his job and go to Chongqing. In November, 1943, he met up with Blofeld in Chongqing and set off for Oxford University under Blofeld’s care. It was a blessing from heaven to him. He planned on talking about his relationship with Blofeld in the sequel of his autobiography.

Foreign university teachers during the war. When the University of Hong Kong was re-opened after the war, Prof. Lindsay Ride acted as the first post-war Vice Chancellor. Ride was a Professor of Physiology before the war, teaching medical students. The British Army encouraged local residents and students to serve on the Hong Kong Volunteers, and he believes Ride had a certain role to play in that group. After the fall of Hong Kong, the British were kept in a concentration camp in Stanley by the Japanese. Since Ride had experience serving the army, the Japanese allowed him to go on working for their military. Foreigners were not permitted to leave Hong Kong at that time. However, Ride seized an opportunity to leave Hong Kong after working for the Japanese for a certain period. He escaped into the unoccupied region in Mainland China.

Prof. Faid, a professor in Physics, and Mrs. Faid were held captive at the concentration camp together with Prof. Brown, a professor in Maths. Prof. Brown was kind to HKU students and often invited them to have meals at his home. He also arranged free classes for them during the summer break. Before he was taken to the concentration camp, he wrote a really nice recommendation letter for Huang, as he knew they were just a few months away from graduation. Prof. Brown was the Dean of the Faculty of Science. He was the one who suggested to the University that it should confer war-time degrees. In those difficult days, they really needed such degree document to help them find work and make a living. A war degree was helpful to Huang, as it was recognised by True Light Middle School, Guangxi University in Guilin, the Rhodes Trust, and Oxford University for chances of finding employment and further studies. To this day, he is still thankful for Prof. Brown.

Further study at Oxford University. When Huang met Blofeld in Guilin, Blofeld asked him one day whether he was carrying academic credentials. Two months later, Huang received a notification from the Rhodes Trust and immediately left for his further study in Oxford University . Prof. Brown’s reference was effective. Robinson accepted him as a graduate student and became his research supervisor at Oxford.

He was in a poor circumstance when he was doing research. He was one to two years behind the level of Oxford graduates in regard of Chemistry knowledge. He had to work really hard to catch up during the three years he was there. Even his bedtime readings were Chemistry books. His dissertation was titled “One Brand of Chemistry”, which earned me the doctoral degree at the end. The external reviewers thought that his research was well done. Little did they know it was built on a persistence of his hard work.

At Oxford University, Huang specialized in Chemistry because he felt that Chemistry experts were in great need in China during the war. China needed more experts in Chemistry than in Physics. Chemistry is a practical subject. For instance, it teaches one how to extract useful materials from plants, which was crucial to the enhancement of the material life of the Chinese people. At Guangxi University in Guilin, he transferred to the Chemistry Department and became a teaching assistant there, doing research in Tong Oil technology. Tung Oil was cheap and could replace petrol as oil fuel if it was in refined form. China did not have its own source of petrol and was dependent on imports. The vehicles of the government and the private cars of high-rank officials used alcohol as fuel, which was less effective than petrol. Ordinary people could not afford alcohol fuel, so they would use charcoal instead. The drivers and their assistants might have to spend up to half an hour to heat up the charcoal burners so that the vehicles could run. He had once travelled on such vehicle on his way from Guangxi to Chongqing via Guiyang. The truck had to switch to alcohol fuel when running up a hill slope, but then it must change back to charcoal when it almost reached the hill top. When they were getting close to Chongqing, the driver simply let the truck slide down from the high to low levels along the slope in order to save fuel. In reminiscence, he believed it was quite dangerous when getting through all the turns on the road. What the driver did was to control the brake to maintain the direction of the truck.

Post-doctoral research in Chicago. Huang believed it was a right decision to go to Oxford University. He spent three years there to complete his doctoral study. After that, he was faced with several options. He once had the thought of returning to China, but the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists broke out in 1947. He also considered going back to Hong Kong, but job opportunities were limited there. There was no vacancy in HKU’s Chemistry Department. At last, he decided to go to Chicago, USA, to pursue more in-depth research. He was a D. Phil graduate from Oxford, and graduates like him were highly regarded in the USA. The reference letter from Sir Robert Robinson, a Nobel laureate, was very helpful. He was able to find a really good tutor, M.S. Kharasch, in the USA. Two years later, he intended to keep going with his research because he had strong interest in it. Furthermore, Hong Kong and Mainland China had not yet started to recruit experts from overseas. In that view, he decided to remain in the States to work as Research Associated. This made it possible for him to meet his wife, Grace Lee.

Meeting his wife, Grace Lee. He was living in International House (I-house) then. One morning at around 8.00am, he was getting ready to go to the laboratory. On the way, Grace came up to him and asked for directions. She was a graduate of St. John’s University in Shanghai, who just arrived in Chicago to register as a student and to prepare for accommodation at I-house. He fell in love with Grace at first sight and was totally smitten with her. When he met Grace again at dinner in I-house that evening, he saw a man by her side. He walked up to greet him and was relieved to find out that he was in fact Grace’s elder brother. He arrived in the States a year ahead of Grace and was then already a qualified doctor. He and Grace began dating each other, and got engaged after a month. Since Grace wished to continue studying, they waited a year and finally had their wedding when she was close to finishing her course of study.

Title The Fall of Hong Kong
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Education, Japanese Occupation
Duration 31m6s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-006
Career as Vice Chancellor
Teaching at University of Malaya. Two years later, Rayson Huang completed his post-doctoral research. He was already married then. He went to visit Prof. Konrad Bloch, a Nobel Prize winner who was an expert in Biology and Chemistry. After 1.5 years at the Department of Biochemistry, he had already stayed at the University of Chicago for a total duration of 3.5 years. He wanted to return to Asia because he did not like life in the USA very much. The Chemistry Department of University of Malaya, which was located in Singapore, hired him as a lecturer. Huang and his wife  therefore spent the next nine years in Singapore. During this period, their children, Christopher and Freddie, were born there. At the University of Malaya, he was first a lecturer, and then promoted to Reader after four years. He was the University’s first Reader ever.

At the end of 1959, Huang became a Professor in Chemistry and Head of the Chemistry Department at the new campus of the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He had a good time living in Kuala Lumpur because he could devote all of myself into research inside a department that he built on his own. During his nine years in Kuala Lumpur, he had taken various positions: Professor, Head of Department, two terms as Dean, and for a certain time, Acting Vice Chancellor. When the previous Vice Chancellor, Sir Alexander Oppenheim, retired, the University invited him to act in his place for one year. He only agreed to serve for one year because he preferred doing chemical research. Although he had to stop his research work when acting as Vice Chancellor, he learnt how to administer and manage a university.

At the same time, he realised that the anti-Chinese sentiments and practices were becoming severe in Malaysia. This was one of the reasons why he was reluctant to become Vice Chancellor. It was difficult to be a Vice Chancellor with Chinese origin. The political power of the Malay was growing and expanding. They began to impose stricter standards upon universities. When the University asked him to continue acting as Vice Chancellor, he firmly rejected them on the reason that he wanted to do his research. At the end, the University hired Dr. James Griffiths, a Physics expert from Oxford University to take up the position for two years. Since the university could not find a potential Vice Chancellor candidate with sufficient academic competence, they had to look outside of the country. However, the length of the term was very short. He personally know Dr. Griffiths, and is delighted that this friend of him became the new Vice Chancellor. He is older than Huang. When Huang was still a graduate student at Oxford University, he was already a Fellow. He played the piano exceptionally well. They used to play a violin-piano duet together.

Becoming President of Nanyang University. Huang did not think he would live in Kuala Lumpur for long. Furthermore, two other universities already began to rise in Southeast Asia. The new administration of Singapore in those days placed a real emphasis on Chinese language education, so they allocated funds to universities to take reforms in that area. In 1955, Tan Lark Sye invested in the construction of Nanyang University, hoping to make it a university for Chinese people. Four years passed, and the first class of graduates left the university. Since the University wanted to get its degree qualification accredited, the government established the Nanyang University Commission. According to the Commission’s report, the University’s faculty, books, equipment, and the quality of new students were not up to standard.

At the same time, Singapore gained independence and turned itself from a British territory into an autonomous region. The new government valued Nanyang University very much. In response to the Commission’s report, they established a Review Committee, of which Huang was a member. This new committee held similar opinions on the University as the Committee did, though they used more delicate terms to express their views. The Singapore government therefore decided to reform the university. Chinese teachers were hired and Chinese remained the language used. The institution’s name also remained unchanged. The only problem was to find a suitable candidate to be the President. In 1969, Huang was appointed President. This was a wise decision for him because ethnic conflict broke out in Kuala Lumpur in May, just months after he left the University of Malay in January. A lot of Chinese were killed in the conflict.

Huang arrived in Hong Kong after spending 3.5 years with Nanyang University. At that time, Nanyang University had gradually gone on track. It was able to get its degree qualification accredited after inviting the help of external reviewers from the UK and USA. Nanyang University was a member of ACU (Association of Commonwealth Universities). In 1971, it hosted a symposium of commonwealth universities for the ACU. ACU also held conferences at the campus of Nanyang University, giving the world a chance to see the achievements of the University.

Becoming the Vice Chancellor of The University of Hong Kong. In the early 1970s The University of Hong Kong was in need of a new Vice Chancellor, thus they made an offer for Huang through a friend of his. Everyone in The Nanyang University wanted Huang to stay hoping that he would turn the university into a better institution. Initially he only planned to come to Hong Kong to discuss the job offer, without a strong inclination of actually accepting the offer. However, when he returned to his alma mater and saw his own father, older brother and young sister, he made up his mind to return to Hong Kong. This was considered by Huang himself another right decision. He was pleased to have returned to HKU, and spent 14 years there until retirement – the longest term of employment he had ever had in his lifetime.

Title Career as Vice Chancellor
Date 19/03/2010
Subject Education
Duration 12m40s
Language Cantonese and English
Material Type
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. TW-RH-SEG-007