It all started in 1995 when my wife Lay Yong was on sabbatical leave from the National University of Singapore researching on the history of Chinese Mathematics at Cambridge’s Needham Research Institute, which bears the name of its founder and first Director, Joseph Needham, the world renowned principal author of the monumental project Science and Civilisation in China and a former Master of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge. Dr Needham passed away in 1994 at the age of 94 when eighteen volumes of this project had already been published, and the remaining volumes will be completed by his many distinguished collaborators. I understand that, to date, the work is still ongoing. My wife first met Dr Needham when she was a mathematics student at Cambridge. Inspired by him and his work, she decided to pursue her own research work at the Singapore university on the history of Chinese Mathematics during her tenure as a mathematics don there. Through my wife I came to know Needham and I, too, admired immensely his dedication and unwavering tenacity in bringing to world attention China’s numerous glorious contributions to science, technology and medicine.
As Needham was not widely known in Singapore, I decided to pen an article on his life and works as a tribute to this outstanding scholar. I faxed the article to Mr Richard Lim, the then Editor of Life! section of the Straits Times, Singapore’s influential English language newspaper, not confident that he would accept it for publication. As luck would have it he replied that it was an interesting piece and he would run it in the same week after suitable editing. You can imagine how elated I was to see my maiden effort in print as the Cover Story for that day! With the continuing encouragement and expert guidance of Mr Lim, and later from Mr Leslie Fong, the then Editor of this newspaper, after Richard was transferred to another part of the paper, I had close to 50 of my articles appearing in the the Straits Times and Sunday Times between 1995 and 2006. I am grateful to both Richard and Leslie for tutoring me in the art of journalistic writing.
I also wrote for Singapore’s leading Chinese national daily, Lianhe ZaoBao, between 1997 and 2006. With the support of Dr Goh Nguen Wah, who was then the Associate Editor of this paper, about 40 of my works on current affairs and other subjects were published mostly in its weekly bilingual page. He personally edited my articles when needed and he has an excellent command of the English language as well. The ZaoBao draws widespread attention and respect from its Chinese readers for its accurate and objective reporting of news on China and internationally, and is closely monitored by the nation’s decision makers and other elites. It is readily accessible to them through the Internet without charge. My commentary pieces did attract many readers there with favourable comments. One of them, “Nascent Chinese Soft Power Spreads to Other Countries”, created quite a stir in the media in Mainland China, Hong Kong,Taiwan and was also carried by some Chinese media in the ASEAN countries. China’s authoritative Economic Review journal wrote a commentary on it.
My above newspaper articles covered a variety of topics, including current affairs, Chinese culture, arts and culture, art collecting, travelogues and science and technology. Since I now have my own blog, www.LamPinFoo.com, which is hosted by WordPress.com, all my new articles now go into it. It is a conduit for me to reach out to both Singaporean and overseas readers. To give readers a sampling of these newspaer articles, I intend to reproduce some of these from time to time on my blog. As a start, I attach below two of them, the first one on Joseph Needham and the other one on China:
- Needham Legacy and China’s Genius (published in the Singapore Straits Times on 26.5.1995)
- Nascent Chinese Soft Power Spreads to Other Countries (published in the Singapore Zaobao’s Bilingual Column 1.7.06)
The recent highly successful Beijing Summer Olympics has enabled the rest of the the world to get to know the most populous country and its culture better, and, at the same time, has opened their eyes to the amazing progress made by China in the past three decades. Above all, it has given the Chinese people a renewed confidence in their country’s continuing prosperity and advancement in the years ahead.
Lam Pin Foo