A Pioneer in Chinese Education in Malaysia, Social Worker and PhilanthropistAuthor/Editor:
Wang Jianshi,Ong Eng-Joo
New Pb 230 pp.Subject:
History & Biography,EducationCondition:
2013No Other Way Out
can almost be Ong Seok Kim’s maxim. Born to a poor farming family in 1884 in Yongchun, Fujian Province, China, Seok Kim struggled during his youth with getting enough to eat, as well as surviving China’s growing socio-political and economic problems. He saw a bleak future for himself - having had only seven years of education - and he dreamt of escaping poverty. In particular, he was worried about providing for his wife - he married at the age of 19 - and his children. So, within a year or so after his marriage, Seok Kim decided to leave China - on his own - to seek his fortune elsewhere. With the reluctant blessings of his father, he boarded a ship for Malaya via Singapore.
This book traces Seok Kim’s long and arduous journey from the depths of poverty in China to wealth in his adopted country, and how his credibility and personal motto of abstinence from gambling, alcohol, smoking and debauchery were instrumental in him becoming one of Malaya’s leading philanthropists. It tells of Seok Kim’s determination to give back to a society that took him in, as well as the loyalty he showed to the land of his birth. It tells of the great lengths Seok Kim went to, to ensure his offsprings - and there were many - and his descendants would remember not only him and his achievements, but the land of their ancestors.
And his achievements are many. Seok Kim started his working life in Malaya as a labourer and hawker, and ended up owning several shops and trading companies. As he became more and more successful, and wealthier, he began giving back to society by establishing schools, a maternity hospital, a cemetery, associations and social organisations in Malaya. And he remained fiercely loyal to China - jumping in to help organise fundraising activities for natural disasters such as flood or famine in that country. He remained fiercely anti-Japanese during the troubles between the two countries in the 1930s and 1940s, and when World War II came to Malaya. He was intensely loyal to the Kuomintang Party of Sun Yat-sen. For that, he was personally given awards by Sun Yat-sen. As well, Seok Kim was given awards by the Sultan of Perak and King of Malaysia. And shortly after his death, the community he served also established an education fund in his name.
Seok Kim himself came from China’s “royalty”, and can trace his ancestry to a crown prince of Emperor Zhou Ling (BC 571 - 545), who ruled that nation with an iron fist about 2,500 years ago. But due to a major policy difference, the emperor demoted the prince and made him just an ordinary citizen, starting a family line that extends into the 21st century and living in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, the United States, Canada and Indonesia.
On his part, Seok Kim has also contributed much to the growth of the family line, having married three women - two of whom lived together in Sitiawan - and fathered 39 children. He also had a godson, as well as four adopted children.
This book tells the story of how one man, desperate to break the shackles of poverty, risked everything to start a new life in a foreign land. It shows his determination to succeed, his drive to beat the odds, his social and business achievements and his patriotism to two countries. And all because he realised that there was “no other way out” to provide for himself and his family, except to leave China.
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