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June 2017
Issue No. 296

Biography unveils the Perfect Revolutionary’s contributions to the church and education

(© 教聲/ ECHO 版權所有)

Lam Woo: Master Builder, Revolutionary, and Philanthropist, the biography of the highly regarded Hong Kong building contractor Lam Woo (1870–1933), is recently published by the Chinese University Press. At the book launch on 27 April, the Most Revd Dr Paul Kwong said that Lam had made great contributions to modern China, Hong Kong society, and the church. Not only did he build roads, skyscrapers, schools, and churches, he also cared deeply about young people and devoted resources to education.

Lam is a very successful Chinese building contractor in the twentieth century. He left China when he was fourteen to work in Australia and encountered Christianity there. This experience influenced his attitude towards family, society, and country, which eventually shaped his future. In Australia, he met Ma Ying-piu and the Kwok brothers who would later become business tycoons behind Sincere and Wing On department stores. Through the church and the business sector, he built powerful networks that would bring him momentous opportunities later on in his lifetime.

The establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 awakened Lam’s patriotic sentiment. A firm believer of the notion “saving the country through commerce”, Lam heeded the Qing government’s call for its citizens and the Chinese diaspora to support industry and commerce in China. He formed a corporation with other overseas businessmen from the Siyi area in southern Guangdong, which encompassed his home town, to invest in his country.

At the start of the twentieth century, Lam became acquainted with Sun Yat-sen and from then on became a steadfast supporter of the revolution, earning him the title “The Perfect Revolutionary”. After the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, Lam Woo dedicated himself to the developments of Chinese cities in hopes of bringing commercial activities into the country. The erection of extravagant buildings in Shanghai became the best advertisement for Lam Woo & Company and turned the company into one of the most successful firms in Hong Kong.

The first thirty years of the twentieth century was a thriving transitional period for Hong Kong. Lam’s company took up a number of infrastructure projects from the government and built many quality high-rises in Hong Kong and cities in mainland China. In the 1930s, to avoid overwhelming his company with too many projects, Lam decided to focus his attention on Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Besides building his country, Lam was also dedicated to building the Kingdom of God. He was a pious Christian and a committed Sheng Kung Hui congregant. He took part in the construction of St Paul’s Church and enthusiastically served the parish church and the then Diocese of Kong Yuet (Hong Kong and Guangdong) by furthering church matters with priests and other lay leaders and spreading the gospel. Lam loved God and his church and expressed that love through his mentoring the young.

Today Lam’s descendents inherit his determination and passion in contributing to the society and the people. Through the Lam Woo Foundation, his descendents continue to provide support to education, thus bringing glory to God.

Lam’s biography is available in both English and Chinese versions. Being abroad, the author, Dr Moira Chan-yeung, was absent at the book launch. Lam’s grandson Dr Samuel Lam was there to give the welcoming speech and to talk about the biography’s journey from a manuscript to a published book. The Chinese translator, Fung Yee-wang, was also present to talk about the challenges he faced when turning the biography from English into Chinese.

The book is distributed outside Hong Kong by Columbia University Press.

<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 296. Please click here>


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