杨本梼先生

老一代华侨奋发图强的楷模
黎 宇 撰文摄影
本会永远荣誉会长杨本梼先生侨居新西兰七十余年,从一个贫困华侨的孩子,历经艰苦的奋斗而成为一位事业成功的人士和德高望重的侨领,堪称海外华人奋发图强的楷模。
杨老原籍广州北郊黄榜岭村,1922年出生不久,父亲就离乡背井远涉重洋到新西兰谋生,在南岛落脚后当起了洗衣工。从此,他就与母亲留在老家过着清贫的生活。到十岁那年,母亲不幸去世,孤苦伶仃的他在亲友的照顾下艰难地生活到了十三岁,父亲才能设法把他接到新西兰来生活,一边读书一边在洗衣店里做帮工。
当时由于中国的积弱,在海外谋生的华人根本就没有什么社会地位可言,何况一个原来在农村长大的穷孩子,人地生疏,言语不通,遇到的困难可想而知,还一直受着洋人同学的捉弄欺凌和羞辱,使当时在心灵上处于“低人一等”境地而又倔强不屈的他,自小就萌发了立志图强的决心。
后来,他有机会参加了一个课余拳击学习班。在学习班里,比之体魄健硕的洋孩子,他自感首先身体素质就不如人,但这先天的条件并没有让他气馁,他每天天没亮就顽强地坚持晨跑,尽管天寒地冻也毫不畏缩。经过一段时间的艰苦锻炼,他的身体条件已能逐渐适应学好拳击的需要。在西洋拳学习班里,他接受了严格的训练,由于他学习的态度份外认真,经过一段时间的训练,终于成了一个超群出众的西洋拳好手,在多次参加学校举行的拳击比赛中,都战胜了本来傲气十足的洋同学,让人对他为之刮目相看。十七岁那年,他代表学校参加了Westport的拳击比赛,一举赢得了冠军,为学校赢得了荣誉,也为自己赢得了荣耀和尊严,立即在同伴中成了个大英雄,从此再也没有人敢小看他,就连过去时常欺负他的洋同学对他也崇拜起来,主动和他交朋友。
在南岛他父亲经营的洗衣店附近,有一间生产电器的工厂,他经常跑到那里去看工人装配收音机,因而逐渐产生了对无线电的浓厚兴趣。中学毕业后,他离开南岛到了威灵顿,在一家当时算为稀罕的收音机厂当了工人。自小就形成奋发图强性格的他,在新的生活环境里同样发挥着顽强不息坚忍不拔的刻苦精神去开创新的生活道路。他为了能更好地掌握无线电的专业知识和技能,除白天到工厂上班外,晚上就到夜校里进修电器专业知识。在他极其勤奋的学习和实际工作的实践中,不久就成了个技术出色的无线电工。1947年,他成功地考取了电器技师的资格证,成为新西兰的第一个华人注册电器技师。同年,他与一位同样是禺北人并获得新西兰第一位华人注册护士资格的袁贞德结为夫妇。他们的结合,被人们誉之为“两个第一”的传奇式的姻缘。
婚后,夫妇一起回到南岛开始了新的生活。经过了一段时间的筹划后,他经营起了一家销售收音机的商店。由于他是个注册电器技师,便利用自己娴熟的技艺兼营起了收音机和其他电器的维修业务,所以生意做得特别红火。十年过去,当事业有了一定的根基后,为了求取更大的发展,便于1959年迁到了奥克兰市继续经营电器销售和维修业务的生意。在他的锐意经营下,把生意越做越大。就这样,电器生意这一行业一直做了40年,到了1983年才告老退休。
杨老虽然终生从事电器行业,不过人生还是多姿多彩的。1972年,他回国观光,在参观广州聋哑学校时,发现了祖国历史悠久的针灸可以治疗各种疾病,便对针灸术产生了浓厚的兴趣,顿时萌发了学习针灸的念头。后来他在新西兰找到了一位老中医,跟他学起了针灸来。对于一个年过半百,既没有医学的基础,更无中医知识根基的人来说,要掌握这一门神奇而奥秘的医学技术是相当困难的事情,但有着顽强的毅力和不屈不挠性格的他,努力从最基础的理论学起,几经艰辛,经过了多年的学习钻研和实践,终于掌握了这一门医术。在1979年,他开设了一间针灸治疗诊所,为病人解除疾病的痛苦。自此,他就成了个既是电器注册技师也是个针灸师的传奇式的华人。
杨老自小就在新西兰学习和生活,长期接受西方文化的熏陶,早已融入了主流社会,但他饮水思源,不会忘记自己根的所在。他对家乡的亲情,对中华文化的情结,处处表现在他的行动上。多年来,他不但慷慨地在家乡修建了几间漂亮的楼房帮助亲人改善居住环境,而且慷慨地给家乡生产队捐赠农业机械,还捐资给家乡重建小学校舍,并兴建了矗立于村头造价不菲的古色古香的牌坊。他一连串的义举深受乡亲们的赞扬。
退休前后的杨老,开始钟情于旅游,以增广见闻,享受人生。除了到世界各地游览外,他更喜欢回祖国去观光旅游。多年来几乎走遍了中国的多个著名的大城市。他有个很特别的嗜好,就是每到一处都要千方百计搜集一两个富有当地特色的磁碟以作纪念。日积月累,到了现在,在他偌大的客厅的墙壁上已经挂满了各式各样的磁碟。这些珍贵的磁碟,正显示着他游历的足迹所在。
在文化上他虽然早已是个“洋化”了的人,但对中华文化还有着深厚的感情。生活在家乡的童年时代,他认识不了多少个汉字,只靠长期通过不懈的自学,才有了中文的基本读写能力,而且对简化汉字也基本能够阅读自如。
他的中华文化情结还反映在他多年精心修建的住房里。他住房的花园建有红墙绿瓦的围墙,花园的中央还盖起了一个古朴的中式凉亭,花园里除了鱼池假山外,还摆设着石狮子和复制的秦俑等。这一派中国庭院的布局,在当地显得异常显眼。人们从外面一看就知道是个中国人的居所。
他不惜工本地修建的中式凉亭是经过精心筹划的。首先,在一次赴北京旅游时,买来了建造古式凉亭的图纸,然后从香港买来了琉璃瓦等建筑材,再请来几个洋建筑工人按图纸施工。结果,对中式建筑毫无经验的洋人,花了很长时间的琢磨才终于把凉亭建造成功。
2002年,他在一家著名的洋人酒店里举办了庆祝八十大寿的派对,在祝寿过程中,虽然行的是西方仪式,吃的是西餐,但主礼台前却高悬着由其爱妻亲手制作的“福如东海寿比南山”的中式寿帐,夫妇俩穿的是从北京买来的中国古式寿袍。由此可见,他对中国文化的情结是多么的根深蒂固。
杨老虽然一生勤奋地扑在他的事业上,但从青年时代开始,就热衷于参加社会活动。早在惠灵顿当工人的时代,他就与一些志同道合的华人青年朋友一起,组织了新西兰第一个华人青年会,团结华人青年,开展一些有益的活动,还积极参加一些洋人社团及华人长老会的义务劳动。在七十年代,还担任了一所小学的校董。自退休后,由于与乡亲聚会的时间和机会更多,后来加入了新西兰广州郊区侨联会(2003年更名扩展为新西兰广州同乡会),至1996年理事会换届改选,深受乡亲们拥戴的杨老便当选为第九届会长,此后连选连任一直当了十年,至2006年始告老退休。同乡会为表彰他长久以来的贡献,便授予他“永远荣誉会长”的荣誉职衔。
除了不遗余力地把同乡会办好外,杨老还积极参加各种社会活动,2000年,他参与了筹组新西兰中国和平统一促进会,并积极参加一系列维护祖国统一的活动。在声讨陈水扁“终统”闹剧的集会上,他还以一个老侨民的身份,义正词严地讨伐阿扁分裂祖国的台独图谋。德高望重的杨老还被省市和一些区的侨联或海外联谊会聘任为理事或顾问等,配合侨务部门搞好侨务工作。
现年已届九十三高龄的他,由于不懈地坚持身体锻炼和参加康乐活动,所以一直能保持健壮的体魄和饱满的精神,直至现在他还一直在坚持晨运,坚持每周参加一次交谊舞会。现在他还持有老人驾照,还能驾车随意游逛。
愿杨老福寿常增,继续发挥为社会多作贡献的余热;愿让他一生奋发图强的精神,永远成为年轻一代的楷模。

AN EXEMPLARY LIFE OF A PATRIOTIC FELLOW COUNTRYMAN

Mr Bon Chew Young (also known as Chum Young), our Association’s past Chairman and now “Life Chairman” was born in 1922 in the small village of Huang Bang Ling (黄榜岭) Ren He Town, Baiyun, Guangzhou City.

Most of the families in the village were poor peasants with small land holdings. At this time it was very hard to provide for the family so many would send a family member (usually the father) overseas to work and send money back. Bon Chew’s family was one of them. His father went away to the “Gold Hill”, New Zealand, when Bon Chew was a few months old. His mother passed away when he was 10 years old while his father was away.

Being homeless was devastating but this experience gave him a determination to work hard and to strive to better himself and to be useful. It also stirred within him a sympathetic feeling towards less fortunate people.

Bon Chew arrived in New Zealand in September 1936 (after being separated from his sister in Hong Kong) as a student on a Temporary Permit. In New Zealand he encountered a new environment and this presented a new challenge to him. He took stock of himself and found there were so many things that he had to learn in order to adapt himself to the new society!
He was confronted with two cultures which were totally different. He decided to take the best from the two cultures and also to work hard and diligently to improve himself.

He went to school in Westport and at the same time helped his father in the laundry business. His day started in the laundry at 5am to 8:45am and then he went to school until 3pm. On returning home he continued in the laundry until the work was finished and only then could he do his homework.
Bon Chew was bullied at school by two brothers. Each day after school the two boys who were much bigger than him would wait for him around a corner. They took his school bag and threw the books on the ground. While he was picking up the books they would kick him. One Sunday afternoon Bon Chew went fishing at the Westport wharf and came across the two brothers. When they saw him they took all his fishing gear and threw it into the Buller River. To overcome the bullying at school, Bon Chew took up boxing by joining the school boxing club. He won all his bouts and became the school champion and later the West Coast Champion. After that no one at school ever wanted to bully him again. In fact from then on he made many friends including the two brothers.

During his High School days he was very interested in radio. He used up all his pocket money to buy radio books and parts to build small radio sets. Next-door to his father’s laundry there was a radio shop and whenever he had spare time he would go to the radio shop and watch the technicians at work. He often said that he was interested in learning radio and the manager promised to employ him as an apprentice as soon as he finished High School.

To Bon Chew’s disappointment this didn’t happen. Soon after he left to go to Wellington, and the manager offered the job to a white boy who was one of his school mates.

In 1943 Bon Chew went to Wellington looking for suitable employment. At that time there were many soldiers returning from the war and they were given priority for any work available so getting a good job wasn’t easy. He visited every radio shop and radio factory in Wellington but there were no vacancies. At last he visited Chas Begg & Co, a big retail firm with outlets throughout New Zealand and a radio factory in Auckland. The manager straight away said, “We have no vacancy here!” Bon Chew went to see the General Manager, who was a kind man and invited him to his office. He gave Bon Chew a test on radio and electrical theory. He was impressed with the results and gave Bon Chew the job.
The radio course was for four years but Bon Chew completed it in three years and became the 1st Chinese person in New Zealand to be a Registered Radio & Electrical technician.
In 1947 Bon Chew married Miss Annie Kwoin who was born in Hong Kong in 1921. In 1947 she became the 1st Chinese Registered Nurse in New Zealand.
He started a Radio and Electrical business (Chum Young Radio Services) in Westport from 1947-1959. In 1959 he moved to Auckland and started Young’s TV & Appliances Ltd, in Onehunga. It operated from 1959-1983. Altogether he was in the radio & electrical trade for 40 years.

Throughout this time he never forgot his sister in China (Chee Ling) and would often write and send her money to help her and her family.

In 1972 Bon Chew and his wife Annie went to China for a holiday. While they were in Guangzhou they joined a City tour which included a visit to the Guangzhou Deaf & Dumb School. At the school there were 300 children who were born deaf. The teacher told them that the deaf children were treated with acupuncture for six months and recovered from deafness. They stayed there for further two and half years to learn to talk. The doctor demonstrated the use of needles on the children. The children gave a singing and dance recital. This impressed Bon Chew greatly and he decided that he must learn acupuncture.

After completing a course of acupuncture which was done part time, Bon Chew opened his Acupuncture clinic. He practised this from1979-1998 (19 years) in Mangere Bridge and even today some of his patients still ring and are disappointed to hear that he has retired.

Travelling around the globe was one of Bon Chews interests and wherever he went he would buy a special plate to remember the places he had been to. At his home there are many interesting plates displayed on the wall of his ballroom.

Bon Chew has been living in New Zealand for 72 years. 18 of those years were spent in a small town (Westport) in the South Island where the population was predominately European. In order to succeed he had to learn to adapt to a new way of life and accept many prejudices based on his ethnicity, colour of skin and the way that he spoke.

Being a patriotic Chinese, Bon Chew has retained much of his Chinese culture and tried to improve his Chinese by reading and learning Putonghua. His wife Annie also reads Chinese well (and often) and is skilled in the art of Chinese Calligraphy.
Bon Chew and Annie are very keen on ballroom dancing and have been dancing for over 30 years. Part of their daily exercise regime also includes their practising Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong. In 1993 Bon Chew added a Chinese pagoda to his garden, making it into a Chinese Courtyard with a Chinese-style wall surrounding the entire front of the front garden of the corner section. The pagoda is the only one of its kind in the Auckland area!

Bon Chew’s 80th birthday celebration was held at the Sky City Convention Centre, Auckland. Although it was held in a European restaurant with Kiwi food, Bon Chew and his wife wore traditional Chinese outfits from Shanghai. The VIPs at the function included the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China. At the back of the stage hung the old Chinese birthday sign in Chinese characters “福如东海寿比南山” (rich blessing and long life). This piece of art work was specially made by Annie for the occasion.

Bon Chew has been active in community voluntary work from an early age. In 1943, while living in Wellington, he and his friends formed the first Chinese Youth Club. While living in Westport he was involved with Presbyterian Church where he was elected and ordained as an Elder in 1949. He was the first Chinese Elder ordained in a European congregation in New Zealand. He served for 10 years from 1960-1970 as an Elder with the Chinese Presbyterian Church in Auckland. He served for 4 years as a Birthright Councillor in the Mangere area. He also served for 3 years as a school committee member of the Mangere Bridge School.

He was elected as Chairman of the (then) New Zealand Guangzhou Suburbs Chinese Association (which later changed its name to the New Zealand Guangzhou Chinese Assn Inc.) from 1996-2006. At present he is the Association Life Chairman.

During a visit to his village in 1972 Bon Chew noticed that the people had suffered a great deal because of the Cultural Revolution. He asked them how he could best help them at that time. The village leaders had a meeting and informed him that they would like to have a motorised cultivator so that it could work the fields better and also transport farm produce to the cities. They were so happy with the cultivator provided to them and named it “Love the Village”(爱乡号).In 1988 Bon Chew and his wife helped in the building of the new village school by paying for two class rooms.
In 1991 they donated money to build a new village gate. Also they built three homes for needy relatives.
Bon Chew was one of the founding members of the New Zealand Peaceful Reunification Society (新西兰中国和平统一促进会)and he has spoken on occasions against Chen Shui-Bian’s separatist policies on Taiwan.

He believes passionately in the need for China to remain one unified country, powerful enough to stand on its own principles rather than dividing into smaller countries which are easily manipulated by other countries for their own ends.

In recognition of Bon Chew’s contributions to the New Zealand Guangzhou Association he was appointed as an “honorary member” and “advisor” to number of local bodies in the Guangzhou area.

Although Bon Chew is 86 years old and retired from public offices, he is still physically active and enjoys good health and is well able to drive his car to Wellington and back!

We wish him and his wife many, many more happy years ahead.