“Chasing Rainbows” is the English edition of a Chinese book 《追虹》 written by Choo Lian Liang. It was translated by her daughter, Sim Ann 沈颖.Lian Liang is a veteran television producer and an accomplished writer. I’ve known her for 30 years, and Sim Ann too (not quite so long smile emoticon ).I read 《追虹》 cover to cover. It is a fascinating family history of four generations, beginning with Lian Liang’s great-grandfather in 1899. He failed the Imperial examinations, and sailed from Chaozhou to Singapore to find work. The family lived through the Japanese Occupation, the post-war anti-colonial struggle, and China’s Great Leap Forward. These tumultuous events profoundly affected their lives and fortunes.Many of us have similar histories of forebears who came to Singapore in search of a better life. “Chasing Rainbows” tells a vivid story of how the pioneers chased that rainbow and found the pot of gold. May it inspire our generation to be as intrepid, and to do even better. – LHL
(Photo courtesy of Mdm Choo Lian Liang’s family. Lian Liang (sitting, left) is pictured with her parents and brother.)
— at The Pod @ National Library.
What Singaporean Says?
Patrick Choe I am 60 years old and I know the poignant story of my grandfather’s journey from Guangzhou to the south seas too. He did not chase the rainbow. He braved the treacherous journey to Ipoh, and than to Singapore, lived a hard life in search of 3 meals a day. His story was about seeking basic survival, not about chasing the beauty of rainbow.
Pauline Leong My parents came from China, survived through the Japanese Occupation but also have gone through very tough times in the 60s and 70s. During those times when my siblings and I were small, my parents struggled to make ends meet. We shared an apple among the seven of us. Our lunch and dinner were simple, each a bowl of rice, a strand of vegetable, a piece of Yong tau fu and one or two slices of meat. How to fill our stomachs when hungry? We took the opportunity to get discarded bread skin from the van who travelled around neighbourhood to sell bread, and we ate that. That was how we survived!
There was no rainbow during those days, but neither now too!
In Singapore, we have to work hard to survive!
Sidney Chia Yes I have read the Chinese version of the book too! I was amazed that my grandfather was mentioned in the book by his good deed to provide biscuits to our relatives during the Japanese occupation….
I have visited our village in ChaoZhou and I am now trying to ask my mother to write a memoir but she said she got headaches recalling those details!
Jeff TanGo My grandfather came from China ChaoZhou ,in the Manchurian period had a pigtail cut off when he arrived in Singapore .During the Japanese occupation I was about 2 years old , we left Singapore with a big group of people including relatives and friends on several lorries to Endau on the eastern side of JB. There our families survived by growing vegetables and rearing poultries on a large undeveloped land . After the war we all returned to Singapore . My grandpa made a living by selling biscuits and soaps going his rounds on bicycle to all corners of Singapore and also took part-time job as a ticket usher at Queens theatre in geylang . In those days people just struggled from sun to moon hardly earning enough to feed the family . There were no thoughts for leisure , entertainment and holidays . The book “Chasing Rainbows will be a good read for our young Singaporean to know our root and to treasure our Singapore today . It take years to build a successful Nation but it can go down in just a few year if not well govern .We must continue to progress , Unite as One People One Nation , One Singapore to Ride on the Rainbow.
Pui Hee Tan I read this book 4 years back and was very touched when I realized Chinese from Singapore were embroiled in the Chinese red terror of the Great leap forward and the Cultural revolution. In fact the chapter on ‘saying no to the Communist party’ is a prelude to the end of communism as a system of running China. I wrote to the author to have this book translated to English and she replied her daughter was doing it. I did not know her daughter was Sim Ann until I read this news. Good this book is now in English and I think it has the potential to be a success just like Wild Swans did in the 90s.
Robert K Tan Haven’t read the book but I presume the protagonist , being an educated person albeit failed the Imperial Exams of his time, probably had it better than many indentured labourers who came to SE Asia. That reminds me of Singapore’s very first TV serial 雾锁南洋 in the 1980s. I think the serial should be rebroadcast in honor of our pioneer generation and their forebears
Tin Kyi May Chasing rainbows,I must get that book.Thanks for sharing the precious photo,Sir.
Jamie Pui Woon Hoo I read the book to, absorbing every single sentence. Now introducing it to friends from China. Most of them know very little about Chinese immigration in the 30s last century.