── Han Suyin ──

Excerpt from "My House Has Two Doors"(Jonathan Cape, London, 1980)

Now the Board of Directors of Nanyang University had to find a chancellor or university president who would pick out staff, professors, lecturers. Within the Board was a strong pro-Kuomintang wing, which had the blessing of the American Consulate. The Americans thought the British weak-kneed, and the important pro-Chiang Kaishek lobby in America also became interested in Nanyang University. An anti-communist Chinese university in Singapore might not be a bad thing. It might offset the appeal of the jungle guerrillas; it might also, in the long run, offset Malay 'leftist' tendencies influenced by the Communist Party of Indonesia. For despite the sedulous repetition of the 'loyal Malay' theme(loyal to what?), none knew better than the British that the Malays were also nationalists, sharing a common culture, language and script with Indonesia; and that the Islamic world, from Algeria to the Philippines, was effervescent. There were fears of pan-Arab, pan-Islamic movements affecting Malaya. Utusan Melayu, the Malay newspaper, reported favourably on upsurges against colonial domination in Iraq, Syria and Algeria, and Egypt's Nasser was immensely popular.

The choice of an anti-communist chancellor for Nanyang University fell upon Lin Yutang, author of My Country and My People. Lin Yutang had lived in America for a little over two decades. A two weeks' trip to Chungking during the Sino-Japanese war had been his only wartime excursion in Asia, but he was in Taiwan in 1953, actively denouncing Communist China, and participating in the formation of an Anti-Communist League which had the backing of Chiang Kaishek, and of course of the C.I.A.

Tan Laksai was none too pleased with the choice. Lin Yutang arrived in Singapore with his family; his daughters and son-in-law were also given jobs in Nanyang University. The Lins were provided with a bungalow by the sea and a Cadillac or two. Lin Yutang then started to recruit staff, and I received a little note from him, asking me to drop in for a talk.

There was a mat with WELCOME written on it at the front door and in the cool living room orchids hung from the ceiling in fenestrated pots. There was some extravagant carved furniture and jades, kindly loaned by the Tiger Balm king's daughter, Aw Hsiang. Her father, Aw Boon Haw, had mansions filled with priceless jades both in Singapore and in Hong Kong, and I had visited them with proper clucking awe. Rotund and charmingly effusive, Mrs Lin greeted me; Lin Yutang had impish bespectacled eyes and in spite of his small size was truculent. 'Now I want you to tell me all about the situation here in twenty minutes,' he commanded. I began to speak, but Lin's attention span was short. That creeping glaze, that fixity of face which denotes a mind turned off, already astride another subject ... I cut my exposé down to five minutes, and he nodded sagely. 'Mummy,' said he, turning to his wife, 'we must get around to see something of Malaya.' 'If it's safe,' said Mrs Lin. I assured her it was, and mimicked Ah Mui, my former maid. 'Only bad people get killed, people like police officers.' They looked stunned. 'Will you have some cawfee?' said Mrs Lin.

We then talked of the book Dr Lin would write about South East Asia, of the bastion that Nanyang University would prove against communism ... Lin Yutang had already announced this as his intention. He then asked me to be Professor of English Literature at Nanyang. I shook my head. I did not know anything about English literature. 'But you write English,' he exclaimed. 'Not English literature.' I did not want to teach Dickens and Thackeray, worthy though they might be. 'I'd rather be the college health physician; all the students admitted to the University should have a medical examination.' He agreed, but when I had gone summoned a press conference and told them, 'Han Suyin has accepted the post of Professor of English Literature at Nanyang University.' This appeared in the Straits Times the next day. I wrote to the Straits Times to deny it, and to explain that all I could do at the moment was to offer my services as college health physician.

My denial led to another interview with Lin Yutang. He was a bit ruffled. 'Why don't you give up medicine?' As a professor I would have ample time to write. 'We'll see to it that you don't have more than six hours a week of teaching.' I tried to explain my idea of literature; that we must create an Asian type of literature; we needed something other than nineteenth-century English writers ... but his mind wandered again, and I left.

Throughout the rest of l954, while Nanyang University was a-building, I did not approach him again. Lin Yutang made pronouncements, called press conferences, gave talks revealing a blithe unconsciousness of the situation in Malaya. He declared a university a place of leisure, with time to smoke a pipe and to browse. To the rickshaw puller who had gone hungry, sacrificing three days of earnings to build Nanyang, this was fury-rousing. People began to dislike him intensely; and the students of the Chinese high schools mounted campaigns against him and called upon the Board of Directors to force him out. In this Lin helped them greatly. For his idea was to start with a budget of incommensurate dimension, more in keeping with the requirements of a wealthy American university than one funded by the people of Malaya. He offered his recruited professors transport by air for themselves and their families, and transport for their household goods. He demanded luxurious bungalows for them.

The Hokkien Club was holding meetings in great perturbation. They contemplated in baffled silence the bills which Lin Yutang kept sending in. They received protest delegations from the students. By December, Lin's relations with the Board were very strained. He then took action in ways considered un-Chinese, and above all discourteous. Thus he summoned a press conference of Western newsmen(Chinese journalists were absent) to make his disagreement known to the English newspapers; to them he complained that the financial outlays provided were insufficient. This was considered gross betrayal by the Chinese, who in Malaya as elsewhere prefer to settle all disputes within their own community, without resort to the press, especially a foreign press. When questioned by a journalist, Lin said that Malaya and Singapore were 'outposts of civilization', hardship areas calling for increased financial recompense. By publicizing the quarrel before the Board had finalized its meetings, Lin Yutang had made his sponsors, and in particular Tan Laksai, lose face. In early 1955 Lin Yutang and his family were quietly paid a very large indemnity by Tan Laksai personally, and returned to America.

陈德彰 林克美译(《韩素音自传——吾宅双门》,中国华侨出版公司,1991年12月)









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2012年12月18日首版 Created on December 18, 2012
2012年12月18日改版 Last updated on December 18, 2012