About the book (from jacket flap);
In 1945, at the end of the war, Desmond Neill was an army officer in Malaya. Because of the great attraction the country and its people had for him he decided to make his career there and joined the Malayan Civil Service. He began in Singapore, where he was soon made aware of a real language barrier between himself and the bulk of the island’s Chinese-speaking population. When he was selected to be sent to Amoy to learn Hokkien, the predominant Chinese dialect in Singapore, he at once realised that this would provide a key to open up his new interests.
In this book he describes his arrival in Amoy, and how he set about learning Chinese under the guidance of his teacher Mr. Lim, an astonishing individual who is delightfully and sympathetically portrayed. But learning their language was only one facet of the task of understanding the Chinese, and as we follow the author’s progress in his lessons we are introduced to much else about China and the Chinese: their everyday life, their art, poetry, food, marriage, politics, and temples, about all of which he writes with an engaging sense of delicate situations, with humour, insight, and charm.
He visits Shanghai, with its bustling crowds and contrasting night-life, Formosa, and Foochow, with its hot baths, and proud tea-merchants, and he gives a most vivid and colourful description of Peking just before it fell to the Communists. And on his return to Singapore the author was better equipped to understand the colourful kaleidoscope of the Chinatown that had once baffled him, as he sat in his favourite Chinese restaurant ‘The Elegant Flower’.
About the author (from NLB):
[Neill] was General Manager of the Fraser and Neave Group (1970-1982); President (1970-1973) and later Vice President of the Singapore Employers’ Federation (1974-1975); Director of the National Productivity Board (1972-1974); Vice President of the Singapore National Employers’ Federation (1981-1982); and Council Member of the Singapore Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (1978-1979).
He passed away in Singapore in 2017.