7. Longest Working Time in Yangon, Myanmar
From June 1939 to October 1941, I had been doing import material card and registration work in the Transportation Bureau, until I went to Bhamo with Zhao Tingzhen. After my country’s Anti-Japanese War, the coast was lost and there was only Burma Highway from Yangon, Myanmar to Kunming, Yunnan. Therefore, the Yangon branch of the Southwest Transportation Department transportation work got busy every day and the number of personnel was also increasing. Especially after Hitler launched the Second World War, the United States Lease Act came into effect, and the CDS (China Defense Supplies) material ships were even more onerous.
Image by Sharon Ang from Pixabay
During my stay in Yangon, our Shanghai youths included Zhang Zuping, Zhou Shijun, Wang Chunyuan, Chen Can, Ma Diyuan, Shen Huilin, Liu Zhiguo (at the Lashio branch shortly afterwards) and Wang Chunzhai. All of them love sports, so they organized a basketball team. After getting off work, they often practiced in the basketball court of the old racecourse. We met the members of the Yangon Overseas Chinese Women’s Basketball Team and practiced together for a long time. Therefore, Zhang Ying and Gong Ruiying of the women’s basketball team married Chen Can and Zhou Shijun and are now in Shanghai. Huang Zhiren also married Yang Bin, a basketball team member of the Aviation Committee who came to the competition.
The following are some members of the basketball team, I am the second from the left
The two lakes in Yangon, one is Loyal Lake (Kandawgyi Lake) in the city and the other is Victoria Lake (Inya Lake) in the outskirts, with the most beautiful scenery. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival in 1940, the moon was bright and beautiful. Several of us, Zhou Shijun, Wang Chunyuan, Wang Chunzhai, Zhang Zuping, Ma Diyuan and I borrowed a few bicycles and invited Zhang Ying, Gong Ruiying, and Huang Zhiren to ride a bicycle together to visit the Loyal Lake, Victoria Lake and the suburbs of Yangon, had fun then got back. I accidentally overturned the bike on the way, but fortunately, I only wiped a piece of the skin off my palm (Shen Huilin and Chen Can could not ride bikes and did not participate).
Another time we organized a tour, it was still these few who took the boat to Yangdong to enjoy the scenery of Yangon River. On the boat, we also borrowed Burmese costumes and took a few pictures of Burmese costumes. The whole branch also organized a car tour of Bago, about fifty or sixty kilometers from Yangon, with the purpose of visiting the famous reclining Buddha in Myanmar.
The section chief’s in the Yangon branch leased a wooden western-style house on the shore of Victoria Lake as dormitory. That was, the bottom floor was not inhabited, supported by wooden pillars, and four or five feet above the ground was the living room and bedroom. There was a large piece of grassland in front of the house until the lake, and stone slabs were built on the shore, and there was a bay of clear lake water when you went down, and there was a small rowing boat. So a few of us young people often went to swim or play badminton or bridge for a day on Sunday. Zhou Shijun, Zhang Zuping, Ma Diyuan, Liu Zhiguo and Wang Chunyuan all swam well, although their speed was not fast, but the endurance was amazing and the swimming distance was very long. Although I was able to swim, my stamina was extremely poor, probably due to an unsound heart, shortness of breath, and underdeveloped arm muscles.
Once on a whim, I didn’t feel strenuous at first. I swam with them to the other side for about 300 meters. By the way, I felt weak. Even if I called for help, they had already reached the other side. They would take time to swim to save me. I did not panic by the prime nature, and immediately consciously calmed down, changed to backstroke at a very slow speed, with little effort, only wanted my head to be exposed to the surface of the water to breathe, and finally swam to the opposite river bank without suffering the disaster. If I panicked, I would be even more breathless. Even if they came to rescue, they would have no experience in saving people, and the outcome would be unpredictable. After that, I learned my lesson and never ventured to swim more than a hundred meters away in rivers and lakes. I thought it was not that I should never die, but that I did not panic when I was in danger, at best, I saved my life by calming myself.
The one on the right in the photo is me.
Our staff dormitory originally lived on the third floor of the office. Later, due to business development, representatives from various agencies gathered in the office. We moved to the dormitory near the Great Pyramid, where there was a lawn for playing badminton. Later moved to a wooden building on the bank of Loyal Lake (Kandawgyi Lake), with a large garden and lawn. I was in the same room with Shen Huilin and Zhang Zuping. I remembered that the department chief Fang Zhaohao and the Secretary-General Zeng Zhaoliu of the General Office both lived in our dormitory for a period of time. Often when Fang Zhaohao was not going out for socializing, Zeng Zhaoliu made coffee. He had good technique with quantity, water volume, and time experience, and he cooked coffee very flagrantly. We ate, sat and chatted. Both of them were fortune tellers, so people often asked for orders. I had also learned a little about fortune-telling books, but I had not learned precision. The five elements generate and restrain each other, which seems a bit scientific, but it is not scientific. The fate of the past generations borrowed feudal superstition to deceive the world. I thought the Fang Zhaohao himself knew the falsehood, but it was just to deceive officials or their family members who believed in fate in officialdom, so that it was easy to get along with each other and was good for being an official. But it is also strange that even today, social sciences and natural sciences are equally developed, but there are still many people who believe in fate, which is incredible.
At that time, I was most impressed by Fang Zhaohao: One night we were in the dormitory while making coffee and chatting, talking about the stories of the “Three Kingdoms”, “Water Margin” and other characters. Fang Zhaohao once said that what he admired most was the section about “Seizure of Birthday Gift Shipment by Trickery” in “Water Margin”. Bai Sheng picked up a load of good wine to Huang Nigang, singing a song in his mouth:
Beneath the red sun that burns like fire,
Half scorched in the field is the grain.
Poor peasant hearts with worry are scalded，
While the rich themselves idly fan.
～Translated by Sidney Shapiro
Of course we had a discussion at that time and the content was no longer remembered. Fang Zhaohao was not a big nor small official, but he had no bureaucratic airs. As early as in Hong Kong, he sometimes went to the Leighton Hill Road dormitory to have a look and talk. He was approachable and generous. Sometimes he met colleagues playing mahjong. He also played a few pairs. Recently, I heard Shen Huilin talking about the fact that in 1949, Fang Zhaohao stayed in Shanghai because he himself firmly believed in his fortune telling and did not go overseas. This is a bit “fatalism”.
Brother Kai seemed to have been to Yangon twice. The first time may have come for a problem with the Ordnance Department. It seemed that in Yuanlun’s home, with Lou Shiwu, Wu Peiqi and others, they played Mahjong. Another time, it seemed that he came on behalf of the material business team of the Southwest Transportation Department Headquarters. He visited Yangon and then went to Lashio. Zu Ping and I went on business trips with Kai. At that time, Zhiguo was the head of the warehouse in Lashio branch, and Zhou Xianyan of Jiaotong University, a famous soccer player, was serving as the deputy head. I came back first. When I was passing by Maymyo, the patrol said that my passport has expired and was detained for two days. I was boarding at the local Overseas Chinese Association. On the third day, the court was officially opened. I was fined 10 dongs before being released. Later, an insider said that when checking the passport, you had to send some money to the police, so it would not be detained. In fact, the passport had not expired. After I arrived in Yangon, I asked the Consulate General to negotiate, but the Consulate General thought that the money had been fined and the police would let me go. It was not a major event and there was no need to negotiate. This was also one of the episodes in Yangon.
The volume of public and private traffic on the Myanmar-Burma Highway increased. Japanese invaders were eye-catching. They imposed a diplomatic embargo on the British twice. The British also deliberately gave out information beforehand, so that the vehicles in Lashio rushed to transport more supplies back home.
The transportation from Yangon to Lashio mainly relied on railways, which could not meet the transportation volume of the Yangon branch. Therefore, the Irrawaddy River was used to transport a small amount of materials to Bhamo before being transported back to China. At first, the number was very small. Later, as the warehouse and other equipment planned to be built in Bhamo were about to be completed, the Yangon branch instructed Zhao Tingzhen in Singapore to go to Bhamo as the head of the newly established transportation office. The incident began in July and August in 1941, but unexpectedly C.P. was transferred in August. Shen Shihua was appointed as the director of the Yangon branch and the secretary Shen Guilin was brought in. Because he was young, he was originally a China Travel Agency staff member with low qualifications, so some people in the upper office did not respect him. Fortunately, Jiang Dechang, the chief of the General Affairs Section of China National Bank, and Zhou Shijun were classmates with him, and I had a good personal relationship with him, so with support, Sun’s secretarial work had stabilized.
My colleague from Yangon, the one on the left in the photo is me.
The Southwest Transportation Department was reorganized into the General Administration of China-Myanmar Transportation, chaired by Yu Feipeng. Before the reorganization, Yu Feipeng visited the Yangon branch. Wang Chunzhai was the younger brother of Wang Renlin, secretary of the Hong Kong branch office, he worked in the General Representative Office in India. After the victory of the Anti-Japanese War, he stayed in India and married an overseas Chinese named Huang. he went back to Shanghai twice to visit his sister in the 1950s. But no news since then, I don’t know why? Zhang Zuping, Wang Chunzhai, and I wanted to go back to China to take a college entrance examination, but because of the long distance and uncertainty, even if we passed the exam, the economy was a problem for everyone, so everyone had not made up their minds. There were three daughters in a family of overseas Chinese. They already became Burmese whose surname was Huang. We asked them to teach English for half a year. Wang Chunzhai studied best, and Zu Ping was the second one.
When I was in Singapore, my monthly salary was 80 Dollar. Because of the high currency value, although it was only a few months, I had a little surplus. I remitted a tuition fee to Yin Zhongkui who was studying in Chengdu at the time. And because Fu Yuanqing was studying at Northwest Institute of Technology in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province, his family could not remit the tuition fee, so I remitted it to him, and his family returned it to my family. This benefitted both parties.
In Yangon for more than two years, in addition to daily use, my monthly savings amounted to 40 dong (monthly salary was about 110 dong). Before I transferred to Bhamo, about July or August 1941, I sent all my savings of about 1,000 dong to brother Kai for the purpose of sending remittances to my home.