Chapter 11 Best Friend Zong Xiusong
Yu Mengying lived in Changshu for 26 years from her wedding in 1911 to the breakout of war in 1937. She had many friends there. Her best friend was Zong Xiusong whose biography is included in The Annals of Changshu 1990 edition, which reads as follows:
“Zong Xiusong(1888-1928), female, a native of Changshu city. Founder and principal of Xueqian Primary School. She received her education at home, was good at composing poems and essays, a graduate of Suzhou Da Tong Girls School. In 1914, she was appointed the principal of Haiyu City Girls Junior Primary School. At first there were no proper school premises. She rented a common residential dwelling. When the school was short of money, she donated her own jewelry. The school later moved to the Confucius Temple and grew rapidly. It became a municipal girls school and was the largest such school in the county. She emphasized “self cultivation and sorting out the old ideas”, and “developing pupils to enable them to be competitive in society”. She also emphasized sports. She initiated a code of conduct for the principal……She was a pioneer in many aspects of education at that time and received awards 15 times in the 14 years she was running the Xueqian School. …”
Yu Mengying sent all her children to this school. It was a short walk away from the Zhang residence. My father recalls that Zong often came to the house and played mahjong. Zong died of birth related infections in her prime and her death was a blow to Mengying. The two best friends’ children were also close. The childhood playmates became life-long friends. My parents’ best friends for decades in Hong Kong were Zong Xiusong’s youngest daughter Yu Deming and her husband Yin Guanyuan. In 1956, my mother sneaked into Hong Kong though the backdoor alone and it was Yu Deming and Yin Guanyuan who looked after her. When my father was poor and directionless in Chongqing during the war, it was Yu Bingchang, Zong Xiusong’s son ,who introduced him to the “One Society” that helped him open a new page in his life.
My two younger brothers arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai in 1960. It was Yu Deming who helped put them into a good secondary school. After graduating from this school, both of them managed to enter good universities in the US. To this day, they remember with deep gratitude what Auntie Yin did for them when they needed help most.
During her long illness, my mother always received comforting phone calls from Yu Deming from the Bay Area in the US.
Xueqian School was later renamed Changshu Shiyan Primary School and moved to its new campus in the new part of the city. The beautiful new classroom complex was named “Xiusong Lou”. A marble stature of Zong Xiusong stands in the center of the campus. On the pedestal is inscribed the words “Zong Xiusong, the Heroine “ by a renowned calligraphy and statesman of the Republic era. The school principal showed me an album of photos taken at an event to mark the “Zong Xiusong Foundation” which was donated by her son Yu Bingchang. Touched, I wrote down these words in the visitors’ message book: “My grandma Yu Mengying was a good friend of the late Principal Zong Xiusong…”.
Zong Xiusong had outstanding children. Her eldest son Yu Bingyuan(1915-1968), a graduate of Jiaotong University in electrical engineering, was a pioneer and one of the foundation builders of the hydro turbine industry in China. He was the deputy chief engineer at Harbin Turbine , deputy chief engineer of the Large Electrical Engineering Institute of Harbin, and was the head of the engineering team responsible for designing the turbines at almost all major hydro projects in China in the early years of the People’s Republic.
Another son, Yu Bingchang (1917-1998), also a Jiaotong graduate, studied in the US. The Korean War broke out when he graduated. He could not return to China and found a job with a Chinese-owned oil tanker company in the US. He had a brilliant career in the oil tanker business. He also founded the program to train tanker managers and workers in Taiwan which enabled many to pursue successful careers in the world oil tanker field. He also donated “Yu Bingchang Scholarships” to Jiaotong university.