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Leong Fee's speech at Penang Chung Hwa School (15 May 1904)


Mark Yong

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Mark Yong

I just bought a copy of Tan Kim Hong's "The Chinese in Penang - A Pictorial History" (檳榔嶼華人史圖錄, 陳劍虹著). On Page 182 is a page from the Penang Sin Poe (檳城新報) dated 16 May 1904 that records the speech given by Vice-Consul Leong Fee (梁碧如副領事) on the opening day of the Chung Hwa School 中華學校 the day before. The entire speech as shown on the newspaper excerpt is written in Classical Chinese. I am just wondering what language Leong Fee actually used when he was delivering the speech.

I am guessing that it cannot have been Classical Chinese, so what dialect did he use - was it Hokkien? Since it was prior to the May 19 Movement, I am guessing that was done in one of the major dialects of Penang - most likely Hokkien - and given that Hokkien did not have a written standard, the speech would have had to be transcribed by the journalists into Classical Chinese as the written standard of the day. The spanner in the works for this proposition is that Leong was a Hakka.

And if he really did use Classical Chinese(!), what dialect's pronunciation was he using?

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calibre2001

If he did use 'pure' classical chinese, as in literally reading out only the written characters, he would use the dialect he was taught to read it in. His adult colleagues would have perfectly understood him if they were trained in it. I can't imagine the school kids understanding it though.

It could also be very formal Hokkien (imagine with plenty of superfluous classical chinese words, phrases thrown in for that flowery effect.

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skylee

1) what is shown on the record is not always what happened. I have to write meeting minutes all the time. All the meetings are conducted in Cantonese but the minutes are either written in English (majority) or standard Chinese. For your reference, almost all the meetings of the HK Legislative Council are conducted in Cantonese but you can only find the hansard in English and standard Chinese on its website.

2) it looks like that Mr Leong was a hakka. According to this paper (take a look at the 開辦時用語 at the end of the paper), it was likely that the speech was delivered in the 官話 of that era.

PS - I guess Dr Wong might be able to provide you with more information (look at what he studies). Perhaps you could send an e-mail to him? It might be better than wondering about it on this website.

Edited by skylee
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For your reference, almost all the meetings of the HK Legislative Council are conducted in Cantonese but you can only find the hansard in English and standard Chinese on its website.

That's interesting. How do they translate words that are specific to Cantonese?

For those who are interested, you can find the HK LegCo transcripts here:

http://sc.legco.gov.hk/sc/www.legco.gov.hk/chinese/index.htm

http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr08-09/chinese/counmtg/floor/cm0513-confirm-ec.pdf

梁國雄議員:主席,我們的主席黃毓民引述了亞當史密的說話,為甚麼

亞當史密會寫經濟的著作,又或為何他會研究經濟呢? 其實,他是一位

倫理學家,他要考慮的問題,便是為甚麼人類的社會會是這麼樣的? 馬

克思也是一樣,他其實也是由對社會作批判開始,再在研究後才撰寫了

《資本論》。他們兩人跟我們某些所謂投機的政客的分別是甚麼? 就是

他們其實是希望對這個社會的進步作出一些貢獻。無論你同意還是不同

我們且看看本港的稅制, 我們經常說香港的普通巿民是沒有交稅

的。關於這點,我也不知從何說起。高地價、高租值是一種隱形的稅項,

對嗎? 我在台灣的7-Eleven吃得過飽, 也不用花港幣15元, 現時在香港

的7-Eleven花15元吃東西, 根本連胃也填不滿。為何是這樣的呢? 這便

是因為我們一向的收入也是循着這“三高”的政策來花費,消費者是在不

同的環節不停地代那些有錢人交稅的,對嗎? 為何沒有人把這個稅制計

算在內呢? 我們的勞動者的工資已經很低微,還要不停接受這些盤剝。

經濟顧問現時在席, 盤剝是甚麼意思? 這不止是剝削, 是“收買路錢打

腳骨”, 所以說這是盤剝。

我們的工資低得這麼可憐,也沒有最低工資的保障,我們的勞動者

上煎下熬,“上窮碧落下黃泉,兩處茫茫皆不見”,前路也不知何去何從,

現在還說到,這樣下去,有錢人會很可憐的,你們是在說些甚麼啊? 是

不是有病呢? 有病便吃藥好了。也看看一些經典著作吧,對嗎? 不是看

那些炒股的書,好像陳家強局長說CTO發言時得眉飛色舞,不過後知後

覺,而且在說完之後也是失敗的。你要明白,一個政府執政是不能夠使

用旁門左道的。十年前,魯賓加上GREENSPAN要deregulate巿場,最大

的併究也給他們的一個委員會便弄好了,那時候是save the group,現在

卻被人說成是摧毀了世界。把眼光放遠些吧, “老兄”。

我們今天的改革是甚麼? 很簡單的,便是請肥胖至穿不下襪子的那

羣有錢人減肥瘦身吧,讓那些貧無立錐的人獲得有尊嚴的生活。財富的

再分配便是這樣的了,累進制是要完成利潤才繳付的,“老兄”,所得稅

也是賺了這麼多錢才繳付的,“老兄”,這是公平不公平啊? 資產增值稅

是要在增值了才繳付的, 有甚麼會好像我們現時的隱形稅般的呢? 可

是, 當局就是說, 我才不會理會你, 你現在找份工做吧。

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wushijiao

I wouldn't be suprised if it were in classical, since it seems that the concept of a speech in China often refers to a person reading a text that was meant to be written.

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Mark Yong

Thank you all for your replies, much appreciated. This subject about the Chinese language as spoken and written prior to the advent of Mandarin has always intrigued me.

In clear-cut cases of localities where one particular dialect group clearly dominated, e.g. Hong Kong, the obvious choice of medium for speeches would undoubtedly have been Cantonese. This particular case of Leong Fee's speech was special, because although the Hokkien dialect was the major one in Penang, it was not clearly the dominant dialect per se (there were a sizeable number of Teochews and Cantonese).

skylee wrote:

it looks like that Mr Leong was a hakka. According to this paper (take a look at the 開辦時用語 at the end of the paper), it was likely that the speech was delivered in the 官話 of that era.

This begs another question: My understanding was that Mandarin education in Malaya only commenced after the founding of the People's Republic of China. This speech took place 4 years prior. Assuming he did use 官話 or some pre-cursor to Mandarin, would the audience have understood him?

In the other three speeches listed, the language used is listed as 客語. Makes one wonder how the non-Hakka's understood.

wushijiao wrote:

I wouldn't be suprised if it were in classical, since it seems that the concept of a speech in China often refers to a person reading a text that was meant to be written.

If he did make the speech ad verbatim in Classical Chinese, what with all those homonyms so prevalent in Mandarin, I would imagine that comprehending him would have been quite a task. Unless the speech was printed out for the audience to read along. If you can get a copy of the full text, you will find that it is quite long, spanning a couple of hundred words and covering an entire newspaper page - not like the typical 20-odd character imperial edicts.

Edited by Mark Yong
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wushijiao
This begs another question: My understanding was that Mandarin education in Malaya only commenced after the founding of the People's Republic of China. This speech took place 4 years prior. Assuming he did use 官話 or some pre-cursor to Mandarin, would the audience have understood him?

I couldn't say for sure- but it would be worth pointing out that the mainland film industry (based in Shanghai) used Mandarin, and by 1945, it would have been fairly popular throughout Chinese speaking communities (I would assume). I wonder to what extent exposure to popular films helped allow people to understand andarin (even if it were mainly passive listening skills), especially for young and affluent people back in the 1930's and 40's. (Edit: my fault for mixing up the dates).

If he did make the speech ad verbatim in Classical Chinese, what with all those homonyms so prevalent in Mandarin, I would imagine that comprehending him would have been quite a task. Unless the speech was printed out for the audience to read along. If you can get a copy of the full text, you will find that it is quite long, spanning a couple of hundred words and covering an entire newspaper page - not like the typical 20-odd character imperial edicts.

I'm not really convinced that the degree to which Mandarin has a slightly and relatively higher percentage of homophones (in classical) would make much of a difference in one’s understanding of classical in the spoken form, because, all regionalects have very similar rates of words composed of singeltons, and polysyllabic compounds in their spoken form. Since classical is largely divorced from speech, the degree to which a person could understand classical, would probably have more to do with the extent to which their parents could afford to give them an education, their familiarity with written Chinese, and their background knowledge of the subject matter.

But I could be wrong! :lol:

Edited by wushijiao
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Mark Yong
calibre2001 wrote:

Is there a typo error here? 1904 & PRC? Surely Mark meant Republic of China?

Sorry, it was a typo error. I meant Republic of China (was thinking about the People's Bank of China 中國人民銀行 when I was typing it out).

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