Sunday, September 27, 2009


Lantern is all about reflection, human nature and family, regardless of race or culture.

Set in present day Auckland, the play which kicks off on Monday follows the fictional Chen family.

But what gives this play its lustre, is that as the story unfolds whole audiences recognise not just facets of themselves, but also snippets of their own stories played out on stage.

Lantern’s writer is Remuera-based Renee Liang, who is a poet, a playwright, and – surprisingly – a paediatrician. She is also working on her first novel.

While medicine is her calling, writing is her passion.

She is one of the organisers of Poetry Live, Auckland’s long-running weekly poetry gig and admits that she is always trying to get more people to write and read poetry.

A member of the Guerilla poets – who etch words in chalk on Auckland pavements – she’s done everything from random poetry readings at bus stops to chairing the poetry session at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Nor does she shy away from real things, and this trait contributes to her work’s fearless honesty and insights.

"I gave 18 years of my life solely to medicine, and then something happened. My partner died. I was in shock and couldn’t do anything for two days.

"What I eventually did though, was pick up a pen – and write a poem for him.

"And it was like that unleashed the floodgates. I wrote for about a year, poems to him," she says.

"Then one day, I was writing about other things. And then came the first love poem I wrote, that wasn’t for him, but was for my current partner.

"I believe very much that one thing leads to another, and with writing in particular that is the case. I’m still exploring fields, genres, formats – all the ways there are to express feelings, thoughts, ideas," she says.

She says her training in medicine has taught her to look at what’s beneath the surface, and that’s what she does in her writing.

"I’m curious about people and I let that show, and in their response to me, they give me insights into what’s really there, under all the surface stuff.

"What is really interesting is the disconnection that so many people feel, which has nothing to do with race or culture.

"Sometimes our isolation is what we actually share," she says.

Miss Liang has immersed herself in all aspects of play writing, a wide range of genres of artistic expression and collaborations and involvement in a dizzying variety of artistic groups from fringe festivals to Read Raw to Flip the Script, Smack Bang and other private collaborations.
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She says Lantern is at its heart, a play about family.

It involves two actors who play 10 characters over 85 minutes.

The actors are two of New Zealand’s best-known Chinese actors, Shortland Street’s Li-Ming Hu and Andy Wong from Ride with the Devil and No 2.

Audience members are invited to add their own poetry to a lantern installation in the foyer.

Lantern runs from Monday to June 13 at The Basement, lower Greys Ave, Auckland.

For ticket information go to or call 357-3355.

Paediatrician's play all about the family

By KAREN KOTZE - East And Bays Courier
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2009

BUDDING SCIENTIST: Palmerston North student Jenny Wong

t was an extraordinary science trip for Palmerston North Girls' High School student Jenny Wong, 17, who was awarded a scholarship to the 2009 Professor Harry Messel International Science School.

Miss Wong, who plans to study medicine, spent two weeks in Sydney at the end of July learning at the School of Physics.

Only five scholarships were awarded to New Zealand students and 145 students attended the two-week-long trip.

Students were from all around the world including America and Japan.

Miss Wong said the trip was a great experience for her.

"I'm really into science. I know it is something I want to do. And I had never been to Australia."

Biology is her favourite science and although she went on a more physics-based trip everything she learnt can still be applied.

"Everyone is born being curious and science allows us to know more about life on earth and gives us a new and better approach to things."

Lectures were given by professors from Australia, someone from NASA and a French university lecturer.

One of the things Miss Wong liked the most about the experience was the people she got to meet and learn from.

"You definitely know that the people that are going are intelligent and work hard to get there. From some of the countries students had to take an exam."

Social activities were also included during the two weeks and Miss Wong was able to see the harbour bridge and the Opera House as well as attend the Beauty and the Geek disco.

Miss Wong received her $3000 scholarship through the Royal Society of New Zealand and was also given funds from her school.

By CAITLIN MADDEN - Manawatu Standard
Last updated 12:00 11/08/2009

Tony Wong-Kam. Fishing king lands more excitement

Fishing is far from peaceful for champion angler Tony Wong-Kam.

The newly crowned King of the Coromandel has often been in the headlines.

And he claims shots have been fired at him in the past by jealous rivals.

Even his latest success was marred by an incident which could have cost lives, he says.

"On the drive home from the Coromandel I had to stop six or seven times.

"The rig carrying my boat didn’t feel right, it weaved when I turned."

He says he found four bolts on his towbar were loose.

"On the motorway, that’s a life and death situation," he says.

Wong-Kam, 48, of Torbay says checks were carried out on his vehicle before the journey and he suspects that the fastenings were undone deliberately.

"A complaint has been made with the police," he says.

"I have a history with things like this, I’m a target."

With Mike Hiskens the pair dominated the annual King of the Coromandel competition bagging thousands of dollars in prizes in the process.

"Fish we caught on the first two days won first, second and third overall," says Wong-Kam.

"We didn’t go out on the third day to give someone else a chance."

Wong-Kam estimates a total prize haul, which included a new car, to be worth at least $30,000.

"We brought home two of the top three kingfish we caught. But the biggest one was stolen from the ice bins."

Excitement is never far from Wong-Kam. In December 2006 his face was slashed by a stingray while diving off Great Barrier Island and in March 2008 he claimed to be the first person to catch a manta ray in New Zealand waters.

Wong-Kam says he does not understand the negative attention and will remain undeterred from fishing

By SIMON PLUMB - North Shore Times
Last updated 05:00 05/05/2009

Raymond Wong Tong: Green grocer had a twinkle in his eye

Raymond Wong Tong had a passion for China, but always returned to Wellington, and will be remembered for his fondness for a chat.

Raymond Wong Tong was always sociable. He loved flirting with the ladies who came into the family fruit and vegetable shop in Cuba St and even after his retirement he readily chatted with people he met on his walks or bike rides around Miramar.

Always cheerful, polite, considerate and well dressed, he was able to converse fluently in English, Cantonese and the Mandarin he continued to study in his later years.

Mr Wong Tong was born at 259 Cuba St above the shop set up by his father who had come out to New Zealand in the 1800s to work the Otago goldfields.

The oldest of seven - six sisters and a brother - he went to Mt Cook School and Wellington Technical College. He attended the Anglican Chinese Mission Church in Frederick St and learnt to play the violin.

When he was 16 the family returned to China to ensure the children had a Chinese education.

Mr Wong Tong signed on as a radio telegrapher with the British- owned China Navigation Company and sailed on the company freighters which plied the coast, up the Yangtze River and as far south as Singapore.

During this time he was introduced to and fell in love with Betty Chang, a New Zealand-born girl who had been raised in China since the age of three.

"I fell in love with her lovely dimples immediately and when she smiled at me, I knew I had to have her," Mr Wong Tong once recounted, remembering courting her on the cosmopolitan pre-war Shanghai waterfront.

They married in 1935, and their honeymoon was their voyage back to New Zealand on the Union Company Ship Taniwha.

Back in Wellington he rejoined the family at their second shop - Wong Tong and Sons - at 168 Cuba St (this is still a greengrocer but was sold by the family more than 50 years ago).

The extended family lived on the second and third floor above the shop and everybody contributed to the business.

During the war, Mr Wong Tong served in the home guard and every Sunday would get dressed in his army uniform and head out for training at Lyall Bay, but fortunately his appalling marksmanship never had to be put to the test.

For a time during the war, when Japanese invasion was feared, the women and children were sent over to Carterton while the men manned the shop.

As the children grew up they helped out in the shop if they weren't at school, attending Chinese classes or taking music lessons.
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Mr Wong Tong and his brother Ivan would go to the markets in Allen St each weekday morning where he would concentrate on vegetables while Ivan's specialty was fruit and flowers.

The shop's supplies were supplemented by spring onions and radishes grown on a small family plot in Nairn St and later from the large garden behind the home Mr Wong Tong bought in Puriri St, Miramar.

When his father sold the business in 1953, Mr Wong Tong moved the family to Nelson and opened another fruit and vegetable shop in Trafalgar St.

He and his wife sold the shop in 1966 after all the children left home and began what was to be their retirement with a two-year overseas holiday taking in Hong Kong and the United States, before returning and settling again in Miramar.

But Mr Wong Tong was just 55 and started working again - an office job with Philips Electrical in Lyall Bay, where he stayed on for about 10 years before finally retiring after suffering a mild heart attack. In 1983 he travelled back to China for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Mr Wong Tong - who was brought up to support the Chinese nationalists - later accepted that his homeland had become a communist state and he accepted invitations to functions put on by the Taiwanese as well as the Chinese diplomatic representatives in Wellington.

He was a stalwart of the Fung Tung Association which his father had helped found, and the Chinese Anglican Mission.

His only extravagance was the odd flutter on the horses and mahjong with his pensioner friends where losing $5 was a big deal.

Mrs Wong Tong died in 2006 and he spent his last few years in a rest home. He is survived by his four children, eight grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.

Raymond Wong Tong, green grocer: born Wellington, March 6, 1911; married Betty Chang 1935, 2 sons and 2 daughters; died Wellington, July 21, 2009, aged 98.

Sources. Ronald, Beverley, Mervyn and Fiona Wong.

The Press
Last updated 23:11 29/02/2008

Festival light shines on patriarch

Percy Chew Lee has never shied away from a challenge.

The 96-year-old arrived with his family from China to an unfriendly welcome in New Zealand 88 years ago.

All Chinese arriving in the country then were subject to a hefty poll tax.

The 100 tax (the equivalent of nearly $8000 today) reflected the discriminatory attitude against Chinese arrivals, but Lee did not let it slow him down.

Yesterday, the Christchurch resident was checking preparations for this weekend's Chinese New Year lantern festival to welcome in the Year of the Rat, an event which reflects how far his adopted country has come.

"Ninety years ago the Europeans looked down on the Chinese," Lee said. "In those days you had to learn to fight for yourself to prove you could do as much as anyone."

Lee's colourful life certainly proves his point.

After becoming the first Chinese student in a European school in Christchurch, his list of achievements included becoming a South Island 80km cycling champion after training nearly 100km every day before breakfast.

He was the first Chinese person to take up competitive wrestling and became a South Island runner-up.

He also took up training racehorses, and won the Westport Cup two years running.

In the 1930s he was the first Chinese man to fly an aeroplane in Christchurch, although his father would not let him gain his licence.

But perhaps his proudest achievement was designing and building the large pagoda-style house where he lives with family in Cashmere.

From there he continues to sell vegetables from the family market garden. He gave up riding the tractor just last year.

Lee has nine children, 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

This year his services to the Chinese community were recognised with a Queen's Service Medal in the New Year Honours, and he is looking forward to going to Wellington -- where he arrived as an eight-year-old -- to collect the award.

Lee put his longevity down to no smoking or drinking, working hard and never saying he could not do it. "The main thing in life is you have to prove things for yourself, just like me. I had to learn," he said.


Hundreds of lanterns will light up Victoria Square this weekend in celebration of the Year of the Rat. Thousands of people are expected to enjoy the evening entertainment with special performers from China and ethnic food stalls. The event starts at 4pm today and tomorrow, but dusk is the optimum time for lantern viewing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chinese Moon festival

Chinese Moon festival: 3 October

The Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the mid-autumn Festival, is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese. It is celebated in 2009 on 3 October. It is also celebrated by the Vietnamese, though they celebrate it differently.

There are many variations on the legendary stories around the moon festival. Legend says that Chang Er flew to the moon, where she has lived ever since. You might see her dancing on the moon during the Moon Festival. The Moon Festival is also an occasion for family reunions.

Moon cakes are often eaten at the festival. The Chinese eat the moon cake at night with the full moon in the sky. Lovers spend such a romatic night together tasting the delicious moon cake with some wine while watching the full moon. Even for a couple who can't be together, they can still enjoy the night by watching the moon at the same time so it seems that they are together at that hour.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Supermarket change marks end of an era

4:00AM Tuesday Sep 22, 2009
By Beck Vass
The first Foodtown supermarket was opened by Tom Ah Chee in Great South Road, Otahuhu, in 1958. Photo / Supplied

* Grocer marks 50 years of ringing tills

The legacy of Foodtown - the small South Auckland supermarket that energised the grocery trade in Australasia - is set to become lost in a rebranding exercise that will see all Foodtown and Woolworths stores renamed as "new generation" Countdowns.

The first Foodtown, opened in Otahuhu by Tom Ah Chee on June 28, 1958, was the first American-style supermarket in New Zealand.

Mr Ah Chee's widow, Molly Ah Chee, could not be reached for comment yesterday but a family member said the rebranding marked the "end of an era".

The original Foodtown, owned by Mr Ah Chee and his friends Norman Kent, John Brown and Brian Picot, opened to so much excitement that traffic blocked the main road and the street was shut off. Radio announcers appealed to would-be customers to come back the next day, but that only attracted more interest.

The store, which also had the first automatic doors and air-conditioning, proved so popular that a second one was opened nearby in Takanini in 1961.

supermarket change marks end era retailing consumer information shopping history progressive enterprises legacy foodtown small south auckland energised grocery trade australasia set lost rebranding exercise see woolworths stores renamed generation

By last year, 50 years later, New Zealand had more than 30 Foodtowns.

When Foodtown first opened, supermarket trolleys were a new concept. Specials included a 6lb (2.7kg) bag of Chelsea sugar for the equivalent of 49c, an 11oz bottle of Watties tomato sauce for 27c and toilet rolls for 14c.

A large package of Weet-Bix was 31c, a 26oz can of spaghetti was 20c and Choysa teabags (8oz) were 33c.

Eggs came in paper bags and boys took customers' shopping to their cars.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chinese reflect on colonial roots

Chinese reflect on colonial roots
4:00AM Friday Sep 18, 2009
By Bernard Orsman
David Wong (left) with Barry Wah Lee, whose grandfather opened a store around 1900. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Most Aucklanders associate the Wah Lee general store in Hobson St with fireworks for Guy Fawkes. What they probably don't realise is that the store is owned by one of the four founding Chinese families in Auckland.

Barry Wah Lee's grandfather opened the store in about 1900 at the old Chinatown in Grey's Ave, or Grey St as it was then known.

The area became home to boarding houses, opium dens and gambling houses.

Auckland's first and only Chinatown was replaced by multi-storey flats and later the Auckland City Council Civic Building, and Wah Lee's moved to Hobson St in 1966.

The history of the Chinese community in colonial Auckland is the subject of a talk tomorrow by a member of the Chinese community, David Wong, as part of the Auckland Heritage Festival.

The festival, the sixth held by the Auckland City Council, starts tonight with a display of historical images projected on to Shed 10 at Queens Wharf.

There will be a public viewing from behind the "Red Gates" on Quay St from 6.30pm.

The theme of this year's festival is living heritage and features more than 100 diverse and interactive events. They include an Auckland Heritage pub quiz night, cruises on the historic William C Daldy steam tug and a concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of the liberation by university students of Albert Park in 1969.

Mr Wong said the first Chinese arrived in Auckland from the Otago goldfields in the 1860s. Among them was Thomas Quoi who had a stall in the city markets behind where the Civic Theatre was later built.

Early Chinese settlers turned their hand to market gardening, among them Mr Wong's great-grandfather who named his area at Carlaw Park "the garden of prosperity".

The Chinese also opened laundry and fruit shops.

Mr Wong said the Chinese population throughout New Zealand in 1900 was about 3000, of which there were only eight or 10 women. Auckland's Chinese population was between 112 and 120.

Today, there are more than 130,000 Chinese in Auckland, of which about 25,000 were born in New Zealand.

Mr Wong will be giving two talks at the Auckland Art Gallery tomorrow - at 1pm in English and 3pm in Mandarin. Bookings can be made on 307-7700.

For more details on the festival, which runs until October 4, go to: