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My grandfather’s best friend - 莫若愚

Popularity 9Viewed 4621 times 2014-11-3 17:33 |System category:Life| friend

A few months ago, when I was visiting family in Guiyang, my uncle told me that my grandfather’s best friend was a very famous man in China. Due to my poor Chinese, that is all I knew. Later on, my aunt visited his factory in LeShan near Chengdu, Sichuan, and told my mother about it, who then told me in English. She told me that there is a memorial to Laurence Moh at Beijing Jiaotong University. Jiaotong means public transportation by the way. I began doing some research to find the memorial and was shocked to find what an amazing and remarkable man he was. So here I am writing a blog post about it.

In 1948, my grandfather attended Beijing Jiaotong University with Laurence Moh (莫若愚Muo Ruoyu) and remained close friends since then. Laurence Moh went on to study at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania for his MBA, and then started Universal Furniture, which gained the most acclaim for being the first Asian (furniture) company to tailor their products specifically to American needs, thus attributing to their success in exporting goods to America. In the articles I have read about Mr. Moh, people describe him as “a visionary” and ahead of his time for his business acumen. Not only that though, he is also described as a true Chinese gentleman and an altruistic philanthropist.

The reason why there is a memorial for him at Jiaotong University is because he donated a large sum of money to the university to build a large auditorium and for scholarships that continue to this day. When trying to locate his statue, I asked many Jiaotong students who maybe were not familiar with his name, but they all knew about the scholarships. His generosity extended to American students as well. Even today, under his wife’s name, many full ride scholarships are offered to students pursuing the furniture design industry. Particularly, Mississippi State University’s interior design program has received many of these Moh Scholars. Mr. Moh also donated many scholarships to The Wharton School and received Wharton’s Dean Medal in 1991. In my opinion, the most generous scholarships that he provided were for the children of his employees at Fine Furniture Ltd., Shanghai.

His generosity also extended to my family personally. According to my 3rd aunt, Mr. Moh bought the apartment for my grandparents in Ganzhou where my mother grew up. From my childhood, I have very faded memories of playing with my sister in this very apartment. More recently, during Joey and I’s visit to Ganzhou, we also went to this apartment, which unfortunately now is a little dilapidated, but holds many memories.

From the business perspective, Mr. Moh is well respected because of his impressive cultural understanding. He was able to successfully conduct business in China by patiently dealing with government bureaucracy and consulting Feng Shui experts, was considered a good employer to his multiethnic work force, and was successful in the American business world as well. He truly was a versatile gentleman with a deep cultural understanding of both China and America. Furthermore, the quality of his product was unsurpassed and always his top concern. He was able to turn the at-that-time-considered worthless rubber trees from South East Asia into the now valuable teakwood by treating the wood with a chemical compound. There are more details about his business in this article, “Schooling the Chinese: The story of globalization visa furniture manufacturing in China and America.”

His memorial meeting room is in Jiaotong’s Science Building called Zhijing Hall (科学会堂智瑾厅). We were very lucky to gain access to this room. The hall was actually closed, but we walked around the whole building until we found an unlocked back door. We found two office workers who told us that we could ask for permission for access in another building. Luckily, Joey had the good sense not to listen to them and we walked around the dark and empty hall. Finally, we found a janitor, who obviously would have keys to the whole building, and convinced him to let us in the room, which is otherwise not open to the public.

The highlight of the room was a bronze bust of Laurence Moh and pictures of Mr. Moh lined the walls including plaques detailing his accomplishments. Interesting memorabilia include a photo of him and his 1959 Hong Kong Teakwood Works, Ltd, which at that time only had 20 employees. The name was later changed to Universal Furniture Ltd., and their first big client was the Hong Kong Hilton Hotel. You can also see Merrill Lynch’s letter to Mr. Moh expressing their honor to have offered his IPO in America. He is also picture with the 5th Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji (朱镕基) , as well as the 41st American President, George Bush Senior, who has Mr. Moh’s furniture in his home.

Although I did not know my grandfather very well, nor is there a wealth of information on him online, it makes me happy to know that my grandfather was friends with such an outstanding gentleman. It makes me believe that my grandfather, too, was an outstanding gentleman. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report samlam 2015-12-28 15:54
Try to learn about China. It is your root here. Knowing 莫若愚-Muo Ruoyu is a beginning.

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  • My grandfather’s best friend - 莫若愚 2015-12-28 15:54

    Try to learn about China. It is your root here. Knowing 莫若愚-Muo Ruoyu is a beginning.

  • Chinese is not the hardest language after all 2014-6-8 23:46

    jiewei798: I disagree. I think this study fairly evaluates all languages despite being written in English. You may argue the validity of using access as a variab ...
    alright... you dont have to agree ^^ but the lack of conjugation was the hardest thing for me in english, because it may be easier to understand but harder to make sentences, because i felt the lack of suffixes as determiners.

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