Lau Goh Tong 刘梧桐 (Kopi Sua)

Born in 1895 in a village in Ann Kway county in Fujian, Lau Goh Tong (刘梧桐) travelled to Rangoon when he was 15. He worked as a hawker before returning to China to get married in 1916. Thereafter, he did very well as a rice miller in Rangoon (Yangon today), catering not only to the local market but also exporting to other places like Swatow, Amoy and Shanghai.

His prosperity did not go unnoticed and unfortunately attracted the attention of bandits who kidnapped his mother in his home village. Due to some delay in getting the ransom across, his mother was killed by the kidnappers. This tragedy reinforced Lau Goh Tong belief that the lawlessness and backwardness in his home village could only be addressed by education. He established a school there with his younger brother. Based originally in the village ancestral hall and his own property, the school provided subsidised education for poor children. A separate building was later constructed for the school. He also started a clinic in the village. He also donated generously towards the setup of the Anxi Clan Association

When the war reached then British Burma, he left his brother in charge of the business in Rangoon while he travelled back to China with war supplies. Throughout the war, he kept the village school running despite the difficult conditions.

Lau Goh Tong 
source: Anxi News Network

Mr. Lau Goh Tong was active politically as well. He became a member of the Kuomintang (KMT) when he was in Burma. He was  well known for his contributions towards the KMT Republican Government's war efforts against the invading Japanese. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, Mr. Lau Goh Tong rallied the Chinese Community in Burma to donate generously to the war efforts. In late 1941, when the Japanese were preparing to invade Burma, Mr. Lau Goh Tong made the decision to move his family back to his hometown. The entire convoy of 30 trucks entered China via the famous Yunnan-Burma Highway. Unfortunately, while the convoy was moving across the Huitong Bridge in Yunnan, they came under attack by the Japanese fighter planes. As a result, 20 trucks were lost and a relative was also killed in the attack. He was said to have lost a large portion of his wealth as a result. Miraculously, he reached Yong An, Fujian, safely with what remained of the convoy. They had survived an arduous journey across Yunnan, followed by Guizhou, next Chong Qing and finally across Japanese-held territories before finally arriving back at Yong An, the war time provincial capital of Fujian. While in Yong An, he rebuilt his fortunes through the running of a transportation company and in the auto-repair business. Throughout the war years, Mr. Lau Goh Tong also donated generously towards the war coffers. He transported war materials from the United States to help China fight against the Japanese. using trucks his transportation company to the KMT troops in northern Suzhou. 

After the war, Mr. Lau Goh Tong was assigned a special flight for him to travel to Chong Qing, the wartime capital of China, to participate in celebratory events. There, at the Capital, he was honoured by the KMT Government for his contributions.  In 1946, while he was at Hong Kong, he got to know of about 6000 Taiwanese recruited by the Japanese Colonialist were stranded. Upon learning that the UN had insufficient ships to transport the Taiwanese back to Taiwan, Mr. Lau Goh Tong, through his own pockets, rented ships to repatriate the Taiwanese back to the Taiwan. 

Eventually, Mr. Lau Goh Tong decided to settle down in Singapore because of anti-Chinese sentiments in Burma. He died in Singapore in 1960 after a bout of illness at age 65. He was laid to rest at Kopi Sua and his tomb is currently just beside the PIE,

His tomb in Kopi Sua is unique with engravings of the stories of filial piety and the couplets itself is meaningful. Despite Mr. Lau Goh Tong's affection towards his hometown in China "岛国望云乡" (Observing one's Faraway Hometown from the Island Nation), he viewed the Lion City as the place had he had decided to call home "狮城归宿地" (It is the Lion City that One Sank His Roots).

Tomb of Lau Goh Tong (刘梧桐) in Kopi Sua.

Facebook post by Ang Yik Han. (29 May 2014)



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