February 28, 2012

Josephine Siaw (Fong Fong) 蕭芳芳

I grew up in Sibu in the 1950's and 1960's where the cinema featured big in our lives before the age of television.

There were two Hong Kong child stars in our lives - one was Siaw fong fong and the other was Fung Bao Bao. the latter came to Sibu and was welcomed like a dignitary. She created quite a stir and Sibu woke up from being a sleepy small town. Motor launches from near by villages were chartered to work over time bringing full loads of fans to see her in the Palace Theatre.  In those days Hong Kong film stars went to small and remote places in South east Asia to promote their films.

One of the reasons why I can read Chinese quite well was because my China born and illiterate grandmother bought monthly Chinese  magazines like  Movie News and the Southern Screen and I had to read the words in Foochow to her to tell her all about the star news and movie news in those days. She would look at the photos in the magazines over and over again like a good student and remember the stories associated with them. One of her favourite stars was Siao Fong Fong. I am sure she admired her for her courage and achievements. Like Siaw Fong Fong my grandmother too left China when she was 6.

I could not have thought that I could be writing an article about Fong Fong (who is only two years old than I) in this blog of mine. Her life has been such an inspiring and amazing story.

Josephine Siao (Xiao) was born in Luzhi in suzhou (Jiangsu)  Her parents left Mainland China to live in Hong Kong when she was just two. She started acting at the age of six to support her mother when her father died suddenly> Her mother had to sew for a living.  The Xiao family was wealthy and scholarly during the old regime. However today her family home is a popular tourist must see living museum. Part of the home features the life and works of Fong Fong's achievement in the film industry.

This is the main entrance to the Xiao Home in Luzhi (Shangtang Stree) This house was built in  1889 during the Qing dynasty and occupies 1000 sq. metres

Achievements of Siao Fong Fong
1. She made her first movie at the age of six.
2. She became one of the the biggest teen idols in Hong Kong during the late 1960's. Unlike many other child stars she was successful as a porlific and popular actress. She directed many well acclaimed movies and  wrote screen plays (JUmping Ash). She has written a number of books too.
3. She is deat in her left ear and her hearing aid often does not work in noisy places.
4. As she missed out in formal education due to her "early acting career" she graduated with a BA in 1970.
5. She is married to Clarence Chang and is mother of two daughters.
6. Summer Snow is a movie story of a middle-aged hosuewife (Siao) trying to cope with a father in law  suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This movie won many international awards

Josephine Siao in Summer Snow (1995)
Fong Fong in Summer Snow

7. In 1997 she retired from show business and continued her work in child psychology and campaigning agianst child abuse. She founded the End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation in 1999. She has a master's degree in Child Psychology
8. She received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) from the Queen in 1996
9. 2009 Life Achievement Award in the 28th Hong Kong Film Awards
10. She taught English on Hong Kong TV.(She speaks impeccable English).

Siaw Fong Fong will remain one of the most exemplary Asian women in the 20th and 21st centuries.

(The Reader's Digest" voted her "The Most Trusted Figure in Hong Kong" in 2010)

What an amazing woman!!


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Where did you start learning mandarin?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous...I studied Chinese in Year One and half year of Year Two. The rest of the time I learned at home..ask Mother and others how to read the words I pointed out in the newspapers and magazines..and built up quite a good vocabulary..and of course I did not "sound" the words as accurately as the proper Chinese students in school. For years I did not dare to speak Mandarin for fear that it was only Foochow sounding like Mandarin!! LOL. Now I am learning Mandarin from CCTV..

Anonymous said...

really dont even know who she is!! She came to Sibu? like Tian Niu, A Bee, etc?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

No Only Fong Bo Bo came to Sibu...She was in many Wu xia movies..mainly Cantonese films too. But she has really be a good role model..that's what I like about her. And she being deaf too...

Bang CHhung Hong said...

I always remember her "世上只有媽媽好".

Anonymous said...

You have special talent in language.
I think my best language is the min-chiang wa. foochew wa should not die off.

speaking mandarin in sibu is ok because all of us are with hoochew slant. but to taiwan and china, i would be more reluctant to speak the foochow-mandarin. in rural china and taiwan, their mandarin is not so good either.

14-doo boy

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Bang CH - I am trying to find the youtube of the song and may be even find the story behind the song!! thanks..hope you can help me there too.thanks for visiting.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear 14 Doo Boy
Our first language and mother tongue can greatly influence our other learned languages. You really need a good ear and make consistent effort with repetitive sounds and practice to improve...intonation and accent come very much later...total immersion is good i.e. you go and live with the speakers of the language you want to learn for at least three months. Better still one year..

Hope we can all help each other to speak well in any language!! When others laugh at the people who want to learn languages they are actually causing obstructions.

Ann said...

My eldest sis liked her very much. I am more impressed with her CV now. Thanks CY,

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hi Ann
You are welcome..Jo Siaw is a very respected lady in Hongkong...And the other one Bo Bo has been residing in Malaysia for some decades. I will write about her after I have finished some of the Chinese articles I have.

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