The letter in English: Ipoh’s place on the Sun Yat-Sen trail

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In the turmoil at the beginning of the 20th century, secret letters were commonplace. And it was with a letter from Dr Sun Yat-Sen, mysteriously written in English, addressed to her great-great grandfather, that Chan Sue Meng began the painstaking work of piecing her family history together.

It all began with a letter written in English. The unusual choice of language intrigued Chan Sue Meng when she came across it among the musty papers kept by her grandmother. The rest of the documents were in Chinese, save for this letter written by Dr Sun Yat-Sen to her great-great grandfather, Lee Guan Swee. Hardly anyone spoke English at that time, in 1914.

It was only much later that she realised that that could be precisely the reason! Sun may not have wanted the letter to be easily read. “He had just fled from China, and the letter clearly contained secret content that he didn’t want others to easily understand,” said Chan.


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